Jobby reviews The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (ISBN: 0 14 00.0993 0 Penguin Books)
Never heard of it?
The gist of the story is that through cross-breeding mankind has made the triffids. Tall plants with the ability to walk and can also sting, often fatally. The stinger can be docked making the triffid safe so triffids are all over the place, even kept in people’s gardens.
One night there is a strange ‘meteor storm’ which produces beautiful green flashes in the sky. Anybody who witnesses this — just about the entire population of the world — goes blind.
Enter our hero, William Masen. As luck would have it, while the strange flashes are happening he is in hospital with bandages over his eyes. Because of this he doesn’t go blind and finds himself having to deal with a world completely changed.
End of the World?
What follows is a tale of a man struggling to survive when all of civilisation has collapsed. Outside the hospital the horrors are many. Obviously there are blind people stumbling over each other but when Masen finds other sighted individuals were are given an all too plausable picture of how low humanity can sink. Masen runs into a man forcing sighted people to lead groups of blind people around scavenging. We also discover other individuals who believe everybody should be doing their bit to put civilisation back together again. And so the book goes, examining different, and often clashing, ways in which humankind could try to put itself back together again.
What about the Triffids?
Ah yes, the triffids? Where are those plants whose name they lend the book? Well, there’s the funny thing. There’s not actually too much said about them. That sounds strange but actual encounters with them are quite rare in the book. There is always a definite feeling of their threat in the background but the hero doesn’t stumble upon them too often. More often he finds their previous handiwork in the form of the bodies of their previous victims.
This is for the best though. If there were triffids around every corner then this book would just be a literary zombie-flick. The author does a grand job of reminding us how much humans rely on their sense of sight and without it other living things on the planet would get the better of us. Frankly, the idea of being killed and digested by a six foot plant does not appeal!
An enjoyable read, though it does have the usual markings of a book written in the early fifties: the technological terms seem a little dated, as does the language.
Just don’t expect a happy ending!