This is a novel of plot and theme. The author is mainly concerned with sociological and psychological issues in a society faced with the after effects of a nuclear holocaust. Wyndham aims at a general impression, rather than writing an in-depth analysis of an individual's character faced with a specific set of circumstances.
Although there are many opportunities for long descriptive passages, the author refrains from doing so. To give a gruesome description of various forms of deviation would only sensationalize the story, and the author has a more serious purpose.
Only the character of David is revealed to any extent, and he is the only one who develops appreciably. With the exception of Sophie, the other characters are one-sided representative characters like Jacob or Joseph Strorm. Most of the characters of the novel fall into groups. The Waknuk group is held together by its religion, the Fringes people by their deviations, and David and his group by their telepathic abilities.
The story is told in the first person. This narrative method has advantages for the novel. It is a more personal account and David is more likely to win the reader to his side, against the horrors of Waknuk. Although the method necessitates a limited view-point, it is, therefore, a better one for moulding the reader's impressions. The reader is taken into David's confidence and asked to share the secret of his deviation. Above all, there is an air of truth to what David is saying, and this fact intensifies every situation in the novel.
Background in a novel of this type is often very involved. Science fiction by its very nature deals with situations apart from the reader's experience and, therefore, requires long explanations. But the conditions of David's civilization differ only in detail from our own and can be related partly by the child-David as he explains them to Sophie. For David to do all of the narration would be tiresome, and as he is only a child, he is not likely to know all the information. Conveniently, Uncle Axel explains it to him. Because Axel is a broad-minded, thinking person, the reader is given a fuller, less prejudiced account than he might have received from someone like Joseph Strorm.