The Science Fiction Rumour Mill
For John Wyndham, as for most British science fiction writers in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the plan was to tell a story so transparent a dog could follow it, then have your central characters fail to make the connections: the reader would always be ahead of the game, and thus feel comforted. In addition, since science fiction was an index of the American-ness of the coming world, it would be a mistake to write in anything resembling English. So the aim was to suggest hardboiled dialogue but dilute its wisecracking with long-winded British rhythms, and, if necessary, have the characters explain the slang to each other. By 1951, when he set about fulfilling his Plan for Chaos, Wyndham had been producing work in that style for approaching 30 years. It had booked him a place in obscurity.
I experienced queasy deja vu when I opened this recently rediscovered John Wyndham novel. The prose was cheap. The concepts were cheap. The paper was cheap. The glutinous wordplay in the title made me feel cheap for having read it. For a moment I might have been back reviewing cheap sf, 1969.