Author: John Wyndham
Rating: 4 Stars
Review By: Shana
This science fiction classic has aged remarkably well. It is not quite so groundbreaking or sweeping as George Stewart's "Earth Abides," but like that bellwether and progenitor of post-apocalyptic fiction, Wyndham's slimmer novel has a deep thoughtfulness and an observant eye for human behavior. Likewise, its deconstruction of modern civilization is less bombastic and more realistic than 21st century entertainment likes to project.
In "The Day of the Triffids," an astronomical event strikes most of the earth blind (humans and other animals alike). At first (and as a first time reading this novel having never watched any of its myriad live action iterations) I found myself a bit confused, thinking that the eponymous triffids must have something directly to do with the astronomical event. But it soon becomes clear that the triffids pre-dated the events outlined in the book, with them being something of a curiosity and mystery - three-pronged carnivorous plants with the ability to move.
As we come upon our narrator, Bill, we find that these plants have spread across the earth, but that they are generally herded and controlled by humans, who currently see them as mildly hazardous (but only if ignored). Once humanity is struck blind, however, the triffids seem to have their day (per the title, which might better be Era of the Triffids or Rise of the Triffids). Humans cannot see them coming, cannot continue to cultivate and hobble them. Coupled with the general breakdown of society, the coming years see infestations grow.
Though the triffids represent a clear, present, and constant threat, the main thrust of the book is Bill's experience in this new world where the vast majority are struck blind as one of the handful who retained his sight. His background as a biologist working with triffids means he has some inkling of their capabilities, but most of the book is more about his view of societal dissolution and the small bands of humans building new lives, and less about the triffids. Through him we see human groups with disparate approaches, giving Wyndham the opportunity to comment on what underpins civilization and the vagaries of human nature.
All in all, it is a successful book, with the good, bad, and ugly of humanity on full display. The triffids, while a major force in the new world, perhaps do not deserve the headline treatment of the title. Still, a good read for SF lovers who enjoy visiting the foundations of the genre.
My love of reading was sparked in 3rd grade by the promise of personal pan pizzas via the BOOK IT! Program. Hmmmm... any chance that someone might give adults free food for reading? Asking for a friend...