When I first heard of the science fiction classic The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, I assumed that triffids were aliens.
I was a little put off to find out that they were man-eating plants. I expected some serious B-movie cheese when I began to dive in because, frankly, I just couldn’t buy man-eating plants causing an apocalypse as a truly fearful, or even interesting, plot.
Thankfully I was wrong.
Triffids don’t cause the apocalypse, they just benefit from the fact that a recent meteor shower made almost everyone go blind. The plants are written beautifully into a plot that doesn’t center around them and are completely believable as a natural threat as the tension slowly rises, and rises, and rises.
As you tag along with Bill Masen you only know the world, a present-day England (written in 1951 “present-day” is almost 70 years ago now, wow!), in its post-apocalyptic state, something you discover right alongside a man with an eye injury who was due to have his bandages removed. The novel is not graphic and instead deals with the psychological stress that would come with surviving an event of this nature. Practicalities are realistically dealt with throughout the entire book even though it is a fairly short read. Bill is a main character sympathetic to the plight of others but pragmatic enough not to get too bogged down. You definitely find yourself rooting for him as he progresses in a journey to figure out what to do and how to live.
The enormity of surviving in a post-societal world slowly settles in, even as the abundance of current resources is acknowledged.
The writing in the novel is terrific. At some point I will probably seek out more novels by this same author, many of which he has written under a wide variety of pen names. I was immediately caught up and on the edge of my seat the whole time. The edge of my seat is definitely metaphorical in this case as I am a lounger when I read, but I really was quite drawn in. My first impression right off the bat was a simple: Wow! It is easy to see once you have started reading why a book that may seem cheesy by appearance, and even description, has truly become a classic.
It’s such a good example of how great writing can transform anything.
As someone who enjoys writing myself, I particularly enjoyed this book because of the quality of the writing. In my edition there was an introduction which included a raw passage from the initial draft in comparison to the finished version, and it frankly felt very reassuring that rewrites and editing make such a huge difference. While we never read any science fiction in high school English that I can remember, this one really struck me as a great book to be taught in a standard English class. It sticks in my mind in the same ways “Of Mice and Men” and some of the other books I read during that class did. I don’t think I will ever really forget it, it made such a strong impression.
Overall I would highly recommend reading this book, as it truly is a science fiction classic.
The emphasis is less on the science fiction and more on the post-apocalyptic so if you’re into that sort of thing you would likely enjoy it as well. There is a lack of depth in some of the characters, which can happen with a shorter book, and it’s a little bit sexist as well, although considering when it was written it could have been much worse.
SOME OF THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS SEEM A LITTLE CONTRIVED ALSO. THOSE ARE MY ONLY COMPLAINTS.
THIS ONE I MAY READ AGAIN IN THE FUTURE!
Grab your copy using this link and we’ll make pennies!