The Day of the Triffids

Monday, July 30, 2018


The Day of the Triffids
John Wyndham, 1951

Premise: Bill Masen wakes up, and something's wrong. He suspects that the plants have only been biding their time.

I didn't know anything about this book when I picked it up; I just had an idea that it was classic science fiction.

It turns out to be apocalyptic, vaguely sci-fi, and very British.

The situation is: after an amazing visual display in the night sky, everyone who watched is struck blind. Society immediately crumbles, with groups of desperate blind people enslaving the few people who can see and small groups either fighting or banding together to try to rebuild.

Our protagonist was undergoing a medical procedure, and so had his eyes covered. The most effective part of the book for me was the beginning when he's creeping around the half-deserted hospital, trying to figure out what happened.

The situation is complicated by the presence of the triffids. Triffids are mobile plants which have a dangerous sting. Our protagonist worked for a triffid farm, and he tries to warn other people that the triffids are more intelligent than people think and more dangerous.

The book isn't interested in where the triffids come from, and the only explanation is that they are probably some secret genetic engineering project that escaped. Likewise, although the main character suspects that the triffids planned the reaction that blinded humanity to remove humans' only advantage (sight), he has no proof and never finds any.

Instead, he spends the book joining or running from different groups of survivors, looking for a young woman that he rescued on the first day. They eventually are reunited and later still join a promising group on a nearby island.

It's very much a cross between man's inhumanity to man and an awkward love story set against the apocalypse. Both storylines have been done better elsewhere, although I guess this one was notable at the time.

2 Stars - An Okay Book

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