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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Holds up well - even after 50+ years

The Day of the Triffids is a classic end-of-the-world sci-fi novel set in England. Two bizarre things happen at the beginning of the novel to create disaster. Number 1: Science "discovers" walking plants that are named Triffids that can communicate among themselves. Our narrator, Bill Masen, believes that they are the result of Russian military testing, possibly meant to be a weapon, but they quickly spread all over the world. The Triffid is harmless enough until it grows to be man-sized. Then, it is able to walk by using its branches to swing its trunk, similar to the way a man on crutches walks. Once it walks, it is also able to hunt with this long whip-like tentacle with a poisoned tip. The Triffids like to eat putrid, rotting meat, much like a Venus Flytrap. It tears the meat loose with its tentacle.

The Triffids are more of a curiosity to the world, though until bizarre thing #2 happens: There is a meteor shower one night - it is very bright and people all over the world watch it because it goes on all night. The next day, everyone who saw any part of the shower goes blind. Our narrator, however, is not blind because he had hospitalized for eye surgery and his eyes had been bandaged the night of the shower. Masen believes the meteor shower was not a natural ocurrence, but rather it was all a mistaken attack by an American or Russian satellite with a space-based radiation weapon.

The rest of the book concerns Masen and his struggle to survive. Everything collapses when 95% of the population goes blind. The whole of England becomes a Mad Max environment and different types of communities are formed to attempt to deal with the blind survivors, the Triffids and the threat from other sighted survivors.

All in all, its a good read and it holds up well, considering it is 50+ years old. Wyndham did a great job of prediciting the Cold War and the buildup of weapons and the push to harnass science for military applications. I would assume that this book had been read by the creators of Mad Max because they share a lot of the same images. However, don't get this book confused with the constant violence of the Mad Max movie The Road Warrior. Those scenes are rare, even if the settings are similar. This is a much more philosophical work, with lots of discussion about the nature of man.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

Reviwed in 2004.

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