Just finished John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids and I have to say: good read. A novel post-apocalyptic story in which most of the humans on Earth go blind in freak event — never fully explained. As if this isn’t bad enough, these freaky, walking plants called triffids take advantage of the mass blindness to grab the top stop on the food chain. The story is told in retrospect by Bill Masen, a triffid researcher who has avoided the blinding event. The narrative follows his stuggle to survive in this mamed and diseased England as it falls into darkness and decay.
Published in 1951, Wyndham’s story wreaks of post-War fatalism. A few characters in story have hope that the Americans would arrive soon to bail them out (I must say, it’s refreshing to read about Americans not being despised.) although it is soon apparent that this is a naive fantasy. It is also curious to read a survival story in which the characters aren’t entirely reduced to barbarism (unlike Golding’s Lord of the Flies). Even when the protagonist is partially enslaved by a group of mostly blind fellows, he still tries to help them. Even in the midst of ruin, there is some rudimentary civility and sense of community.
Day of the Triffids has been described as “cosy catastrophe,” that is, an apocalyptic story in which traditional middle class values are enough to stave off utter ruin. In it’s own strange way, the book is optimistic about the future (unlike my last read, The Time Machine). A sentiment that is repeated thoughout the book is: “wow, this is bad but it could have been so much worse. More tea, Mom!”
A short book and a fast read, Day of the Triffids makes an excellent summer (or late winter) diversion.
Next up on my tour of 20th century Sci-Fi: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Excelsior!