Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Web by John Wyndham

John Wyndham is one of those authors that I would expect to like but don't. British and dour, hopeful and initially optimistic, are qualities in the right direction, but a classic like The Day of the Triffids left me cold. The reason?  Because Wyndham underplayed the interesting overarching plot and centered on a small boring group of survivalists. I've been tempted for years to read his final novel, Web, which went unpublished until a decade after his death in 1969. In the mid-1960s he had tried to get a co-author for it, but when he would explain that it was about "giant spiders" it turned off potential collaborators like Brian Aldiss. I started the novel but saw Wyndham's typical dullnesses quickly begin to emerge. Instead of abandoning it completely, I found another option. In 1991 it was retold by Jocelyn Potter and Andy Hopkins in a much truncated version designed for "upper intermediate" young readers. Thus in about fifty small pages I could get the plot and feeling of the novel of some 180+ pages, with much less suffering.  I'm glad I did this, for it satisfied my curiosity about the book in one sitting and I didn't have to slog through extended passages of Wyndham's weaknesses. In this small form it's kind of like a Twilight Zone episode--dated, with dull characters on a serious mission, who encounter malevolent spiders on a remote south seas isle, and with the expected stinger in the tail. Good for a short entertainment, but not for anything more.

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