Thursday, 2 January 2014

Review: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The Day of the Triffids
John Wyndham

From my Classics Club List.

This novel is pure genius. It's actually pretty hard to describe how much I enjoyed reading The Day of the Triffids without there being some of this: kjhagiouy489765jhasbgb. That's excited babbling, by the way, something I am inclined to do a lot of.

Moving on.

The Day of the Triffids is 50's sci-fi. According to the blurb of the Penguin copy I have in my possession, it is a 'fantastic, frightening, but entirely plausible' story. Now, I would argue with one bit of that - plausible. I hope those folk at Penguin do not know something that I don't but I really, REALLY hope this story is not plausible. Human sized death plants and a blindness epidemic? No thanks, I'd rather not.

'When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.'

One morning Bill wakes up, the morning after a meteor shower he was most disappointed to have missed, to find that the world has gone blind. Bill escapes the blindness because his eyes are bandaged and covered as he is recovering from a triffid sting (alien plants are normal in this version of the world). This is a truly post-apocalyptic novel which sees those who survive the initial catastrophe working together (or not) to ensure the continuation of the human race. I was under the mistaken impression that the triffids were a result of the events but, as it turned out, the triffids were part of everyday life already. Bill Masen makes a living studying the things and until later in the novel the threat they pose is not really understood by the majority of the characters.

I finished this book with perhaps more questions than when I started. Wyndham does not address any of the whys or wherefores of how the world got so darn screwed up in the first place. We don't know what caused the meteor shower or how the triffids arrived in the back gardens of Britain (and the world) in the first place. I'm convinced they had something to do with the meteor shower because it's all to cushty a coincidence for them otherwise. I actually found the randomness of the triffids to be one of the main causes for my uneasiness. 

'Of course, coincidences are happening all the time - but it's just now and then you happen to notice them...'

I'm not saying this book scared me (it totally did for a minute there), but I generally felt a little uneasy throughout. To be fair, it actually should be a lot scarier than it is (plant things killing people) but it is narrated in such a matter of fact and deadpan way that the freakiness of the whole thing is undermined. Bill is almost like 'and I was walking down the street and there was a load of blind people and oh yeh, a triffid just killed some kid'. Deadpan. There are also lots of panto-style 'don't go in there' moments that significantly ramp up the entertainment factor whilst simultaneously ramping down the scaredy-cat factor.

Josella was an interesting character and one whom I find immensely discombobulating. She's girly and flaky but completely able to deal with the horrendous situations she finds herself in. When we first meet her it is because Bill saves her life but after that point she shows some serious stones and gets through just fine by herself. Plus, she wrote a raunchy book that most of the characters are very judgemental about. I just don't get her.

The Day of the Triffids is such a brilliant look at the way society and individuals deal with the end of civilisation. Where it could have gone into some real deep places, Wyndham keeps it light and humorous whilst still encouraging the reader to consider what their own role in an apocalypse would be (I would definitely not survive). I would highly recommend this novel and I look forward to reading more of Wyndham's novels (The Midwich Cuckoos seems to be the most highly recommended).

'The deadness, the finish of it all, was italicised there.'

Have you read The Day of the Triffids? How do you think you would fare in an apocalypse?


  1. I read it in my teens so I don't remember stylish or text related details, so thanks for refreshing my memory. (Obviously a re-read is in order too.) I remember though that this stuff was CREEPY! I should also try out another Wyndham book.

  2. I'm so glad to see you review this one positively. When I hear the premise, I'm all like, "That could be REALLY hokey." But it's not! Yay!

  3. I'm rereading it at the moment! And as for the arrival of the triffids, you kind of have to read between the lines but Wyndham basically says that they were genetically modified (or the result of some kind of weird botanical breeding program??) by the Soviet Union. There's no mention of WHY the Soviets would create a giant poisonous meat-eating plant, but whatever!! :)

  4. My Nan gave me a copy of this when I was pretty young and my Mum took it off me because she was convinced that I would end up tormented by nightmares of killer plants (which *sounds* like she's the last of the great censorers but was actually kind of reasonable because at the time I was being plagued by vampire nightmares after attempting to read Dracula...). She gave it back after a year or so but I never did get round to reading it...clearly I should! Hello, Classics Club list :)

  5. Okay, I had no idea this was a book--I thought triffids were something from Star Trek (the original 1960s one)! This sounds bizarrely charming and I am off to look it up...

  6. Now I'm REALLY glad I chose this as one of my twelve TBR Challenge options. THANK YOU FELLOW ELLIE. :)


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