Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (5/5)

The back says: When a freak cosmic event renders most of the Earth's population blind, Bill Masen is one of the lucky few to retain his sight. The London he walks is crammed with groups of men and women needing help, some ready to prey on those who can still see. But another menace stalks blind and sighted alike. With nobody to stop their spread the Triffids, mobile plants with lethal stingers and carnivorous appetites, seem set to take control.

"The Day of the Triffids" is perhaps the most famous catastrophe novel of the twentieth century and its startling imagery of desolate streets and lurching, lethal plant life retains its power to haunt today.

I say: Goodness gracious me, it’s when I finally get to read classics like this one that I sort of desperately wish that I had started this classics project much sooner in life. To say that I loved this would be an understatement;

I flove this (if I may be so tweeny – my sincerest apologies).

To be noted is that I only started seriously reading catastrophe novels a few years ago, so my experience with them is limited. However, this is most definitely one of the best I have come across (however little that means). As almost always, I didn’t read the synopsis before starting this novel, so I had no idea what it was about, but luckily we are drawn straight into the plot with this epic first sentence:

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

We follow Bill as he walks the streets of London trying, at first, to find out what has happened, and later, simply to survive. Everyone who saw the lights in the sky winds up blind, and it’s only those who, for whatever reason, weren’t exposed to the phenomenon that maintain their sight. As expected, London is quickly turned into a quasi-warzone where fractions of survivors fight to keep themselves and their acquired goods safe. Bill quickly teams up with Josella and together they try to make their way out of the city and towards something more sustainable.

The one thing that I really loved about this was the way that Wyndham presented the triffids; he made it all seem so disturbingly probable. We are not entirely sure how they came about, but know that they are cultivated for their capabilities of providing cheap oil, and soon enough they start to take advantage of the blind population. Even though I know that it’s fiction, what’s to say that there won’t be any triffids in the future?

And that freaked me out a bit.

Furthermore, having previously lived in London, it was eerie to read about how all these places I have known know were slowly crumbling – it was just so realistic following Bill’s treks across the soon-to-be desolate London streets. And the same goes for when they left the city. I’m not sure if the feeling would have been less intense if I didn’t know these places, but I’m convinced that I gained a lot from being able to picture the parts of England that they visited.

I don’t want to say that Bill was stupid, but sometimes it felt like it took him a while to come to certain conclusions that seemed obvious to me – especially considering that he was a biologist. Perhaps it was necessary for the plot for him to be rather ignorant not so street-smart, but that was probably the only thing that I though was a tad off with the story. Other than that,

it was pure perfection.

I can’t wait to push this on everyone I know and hope that at least one of them reads it so that we can discuss it, because there are so many thoughts that are spinning around in my head about this post-apocalyptic world that Wyndam so genially created.

And as much as I want to see the film and BBC mini series of the book, I'm afraid it may ruin it for me.

*This is my twenty-first entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long).


  1. This book sounds awesome! Especially after the comment you left on my Gone Girl post about how it messed with your head, now I have to read it. I enjoy end-of-the world books, especially really well written ones. The plot sounds intriguing and I can't wait to pick it up. I can't believe I've never heard of this book before so I'm glad you read it/introduced me to it!

    1. There are so many great books that I've never heard of and am afraid of missing that it sometimes keeps me up at night. I have serious problems, I know.

      But yeah, you should definately read this - it's amazing! End of the world books have become a recent favourite of mine; the more unexpected the plot the better. As long as it's plausable.