Read any Good Books lately? (#20) – The Day of the Triffids

There is nothing like a pandemic to whet ones appetite for a good post-apocalyptic novel. These days it seems that there is whole genre of science fiction that ruminates on what-if-end of world scenarios. There are plenty to pick from but a good place to start is to go back to the classics and that would include  THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS by John Wyndham. Written in 1951 it is probably his best known work and is a classic of the genre. His other famous novels  include the Midwich Cuckoos (1957) otherwise known as The Village of the Dammed. Readers today may find the writing style a little to old fashion but for me they are still page turners.

The Amazon synopsis of  The Day of the Triffids goes something like this……….

“Bill Masen wakes up one morning in his hospital bed. His eyes are completely bandaged after an eye operation so he is unable to see. He immediately notices how still and quiet everything is. Having taken off his bandages, he discovers that both inside the hospital and out, the majority of the population (who watched a display of startlingly bright comets in the night sky the previous evening) have all gone blind, and realizes that there is a terrifying new enemy for humankind to contend with. This is his thrilling, chilling and enthralling story…. When Bill Masen leaves hospital and goes into the center of London, he finds that looting is rife as people are grabbing anything from the shelves of shops that they think they might find useful – mainly food.

While surveying the scene he comes across an attractive young woman who also wasn’t blinded, Josella. Together they return in her car to her parents’ home, only to discover everyone at the house has been murdered by the Triffids. The Triffids are walking plants which carry a vicious and lethal sting. Bill used to have one in his back garden, but far from being completely harmless they have now developed and are threatening to take over the world. They are also strongly linked to the mysterious comet shower.

Bill has an advantage over other survivors in that his job had involved him researching the Triffids. In fact, it was a Triffid sting that was one of the reasons he had been in hospital on the night of the comets, and this incident saved him from blindness. Together, Josella and Bill, whose bond to each other is growing, join a group of people, many of whom are blind but some of whom can see, with plans to head into the country…and their true struggle begins.” and so on. The Triffids appear to be the result of some genetic tampering and the accidental mass dispersal of the seeds into the atmosphere. Prior to the the “night of the comets” the Triffids were controlled and harvested in various commercial enterprises. After “the night of the comets” it became obvious that the only advantage that man had over the Triffids was the  ability to see.The novel explores human survival after the mass blinding of the human race.

It is a believable premise and for me resonates with our current pandemic predicament. The elements of denial and the hankering to get things back to normal are similar. There is a failure to fully realize that the notion of normal has drastically changed. In both instances there is a watershed moment of “before and after” and nothing can ever be exactly the same again.  In the novel the change is way more dramatic and permanent than in our coming post-pandemic world. Some things we hold near and dear will return but in some ways it is like the world in 1919. Things had changed too much to ever really go back to the way things were. The world in 1919 was a vastly different place to that of 1914. Similarly the world of 2023 will be vastly different to the world of 2019. Millions of deaths on a global scale will do that sort of thing.

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Postscript: “Day of the Triffids” was turned into and unsuccessful B grade movie that is best forgotten. There was a sequel novel set 25 years after John Wyndham’s original novel. It is called The Night of the Triffids and was  written by Simon Clark in 2001. It is a reasonable attempt at a sequel but is not as believable as the original.

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