Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Thursday, June 10, 2010

Moonrat had a nice post today about her Magician's Book: "The perfect story you read as a child, and which since you read it has gone utterly unmatched and only vaguely echoed by anything else you read?" Hers was The Elven Bane.

Mine is, unfortunately, a book I can't name.

The story is etched into my memory, as well as the names of some of the players, the settings and the emotions and situations. Etched, I say. Only problem is I did not retain the author's name, nor the title of the story. It was not a book unto itself, because it was in a sf anthology. I remember it was fairly long, longer than all the other stories in the anthology. I wasn't really old enough to judge the length of a story at the time, but looking back I'd estimate it at 20k words.

The anthology came from my dead grandmother's library. We had a ton of books inherited from Grandma Jerry, all from the fifties and sixties, maybe up through the early seventies. This one seemed like a late sixties to me for some reason--maybe because it seemed really old in about 1980. Most of the books were book-of-the-month clubbers and Reader's Digest Condensed, none of interest to an eleven year old, but a few gems were scattered among them, like this book. It's almost certainly out of print now, but I wish I could read it again to see how it holds up. It took hold of my imagination the way few other stories have, and solidified my love of speculative fiction, though I didn't know there was a difference back then. A story was a story.

You may stop reading here, as the rest of the post is the story as I remember it, but before you leave, answer this question: What's your Magician's Book?

It was set in a somewhat primitive future after an unnamed but presumably man-made disaster, the clues pointing to nuclear weapons. Babies were inspected for mutations at birth and, if found to be imperfect, were left in the forest to die. The child protagonist lived among the villagers, because parents hid her imperfection: six toes on each foot. The protag's little sister, Petra, had a mutation that no one could see--telepathy.

The protag is found out, I think, or maybe not but for some reason she flees to the forest. Remember all those babies they left to die? They've created their own society in the woods, and they take in the protag. She meets an exceptionally lanky young man named (I think) Charles, and they war with the villagers.

So eventually, an airship comes and drops these filament things over the whole battlefield (can you say deus ex machina?) which hardens over everything and everyone, including the protag and her boyfriend. I remember a horse suffocating, but I can't remember if everybody else died. I know the main people were cut free and taken up to the airship where they were transported across the nuclear wasteland to civilization. Apparently, Petra, the little sis, had contacted them telepathically, and they embrace the mutations.

After all that, I think I remember the protag's name is Marie. Wish I could find that anthology again.

{ 18 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Sounds like something by John Wyndham.

  2. Okay, yeah, that wasn't much help if any help at all. But so far, nobody else has offered up any ideas.

  3. Why is still showing my Chekov avatar?

  4. So...did you figure it out? I don't know why it's showing Chekov. Perhaps a different email address?

    Thanks for the suggestion. I'll go check him out.

  5. OMG WIGSF, THAT IS IT!!! You're a genius. The story is called The Chrysalids.

    Also, I was wrong about the two main characters' names. They are Sophie and David, which I remember now. AWESOME!

    Funny, I almost didn't post this because I figured nobody would know. LOL Thanks!

  6. WIGSF is an awesome font of amazing information. :) And he saved me some work because I was going to try to search for it, for you. :)

    I can't seem to recall my "magician's book" from childhood. I adored The Secret Garden, and all the Little House books. I read all I could find on Greek Mythology, and books about some American Founders. And I loved Marie Antoinette.

    But I don't know if I could pick just one.

    This theme is pretty cool too. :)

  7. You know, I've always wanted to read the Little House books, but never had the chance. The Secret Garden is great too, but I didn't read it till I was almost grown.

    And yes, WIGSF is awesome. :)

  8. That is the one book of his I have read. It is a good book. Not enough cannibal mutants for my taste but still a good read.

  9. Interesting premise, thank you. I'm glad someone pointed you to the Wyndham novel, 'cause that plot didn't ring any bells for me.

    I can think of two Magician's Books from my childhood. I can remember reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien when I was in second grade, which was far too young to understand a lot of the bigger words and themes. I loved it all the same, though, and in third grade I started on the Lord of the Rings (which I probably understood even less than The Hobbit, but there you go.)

    The second was The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs, which I think I read somewhere towards the end of grade school. The plot of the novel hasn't stuck with me so much as the tone of it (the protagonist spent a lot of time hunting through silent, dusty, moonlit rooms in search of a doomsday clock built by some dead wizard, I think) and it doesn't take much effort for me to remember the melancholic, almost funerary feel of the whole endeavor, as if the story was already mourning whatever was about to happen.

  10. At least you've earned your keep now. ;)

  11. I enjoyed The Hobbit, but I don't know if I could have made it through in the 2nd grade! You da man!

    I like how you describe your second choice, "as if the story was already mourning whatever was about to happen." I might check that one out. Sounds interesting.

  12. I was a late bloomer, so I didn't start reading until age 12, but once I started I really took off. That year, 6th grade, I read Tolkien's The Hobbit, the first Dragonlance novel, Stephen King's Misery, and Harry Harrison's Deathworld trilogy. It's a close race, but Misery gets the nod. And let me say that 12 year olds probably shouldn't be reading that book in the first place. :O)

  13. You're right! I was probably not old enough for it either, and didn't we decide I was 14 or 15 when I read it? BTW, I still have your Deathworld book. Never could get into it. :(

  14. Awesome! WIGSF knowing that is pretty frickin' awesome. I don't have a childhood memory like this of a book. If I do, it probably would be something from Time/Life books, non-fic, and not worth mentioning here.

    I LOVE this theme. Very professional, clean, sharp.

  15. [...] WIGSF vs. Gravatar Published June 10, 2010 Blogroll , Self-Destruction 6 Comments It’s a worthwhile read of a post, but the face-palming humour is in my own personal battle with the Gravatar avatars. The Battle [...]


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