Del Rey / Ballantine edition, 1977. Art by Vincent Di Fate
John Wyndham is best remembered these days for his classic SF horror novels The Day of the Triffids (1951), The Chrysalids (1955), and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) (filmed twice as Village of the Damned, the second time by John Carpenter). But he had a lengthy career in the pulps, publishing dozens of stories in Amazing Stories, Wonder Stories, and other places under the name John Beynon Harris and John Beynon. Much of his early pulp fiction was collected in Sleepers of Mars (Coronet Books, 1973) and two volumes of The Best of John Wyndham (Sphere Books, 1973).
He published seven novels under the name John Wyndham between 1951 – 1968, starting with The Day of the Triffids, and these are the books that made his reputation. The second was The Kraken Wakes (1953), published in the US as Out of the Deeps. Like most of his Wyndham material, it has been continuously in print for most of the past six decades. In a 2009 review at Tor.com, Jo Walton wrote:
I’d remembered it as being a cosy catastrophe where the world is destroyed by sea monsters, and rather second-tier Wyndham, but I’d done it an injustice. The Kraken Wakes is quite an unusual cosy catastrophe, and really much more interesting than I’d remembered it.
To start with, it’s an alien invasion. The first things are “red dots,” fiery meteors landing in the deep sea, which are actually alien craft. It’s speculated that they might come from Jupiter or Neptune and like living at high pressure under water, and it’s speculated that humanity could share the planet with them, since they need different things. The rest of the book is a series of attacks by the aliens, never called krakens in the book, culminating in the scene that starts the novel where rising sea water and icebergs in the Channel have entirely changed the climate and landscape of Britain and the protagonists are trying to escape. This is essentially the story of how some very unusual aliens conquer the world in 1953, and it’s much closer to The War of the Worlds than it is to Wyndham’s other novels.
I never managed to acquire a copy until two weeks ago, when I tracked down the handsome Del Rey reprint above, with the fine Di Fate cover (Del Rey reprinted several Wyndham paperbacks at the same time, including The Midwich Cuckoos, which I discussed here). The Del Rey edition is a nice slender book (182 pages), and looks like a perfect summer read. It’s been too long since I’ve read Wyndham, and I’m very much looking forward to it.