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Imagine giant stinging plants which walk or rather move around on their roots, gather in groups, emit a lethal sting and feed on the bodies if their victims, threaten to take over the world and ultimately bring about the destruction of the human race. That is the basic scenario of this book.
The central character (the human one, that is) is Bill Masen, a biologist who has been professionally working with triffids. His theory is that they were the outcome of a series of ingenious yet accidental biological meddlings. No 'well-documented ancestry' for them exists, because of what he calls 'the curious political situation then prevailing'. He suspects that the seeds must have been released into the wild when an aeroplane which was smuggling them, packed into a small cube of plywood, was shot down over the Pacific Ocean. Literally millions were free to drift all over the world - and they surely did.
At the beginning of the story, Masen is in hospital in London with his eyes bandaged, as a consequence of having been splashed with small drops of triffid venom in an accident. While he is convalescing, he learns that thousands of other people, maybe even millions, have been watching the light from a meteor shower. Next day he wakes to the news that everyone who saw it is now blind. With trepidation he removes his bandages, and finds that his sight is thankfully unaffected. Then he discharges himself and begins a weary journey on foot through the mainly silent city, where nearly everyone else is sightless, and civilisation seems to be on the point of collapse. It is a bleak picture.
That's not a criticism, but should be taken as a compliment to Wyndham's writing, by the way. He paints a chilling picture of how his hero finds the situation in what is almost a city of the dead. Was he possibly inspired, it occurred to me, by reading or seeing pictures and/or films of the experiences of those left alive in such cities as Dresden and Hiroshima in 1945 after the bombs were dropped? Such events were still well within living memory when the book was first published. The eerie sense of danger and isolation is conveyed very effectively in these pages.
Love rears its head when he meets novelist Josella Playton, one of the more fortunate ones who can still see, even if she is being forced to pay for the gift of keeping her sight by being used as a guide by a man who is blind and seems about to turn violent. A solitary light in an otherwise dark city leads them to a group of likewise fully sighted survivors in a university building. Their leader wants to establish a new colony in the countryside, consisting of others who also still have their sight, who will rebuild a healthy population. As they have little alternative, Bill and Josella join them. But that is only the beginning - and that's all I am prepared to reveal about the story.
Domesday scenarios, with scientific and/or environmental disaster, were very much in vogue some years ago. 'The Day of the Triffids' was one of the first, if not the first. There is a case for arguing that the real precursor was H.G. Wells' 'The War of the Worlds', but only very loosely. It is hardly surprising, by the way, that Wyndham acknowledged his debt and inspiration to that title.
By the way, I can recall in my youth the name 'triffid' being applied as a joke to any large ugly plant, although there is certainly nothing funny about the subject matter of the story.
To a certain extent, this seems to me a cautionary tale about how genetic engineering and one accident (or possibly deliberate action disguised as an accident) can bring about terrible, uncontrollable consequences and imperil the survival of mankind. But it is not merely a story about what could happen when the genie is let out of the bottle. To some extent, it is also about what inevitably occurs when society collapses, morals are swept aside, anarchy becomes rife, and certain unscrupulous people take over. On the face of it, the triffids are the enemy. But probe beneath the surface and mankind is actually the guilty party, the one to fear. It was human beings who played God and unleashed a monster they could not control, and it was human beings who attempted to seize control of the chaotic situation and impose their order on society. I can see another parallel with what was then a fairly recent event in history emerging here - how a certain woefully charismatic leader seized power in Germany after the post-war chaos and hyper-inflation of the early 1920s.
When I began reading it, my immediate thought was 'ah, another science fiction novel' - albeit one that I had had vaguely on my must-read list for a long time. Once I had finished it and began to think about it on all levels, I realized it was much more than that. I would recommend this book to anyone, not least as a thoroughly readable and chilling volume which ultimately turns out to be more than it seems at first glance.
John Wyndham (1903-69) had long been a writer of mainly short stories for magazines, the majority of them science fiction and detective stories, before he turned to novels. 'The Day of the Triffids', his first and best-known, was published in 1951, and was later filmed as well as adapted as a drama for TV and radio. Though he published several more novels before his death in 1969, this remains the one for which he will always be remembered.
[May also be published on other review sites]
The Day of the Triffids is one of the most famous titles from the annals of science fiction shock horror and has been adapted into films and a famous BBC TV programme but the original is a book written by John Wyndham. The Day of the Triffids is a novel written by John Wyndham in the mid sixties and features a post apocalyptic event and the travails of a normal man called Bill.
Bill Masen awakes in hospital after an operation on his eyes, with only sounds to go by he realises that the days routine appears altered. He then is told about a strange but beautiful green meteor shower which appeared the previous night, he is also made aware that everyone he meets in the hospital is now blind. The post apocalyptic feel is extended with the immediate suicide of a doctor and a sense of displacement as Bill moves through the hospital, the operation to his eyes is only referred to in passing the exact cause and need for the operation only lightly touched upon.
Bill escapes the hospital and starts to meet disconnected characters, an angry blind man, a beautiful women, a group in a university who want to set up a sighted only society and the mysterious Bradley who appears to have other more unworldly concerns. After travelling for a while we start to become introduced to a menace which killing the unprotected blind members of the society. The sighted only notice the murders and the strange remains of some kind of plant, over the middle period of the book the murderous triffids are introduced and become the enemy chasing Bill for the remained of the novel.
The rest of the novel is dystopian and echoes HG Wells War of the Worlds and In the Days of the Comet. In this view of a future England we have two distinct populations of the sighted and the blind, there is the menace from a group of sentient aggressive plants and the belief that over the hill there lies a nirvana. The novel is a short one at around 280 pages and is split into relatively short chapters; the book is set in the world of Bill and features him in nearly every page. Bill as a character is one that the reader starts of suspicious but slowly over the length of the novel we grow to like Bill he gains followers such as his future wife Josella and Susan a desperately scared young girl.
This novel is famous for the carnivorous plants the Triffids but in truth it attempts to answer other questions, it is more dystopian than pure science gone mad and looks at serious issues such as segregation, genocide and the rise of cultism when things go bad. The writing is fluent and enjoyable and can be read as a bit of lightweight fluff at the start but it soon becomes apparent that there is much more going on than meets the eye. Here we are given an alternate England, one stripped of its verdant greens and comfortable lifestyles and shown one on the edge of chaos and confusion. The author brings together the reservations of the English with the desperation of the dispossessed and creates a world both real and imaginary. This is one of the better pieces of science fiction out there and though it is nearly 50 years old still captivates the reader.
I enjoy a good read, but it is something I rarely find time to do. Once I start a book, I have real trouble putting it down until I have got to the end, so the house and everything else goes to pot when I'm reading! I enjoy well written science fiction stories, and as I had seen the recent BBC adaptation of Day of the Triffids, I borrowed the book when I noticed it in the town library.
I was really surprised when I noticed that this book was written in 1951. The tone of the book is very up to date and modern, and you would think that the story had been written much more recently. Especially relevant are the references in the story about all the space debris circling the earth, and also the references to mankind running out of resources. The only aspect of the book that I found a little dated was the character of the lead female, Josella, who semed really old fashioned and a typical damsel in distress, whose whole aim in life is to reproduce. I can understand why, when the BBC adapted the story, they made the female lead character a lot more up to date by changing her from an author in the novel to a broadcaster.
The story begins with a meteor shower that strikes everyone on earth blind. There are a few people who avoid this catastrophe, like the main character, Bill, who at the beginning of the story is in hospital with his eyes bandaged. The story is set in London, and the author vividly explains the horror and the rapid descent into anarchy that follows in the wake of the mass blindness.
Several small groups start to form in the city, concerned about survival and helping as many of the blind inhabitants as possible. People loot and steal to gain possesion of clothing, food and weapons in order to survive in this post apocalyptic world. To complicate matters further, many of the people are coming down with a killer bug. That problem pales into insignificance however, when compared to the greater threat of the Triffids.
Triffids are freak mutant plants that can uproot themselves and walk around of their own accord. They were engineered by humans for their oil, which had a number of uses in food and manufacturing. The Triffid oil business was very lucrative, and nurseries began to pop up worldwide. The Triffids also seeded themselves in a prolific manner, and rural areas soon became full of them. People soon learned that the Triffids were carnivorous plants, and that they were armed with a deadly poisonous sting that could kill instantly. The usually aimed for the head or eyes. One of the men who had studied Triffids noted that a Triffid would be superior to a blind man, and indeed, it does not take long for the Triffids to capitalise on their advantages as they begin to assert themselves as the dominant species....
I really enjoyed this book, as it is real classic sci fi stuff. I like the way that the story tackles themes of ethics and morality. In a post apocalyptic world, none of the rules of convention apply, and people must do what they can to survive, but it is interesting to see the lengths that the people in the story go to in their quest to survive. The main character sruggles with his concience when he sees so many blind and needy people and he is the only sighted man? Surely it is futile to help them all? Wouldn't it be better to abandon them and make a better life elsewhere?
After a fast paced and exciting beginning, the book starts to slow down and lose momentum about half way through. The Triffids seem to be mentioned less, and the story concentrates on the main character searching for his lady. This section of the book seems to plod on for a while and doesn't pick up until the Triffids appear again.
The day of the Triffids is a great original story, and although the concept does sound a little silly, it is good fun to read. It is a book that leaves you thinking after you have put it down. For me, I would have preferred a bit more action, a few more Triffids, and a bit less plodding in the middle, but it was definitely worth reading.
Makes me scared to go into the garden......
In John Wyndham's 1951 novel 'Day of The Triffids', main protagonist Bill Masen awakes in a London hospital to find that his eyes are heavily bandaged and nobody appears to be around to attend to him. Tentatively removing his bandages and discovering that he is still able to see, Masen quickly discovers that the hospital is deserted and some terrible catastrophe appears to have occured, with the city in a state of abject chaos.
Everyone appears to be blind, with some people choosing to drink themselves into oblivion in the numerous pubs throughout the city, whist others cling to one another in an attempt to find food and somehow remain alive. Masen remembers the radio reports about strange cosmic phenomena in the sky that played out during the weeks he was incapacitated in the hospital, and it soon becomes apparent that watching these weird lights in the sky has somehow caused 99% of the worlds population to go completely blind.
This is not all that humanity suddenly has to contend with however, as huge, predatory, carnivorous plants known as Triffids are stalking the blind and sighted alike in great numbers, and the book follows Mason and the few untouched survivors he encounters as they try and rebuild society whilst battling against the strange new flora which is threatening to supercede man as the dominant species on earth. Mason is sure the two sudden phenomena must be linked somehow......
'Day of the Triffids' is a classic piece of british science fiction, which despite being over fifty years old still feels very contemporary and is an accessably written and hugely compelling read. The sudden disintegration of modern society is brilliantly rendered, and Wyndham creates a tense story that feels at once surreal and yet somehow strangely plausible. The depiction of post-apocalypic London is somehow reminiscient of in Danny Boyle's 2002 film '28 Days Later', and a quick look on the internet reveals that writer Alex Garland was inspired by the opening sequence to the book and film to write the film.
A hugely enjoyable read, 'Day of the Triffids' is an excellent addition to the sci-fi canon that is worthy to to stand alongside fellow classics by the likes of Vules Verne and HG Wells.
The Day of the Triffids.
A great book and far better than the watered down 1960's film version.
The central character is Bill Masen who is a Genetic engineer working on a 'Triffid' farm.
The Triffids are walking plants about 8ft high which have a sting or lash which can flash out at you and is invariably fatal. They are farmed for their oils which are greatly sort after throughout the world.
Bill had a Triffid lash out at him and some of the poisons vapour got through his protective head guard and temporarily blinded him, thus putting him in hospital for a few days and more importantly nights.
During his stay in hospital the world is treated to a passing meteor storm flashing through the Earth atmosphere and giving off an eerie green glow to the skies all over the world. This has the effect of rendering all who see the spectacle permanently blind, and then the Triffids get loose!
Bill wakes to a deathly quiet world and once the he removes the bandages he sees and realises the full horror now present in the world. The old life has gone forever and the few survivor left soon try to rebuild some sort of future.
We follow his desperate attempts to save some of the poor blind souls and his final realisation that he must move on and try to build some sort of life for himself. Along the way he will get a love interest, Jossella, loose her and find her again. All the while fighting a battle with hungry murderous Triffids.
The book is markedly different than the film and far better, who needs pictures on the screen this book, puts them right in your mind eye. The creeping horror in the book is desperate to read and Bill faces the sadness in the world and in his own conscience.
Read the book, it really is superb.
Written by John Wyndham.
I'll say this first: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is my favourite book of all time. John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (can you see why he decided to shorten this when forming a pen name?) was one of the greatest science fiction authors to ever put pen to paper, and this, I believe, was his masterwork.
The plot of the book can be simplified thusly:
- A strange meteor storm, seen the world over, blinds the majority of the Earth's population
- A previously discovered species of tall walking plant -- the Triffid -- begins to flourish, and now being superior to the sightless humans, takes over at the top of the planet's food chain.
- Various people, who some how managed to avoid witnessing the meteor storm, band together and fight for survival against the Triffids in what is now a post apocalyptic version of England.
There is obviously a great deal more to this book, but these are the basics; I shall leave you to uncover the rest for yourself. I guarantee you'll have a lot of fun doing so.
The atmosphere created in the now-empty, post-meteor shower England by Wyndham is simply unrivaled in any end of the world novel I have read - and I've read a fair few. It may sound cliched, but he truly pulls you right in to the story, and I encourage you to explore this science fiction masterpiece as soon as you can.
"What could one do, with the best will in the world, but prolong the anguish? Placate one's conscience for a while again, just to see the result of the effort wasted once more."
From the diabolical bio-engineering of the Soviet Union come the seeds of the triffid, a plant that consumes flesh, can grow upward of ten feet, disable opponents with a poisonous whip-like stinger, and uproot themselves from the earth and walk on three stumpy legs.
Their seeds were spread worldwide when a plane was shot down in a botched attempt to smuggle them out of Russia, and as the world grows to accept them as part of everyday life, they are farmed in nurseries for their beneficial extracts.
At one such nursery, Bill Masen, an employee, is stung in the face and lucky to escape with his life.
He wakes up in hospital one morning, his eyes bandaged, to find no help coming to his bedside when he rings the bell, and no noises coming from outside the door.
After daring to pull the bandages off himself, he discovers the population of London, perhaps the whole of Great Britain, perhaps the whole world, have been blinded by a series of meteor showers the night before.
Men, women and children are stumbling along the streets, clawing their way along the fronts of shops and buildings, desperate and in need of help.
Bill can do nothing but watch and explore this terrible new world, where civilisation has crumbled and man is now hunted by the seemingly intelligent triffids that roam the countryside.
Should he try to help those blinded, or would it be pointless to prolong their suffering when perhaps there is no help coming?
Heavily influenced by H.G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds", Wyndham's 1951 novel is grim, unrelenting and perfectly handled with its attention to detail and descriptions of a decaying world.
The dissolution of London alone, from the busy streets of Picadilly to the floundering, helpless masses of blind men and women, aimlessly wandering up and down streets, breaking through shop windows, regardless of the glass in the hope to find food and drink, is realistically described.
Then there are the survivors, those that managed to miss the meteor shower, and the banding together of different groups in the hope of preserving some sort of order.
Some are military driven, or religious, or willing to forget the now dead society altogether, and some just do not know what to do or what should be done, and remain hopeful that help from Europe or America will eventually come and save them.
All the while, the blind population are starving, disease is spreading, and the triffids are on the attack, preying on the sightless and growing both in confidence and in number.
Wyndham's vague description of the actual villainous plant brings a real fear to the novel, especially in their ability to just sneak up on their victims and their willingness to hide in the bushes outside a home, lashing out at their victims when the blind finally emerge from the door.
They never come across as something that can be easily dispatched or beaten, and is a credible enemy to the protagonists in the story, as if the whole crumbling of society wasn't enough to deal with.
Wyndham's style and strength is in description, and the changing world of London and the countryside as nature slowly takes its hold on the world once more is brilliantly done, but he falls a little flat in the characters' relationships and dialogue.
It's all a bit stilted and dreary, especially the conversations between Bill and love-interest Josella who he finds in London, so the budding relationship, while plausible, doesn't come across too well.
But this, I feel, is a minor problem in a piece of work as great as this, as not only is the premise so irresistable in its scope, it is extremely fulfilling in the success of covering all the bases and answering all of the 'what ifs'.
Like Wyndham's "The Chrysalids", he never likes to fully explain all of the technical bits and pieces that led up to the situation, nor does he try to answer all of the questions one might have about the triffids, merely alluding to questions of whether they can communicate or not, and I think this is very beneficial to the story.
After all, it concerns itself solely with the aftermath and does not go on to explain much of the history behind the triffids and the characters unless it is crucial to the storyline - there is never any needless digressions or efforts to take on too much at once, as the first person narrative sees to this.
Even though this might feel quite limiting, especially for a post-apocalyptic novel where we naturally like to see and know everything that is going on, we get to follow him all around London, as well as into the country, and come into contact with many different characters and situations we are sure are similar to what are being faced worldwide.
There is never any feeling that we are missing out on something.
In its realism it is gripping and as suited to the 50's as it is to today, as there is little or no reason to believe that anything would be different if such an event struck tonight.
The novel can be quite haunting in its visions of death, disease and destruction, and has moments of good action and great despair, as it always seems there's little chance any good can come from the situation.
However, it does have its uplifting moments and these do well to space out the terror, so don't expect a completely morbid book with a deflated ending.
Ultimately, this is a great piece of science fiction with a good dose of post-apocalypse thrown in, with good supporting characters (even if the two main protagonists aren't particularly interesting), and a superb enemy.
Put this on your reading list, and prepare to leave your house each day swinging a broomstick into the garden hedge, just in case.
[The novel can be purchased on play.com for £6.99 (at time of writing)]
The Day of the Triffids.
This is one of my favourite books (and film) and is one of John Wyndham's best known books.
I remember seeing the film many many years ago but it wasn't until perhaps 10 years ago that I got around to reading the book; it was/is a cracking read.
I currently have an Easton Press First Edition and give it a reading every now and then.
Bill Masen is a biologist working on a farm that genetically engineers Triffids for their Oils. The Oil is of a higher grade if the 'stinger' is left in tact. Unfortunately Bill gets some venom mist across his eyes one day; it's the luckiest day of his life.
Whilst in hospital, Bill misses out on a planet wide comet show as the sky is lit up all night with eerie green flashes.
The next morning he awakes in a hospital in complete silence. No doctors, no nurses, no one to remove his bandages.
He removes them himself but what he sees of the world from this point on.... is a ghastly nightmare.
Almost the entire world has been blinded by the previous evening's lightshow.
Triffids are now on the loose and easily killing newly blinded humans.
What humans can still see are looting and seeing to their own needs. (No pun intended).
During his wanderings he comes across Jossella who also has escaped blindness and together they join a small group of sighted but mostly blind survivors.
What would you do?
Stay and help the blinded until the food runs out and disease begins to ravage the cities or head for the countryside and hope to make some kind of life?
But before they have to make that decision they are violently split up and bill has to go on a perilous and ghastly journey across the country in order to find and save Jossella.
The book is quite different from the film version. The book gives off a more harassing and desperate atmosphere than the 'sanitised' film version.
The narrative and descriptive content of the book is flowing and very easy to follow.
I heartily recommend the book; you will not be able to put it down.
The day off the Triffids is probably one of the author John Wyndhams best known books. Written in 1951. The Cold War was clearly preying on Wyndham's mind at the time of writing, and the book mirrors a growing sense of unease felt by many during this time, Where they felt man was on the brink of wiping himself off the face of the earth, either through war or industrial accident and that we were delving in to scientific areas of research we knew very little about. At the time genetic research was in its very early stages and there was a feeling in the populous that we were interfering with something that would ultimately come back and bite us on the bum. Bill Masen who is the hero of the story, is a biologist working farm that genetically engineers a Triffids, that are processed to produce an oil. Although the Triffids seem alien, it seems that Wyndham created them to be a response the overwhelming belief at that time that Russia was biologically irresponsible in its use of nuclear and chemical materials, that its space program was dangerous and ultimately that communism denied a person the right to be an individual. This kills two birds with one stone and gives tangibility to an evil foe that readers at the time could identify with. In fact the hero Masen Blames the comet debris-induced blindness to satellite weapons systems falling out of orbit.
Tales of survival against the odds are always interesting, and Wyndham has a knack of showing the decay of the cities, and images rural England lapsing from pretty cultivated meadows back to bog that are very thought provoking.
The story opens as Bill Masen, eyes bandaged from Triffid sting at work, wakes in a hospital to an eerie silence. No doctors, no nurses, no breakfast. He tentatively removes his bandages, only to find that everyone else in the surrounding city seems to be blind. In fact, everyone in the world has been blinded, This is due to the previous night's light-show of beautiful green shooting stars, attributed to be debris from a comet. As Masen goes in search of help and food, the panic and desperation of a blinded populace is revealed. During his search Masen finds Jossella who also missed the previous nights meteor shower and escaped blindness, together they join a group of sighted and blind survivors who determine to escape the chaos of London and start a new life in the country, where they have a better chance at making a stand.
The survivors have a Bleak choice. either help the vast majority of blind survive a few more weeks, until the food gives out, or be killed by Triffids. Alternatively the sighted could cut and run, join up with the each other and try to make a stand against the Triffids. But this would leave the mass of humanity to die.
Once in the country side the pace quickens as the survivors race to secure a strong hold against the Triffids, strange plants that years before began appearing all over the world. They were harvested and farmed by man, who not knowing welcome The Triffids can grow to over seven feet tall, pull their roots from the ground to walk, and kill a man with one quick lash of their poisonous stingers. With society in shambles, they are now poised with the aid of a group collective consciousness to prey on their abusers, humankind.
Bill and Josella encounter a handful of new societies in this apocalyptic world. Each with a different ethos and philosophy on how to survive. They find themselves soon leaving each of these as they quickly see that these new found safe havens are themselves doomed by their own dogma.
The human angle
Wyndham also tells us of the many suicides Bill witnesses without interfering, and that he even helps three people kill themselves, As people realize they will not survive without sighted peoples help, You would think on reading this that it would be hard to sympathize with Bill for what he has done but Wyndham shows how easily and quickly society can move into depravity That is actually makes you think that you might do the same should you be in the same situation, fighting to survive.
Wyndham's investigation of the morality of survival strategies really sticks with you as a reader: the individual vs the group, the loss of societies restraints and rules, all elements that force hard choices on the characters. And it's all packaged in an adventurous yarn with a dash of romance.
Not renowned for his romance writing Wyndham uses the relationship of our two main characters more to show the basic need humans have for each other for company and ultimately for survival of the species. In fact Bill at first finds josella annoying and a possible burden, but Wyndham does eventually let him fall for her (only when she is nearly taken away from him by another group and he realizes she is not a possession). Which should you want to read too deeply smacks of terribly political incorrectness these days - However you need to remember it was written in 1951.
My favorite line
This is very early on when Bill is showing someone round the triffid farm. To put the visitor at ease bill says;
"Don't worry they are blind - We can see them but they can't see us"
John Wyndham (19031969) was a successful English author who wrote novels and short stories from the 1950s to the 70s, focusing on science fiction and creating many classics still popular today, including Out of the Deep , the Kraken wakes and the Midwitch cukoos
Wyndhams writing style may not appeal to all, some may find it a little to preciss and old fashioned but it seems to suit the story and the characters. I find that it does not detract from the story at all.Many critics have compared Wyndham to H.G. Wells, who was actually one of Wyndham's favorite writers . It is easy to see that some of the inspiration for this book may have come from the war of the worlds and the time machine.
There is a sequel by Simon Clark called "night of the triffids"
If you want to watch a pretty good adapation of the novel the BBC did a series in the 1980.
Probably his best-known work and also possibly his best, The Day of the Triffids has been made into films and TV series, but nothing can beat the book. As with other of Wyndham's works, it is classic sci-fi with more accessibility to people who are not fans of / unfamiliar with the genre because it focuses on how people respond to the scientific crisis / event rather than going into unwieldy detail about the event itself. In fact in The Day of the Triffids, much is left to guesswork - even at the end of the book we are left with a good estimate of what happened, but are unsure if it's totally accurate.
The book is told in first-person narration by biologist Bill Mason, who's had a very frustrating time recently - he's in hospital unable to see. It is only a temporary condition - he hopes - as the doctors were able to treat him quickly after the event. He works farming triffids and harvesting their oil, which is of superior value and highly valuable. No-one quite knew where they sprung from, but they seemed to be an entirely new species, suggesting the possibility of genetic manipulation. Collecting oil from the triffids could be a tricky business though, as they have poisonous stings - and even wearing protective clothing, some of the poison from such a swipe had managed to get through the protective shielding to reach Bill's eyes, thus his blindness. When he awakens one morning to find that he is one of the lucky few who will ever see again, however, he is caught up in a battle for survival - not just for London, nor even England, but perhaps for the whole human race Triffids (a kind of large flower sometimes seem to have a collective consciousness) seem more suited to survival under these conditions than the human race, for one of their unusual traits is that they can "walk" after a fashion
Along the way he meets several interesting characters, all of whom are reacting to the situation in different ways. With the vast majority of people blind and nearly helpless, some of the sighted are taking advantage of them, some are trying to help them, some are trying to get away from them Each person / group of people's reaction is told realistically and believably, and are not divided into "Good" and "Bad" camps as the narrator grimly observes at one stage in the book, "it seems that nothing is so dangerous as good intentions".
There are a couple of things that could be levelled against the book, I suppose - some of the viewpoints (particularly about the Russians!) seem very out of date and the book ends rather abruptly, but these are extremely small quibbles compared to what makes this book great. Some of the characters do, in true Wyndham fashion, get a bit preachy with their dialogue, but that's in keeping with their character. The humanity of it all really draws you in, and the way Bill and other characters are left battling their own insecurities and inhibitions is utterly absorbing. A gentle humour that creeps up on you unawares breaks up the tension enough so that it doesn't become ineffective. The atmosphere of terror and uncertainty is quite chilling, and on top of this Wyndham's prose is frequently quite beautiful, often bordering on the poetic.
Here are a couple of my favourite examples of this:
"And we danced, on the brink of an unknown future, to an echo from a vanished past."
"To deprive a gregarious creature of companionship is to maim it, to outrage its nature. The prisoner and the cenobite are aware that the herd exists beyond their exile; they are an aspect of it. But when the herd no longer exists there is, for the herd creature, no longer unity. He is part of no whole; a freak without a place. If he cannot hold on to his reason, then he is lost indeed; most utterly, most fearfully lost, so that he becomes no more than the twitch in the limb of a corpse."
Somehow, though many of the ideas in the book stem from post-WWII cold war & space race paranoia, the overall impression of the dangers of the human race dabbling in things it ought not / knows not the consequence of is even more relevant nowadays than back when it was first published. (Especially in light of genetic research.) It is another example of how science fiction writers often made an extremely good guess at what was coming, though at least we don't have giant sunflowers lurching around the place! :-D
Sci-fi fans will lap this up, but it will also appeal to those who aren't fans of the genre. Quite simply this is one of the best works of fiction ever written.
Amazon.co.uk have the Penguin paperback edition for £6.39 (RRP £7.99), and a "Fast Track Classics" paperback edition for £3.99. (I'm reviewing the Penguin edition, which is very nice quality cover, very readable print - I can't vouch for the other edition!) Thsi is about the only Wyndham book you should be able to find in a small-medium sized bookshop, for his other works you'll often need to go to a larger bookshop.
Title: Day of the Triffids Author: John Wyndham Pubished: 1951 I picked up ithis book in the library the other day simply as something to read whilst waiting for a friend in a coffee shop. As it turned out i got a lot more than the mildly diverting sci-fi that I was expecting! "Day of the Triffids" begins with the main character, Bill, waking up in hospital after treatment for a Trifid sting. Upon removing the bandages covering his eyes, he realises that he has had a very lucky escape. Most of the rest of the world has gone blind due to flashes of light from a meteor shower the previous evening. While the world tries to come to terms with the devastating effect that it has on their lives, some mysterious plants sieze their chance... The book focuses on Bill's attempts to simultaneously recreate some sort of life for him, and his companion (also not blind), whilst fighting the the ever-stronger army of triffids who are thriving on man's disadvantage. The action is fast paced and exciting, while the atmosphere created is dark and uneasy, without ever becoming depressing. Characterisation is perhaps a little weak, with the hero and heroine being very stereotypical characters in their quest to do what is right, yet when one remembers that this book was written more than 50 years ago, it's astonishing how such a strong female figure exists. Another thing which is amazing, considering the book's age, is that the book has hardly dated at all. Set in London and rural England, the only things which betray its origins are a few idiosyncrasies to do with cars, or technology. In my mind, the Triffids could have been attacking in modern day England, and it wouldn't have made much difference to the way that the book was written. It has such an easy-to read style that I read it cover to cover in two session - about 3 1/2 hours in total. Wyndham explores many issues in the book, without going in to t
hem in too much depth. Obviously the time period implies some sort of cold-war paranoia - the book is set in a world where the Russians are totally cut off from the rest and the world is on the brink of collapse due to overpopulation - and conspiracy theories abound, but the more interesting issues are those to do with the people and the actions they take towards the catastrophe. The blind are represented as little more than an underclass of humans, reliant on the sighted for everything. This I find quite disturbing, as i wouldn't like to think that I would lose my equal status to other people simply because i had lost my sight. The exception to this of course is the man who was blind beforehand, who is quite cheered up by everyone else being reduced to his leve, and having the superiority of experience over them. Another interesting feature of the novel is the way in which vairous people choose to deal with the catastrophe and make a new life for themselves. There are interesting discussions of morality and dogmatic beliefs, and which values it is appropriate to uphold in such circumstances, with various groups trying various different methods with different degrees of success. It would spoil it to detail them here though - yyou'll just have to get hold of the book! The lasting impression I have of the book though - is amazing. Maybe it is because I read it all in one go, but my mind keeps returning to the question - what if everyone were to go blind? How would society function? Isn't it amazing how much of society is so reliant on the rest and how little we know of what we take for granted most of the time? I couldn't stop thinking about this book once I'd read it - and I challenge anyone else to finish it with the same perspective on the world they had when they started, and not be scared of meteor showers!
The Day of the Triffids is a genuinely chilling tale of an ecological apocalypse. First published in 1951, time has done nothing to erode the feeling of panic and slow-dawning realisation that creeps over both the main characters, and the reader, as the full extent of their situation is revealed. Although John Wyndham was an experienced writer of both short stories and detective novels, this is the first novel he wrote in his own special brand of science fiction, which he called "logical fantasy". It is also his longest book, despite being less than 300 pages in length. The story follows Bill Masen, whose world is ruined, whilst his life is ironically saved, by triffids; deadly, genetically engineered plants which are intensively farmed for their valuable natural oil. The story opens with Mr Masen in hospital, about to have bandages removed from his eyes following treatment for a triffid sting. The first sign that something is wrong is that "Wednesday sounds like Sunday", i.e. there is none of the usual weekday noise and bustle outside. This is followed by, well, nothing. Nobody comes to give him breakfast, nobody comes to remove his bandages. Nobody comes when he rings the bell. Could it have anything to do with the mysterious 'meteor shower' which he had been frustrated to miss the previous evening...? In the world of the blind man, the triffid is king. Wyndham skilfully opens our eyes to the problems that reveal themselves in a world that has lost its sight. Although Bill Masen's sight has been saved because of his treatment for a triffid sting, he is one of very few who have woken up to see the next day. From the opening chapter, you feel Masen's isolation as one of the few sighted people left, whilst also understanding the frustration and panic of those struck blind. This is not science fiction; it is about people. The novel has been categorized in many different ways, and it may belo
ng in none, or all, of those categories - it really doesn't matter. What does matter is the way your mind starts turning over possibilities and fears for the characters involved, the way you feel the constant menace that the presence of the triffids brings. There is a huge range of emotions involved, from confusion as our hero tries to understand what has happened, followed by pity and horror at the plight of the newly blind, to relief and hope at finding other sighted people. But this is not a straightforward story; in fact, it is almost two stories - the unexplained meteor shower followed by mass blindness, and its byproduct; the reign of terror effected by the previously contained triffids. The characters, having already survived with their eyesight, have to survive the blind who demand to be helped, the unscrupulous sighted men who see opportunity, a mysterious plague sweeping the country, and another species which grasps its chance to flourish. Wyndham writes easily and convincingly, and even those who find classic science fiction hard to stomach should find it easy to suspend disbelief and be entirely absorbed into a world in chaos. If you enjoy books such as 'Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley, or '1984' by George Orwell, then you'll enjoy this. If you enjoy an atmospheric tale of psychological terror, you'll enjoy this. If you just enjoy a great story written well, then guess what? You'll enjoy this! Wyndham has a gift for making the very unlikely seem eminently plausible, and without turning it into the 50s B-movie fodder it could have been. In short, this is a twentieth century classic; a book that leaves you thinking long after you've put it down, and a story which you'll remember for the rest of your life. At the very least, you won't be able to drive past a "Heavy Plant Crossing" sign without imagining an 8ft plant lumbering across the road!
The Day of the Triffids is without a doubt John Wyndham's best work ever. It was serialized on BBC a few years ago now, and the adaptation was nowhere near as good as the book itself. Imagine waking up in hospital and finding out that you are the only sighted person left in the world. This is the scenario that faces our unlikely hero at the start of this book, and he goes on to face a nightmare society where chaos rules, with the added horror of man-eating plants being let loose, jumping out of nowhere and attacking their blinded and unwary victims. The story is so original, so gripping, that it is a must read. The concept of a society in disarray is so brilliantly described and detailed, this is surely Wyndham at his peak of literary talent. Widely available in all good bookshops, The Day of the Triffids is not a book you will be able to finish without a deep sense of disquiet and trepidation. Highly recommended nonetheless.
Ignore the film. This book is outstanding. Wyndham writes effortlessly, with a style as compelling to and suitable for 12 year olds as it is to adults. Day Of The Triffids charts the progress of the world following the development of moving, man-eating plants and almost universal blindness of humankind. It presents a brilliantly convincing, and very human, picture of the anarchy and subsequent order that one would imagine would ensue. I could not put this book down from the moment I picked it upm and the experience has led me to read and adore a great deal of other John Wyndham novels. I would recommend this book to absolutely anybody.
This book has been sat on my bookshelf since I failed to return it to my school when I left some years ago. At long last I’ve got round to reading it, but was it worth the fifteen year wait? The answer is a resounding yes! The plot is now well known, what with a mediocre film staring (for some reason) Howard Keel and a, as fair as I can remember, a reasonable BBC TV series of the early eighties. The plot revolves around the vast majority of the world’s population being struck blind in one swoop by a strange “meteor shower” (or was it some malfunctioning weapon?). The situation allows the, previously farmed and tended for valuable oils, triffids a bit more of a free reign around the place. Now the film defiantly intimates that these 8-foot tall, walking plants with whipping stings of certain death were extraterrestrial arrivals. The book does not make the case so clear, instead it posits the belief that they were genetically engineered. This is pretty good sci-fi stuff, when you happen to pick up a book that is getting on for fifty years old and it hits one of the current fears right on the head (i.e. GM). The initial part is concerned with our heroes look at a city that has shut down over night, with blind people trying desperately to feed themselves. Does he help them or leave them to inevitability? This situation is a favourite fantasy of mine. Not that I’d actually want it to happen, but have you never thought what it would be like be in this situation? What would you do? Where would you go? What would you take with you? I planned this in some detail when I was a kid. I’d get a lorry, fill it with the contents of ASDA and make my way to Ripley Castle. The plot thickens as a strange disease afflicts the city and the Triffids become more and more of a menace. I won’t ruin the rest of the plot but it really involves the problems of living in a dead world and then starting over and planning for the
future, both in terms of their lives and the lives of those to come. This book really reminds me of the old BBC serial “Survivors”, which is on the edge of my childhood memory, but I did get the chance to see again on UK Gold in the early nineties (back in the days when UK Gold was good). Obviously, that aforementioned serial will have drawn heavily from this earlier work. In the world of Survivors, the population is wiped out by a virus (aka the even later The Stand) and goes through the same processes of scavenging in a dying city and then moves on to starting over from scratch when the cities are no longer store houses. If you are a fan of good literature, whether a sci-fi fan or not, then I would strongly recommend reading this book. It won’t take you too long as it was written before it became fashionable to write a book the size of telephone book by jamming it with boring nonsense.
As the world is sent into the chaos of collective blindness by strange lights in the sky, human-kind falls victim to the threatening, carnivorous walking plants: the Triffids