The Day of the Triffids

By John Wyndham

Rating: 5 stars

It’s only by chance that Bill Mason’s eyes are bandaged up the night the meteors come. And the next day, he can see but everyone who looked at the strange sight has been struck blind. And that’s not the worst problem – the triffids that have been farmed for years suddenly start to become a real menace to the masses who can no longer see their vicious stings.

Although I’ve read and enjoyed other Wyndham novels, The Day of the Triffids has been a large gap in my scientificional education, and one that I’m very glad that I’ve now filled. I was broadly aware of the plot, but not the details and although I general don’t like post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels, I usually make an exception for Wyndham, master of the so-called “cosy catastrophe”. Critics may use this to sneer at Wyndham, but I definitely feel that there’s a place for this sort of writing to explore what happens when society breaks down. And I find it infinitely easier to read than some.

Possibly the best sign of a good book is that this has stayed with me since I read it, still thinking about the logistics of the tiny number of sighted people trying to stave off the triffids, help the blind and husband resources and knowledge to rebuild civilisation as best they can. I still try and think of plans and means to help them, how the existence of the triffids would hinder that, or how different the situation would be without the triffids: with 99-plus percent of the population blind (and new babies unaffected), it makes for an interesting set of thought experiments.

The triffids themselves are wonderful inventions. They still engender a sense of horror and are delightfully creepy in and of themselves. The idea of a mobile plant that has the ability to hunt and kill humans is just a scary thought so used, as we are, to plants being immobile and docile.

Wyndham’s survivors react to their circumstances in several different ways, some of which are indications of his time and others still relevant to today. The idea of the sighted being kidnapped by groups of the blind and forced to act as their eyes is something that I can definitely see, as is the inverse. But in the end, Wyndham ends on a hopeful note, with a fairly safe and stable colony trying to preserve the knowledge that they’ve inherited and find a weapon to drive the triffids back and reclaim the world.

The Day of the Triffids is a classic that has permeated mainstream culture, and with good reason. It’s a lucid, easy to read book with creepy and memorable antagonists and for this reason has been adapted multiple times into other media. But it’s still definitely worth going back to the original

Book details

ISBN: 9781856132527
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Year of publication: 1951

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