Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham

Today I'm looking at a classic sci-fi book, The Day of the Triffids, written in 1951 and later adapted into a B science-fiction movie, making this one of the old school classics. Since this came up on sale I thought I'd give it a try, expecting some silly B-movie nonsense. I am left with mixed feelings about this book because even for the level of quality I was expecting, it fell pretty short of the standard. Most of the book focused on the apocalypse but the triffids played less of a role than I expected in the book.

This book is written from the perspective of a survivor of a global apocalypse that has mostly wiped out civilization. The crisis begins when the earth passes through the tail of a comet, causing green fireworks to appear in the night sky, visible to all the earth. Because of its uniqueness, much of earth's population turns out to observe this event, only to discover the next morning that they have gone blind. Only a handful of people, who for a variety of reasons didn't see the effects of the comet's tail, survive with their vision intact.

Although bad enough, the crisis is even worse because of the escape of the triffids. The triffids are strange plant creatures that appeared many years before the comet occurred. The triffids are commercially valuable but come with several dangers. They are carnivorous plants, capable of walking, and possessing a deadly venom-filled stinger. If that wasn't bad enough the triffids breed like crazy and are capable of growing pretty much anywhere. It was hard enough to keep the triffids in line when civilization was still operating, but now the triffids are able to run unchecked and attack the surviving humans with impunity.

Despite the triffids being in the title of the book, they don't play as large of a role as I thought they might. They're a constant menace through the book but you get to the point where people treat them as a constant annoyance more than anything else. Just when it gets to the point where the number of triffids presents an actual danger to our characters, the book ends and they move to a triffid-free island. Most of the focus of the book is on trying to figure out what the heck happened and finding a way to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, as well as a love story between the main characters. The fact that the comet which blinded everyone is later blamed on man's hubris just further undermines the triffids as the main threat of the book. And I have to say, as an enemy, deadly garden pests that can be taken out with the proper application of a chainsaw leave something to be desired.

The ending was also rather abrupt. Our main characters spend a significant portion of time working to make a farm habitable, despite being constantly under siege by triffids. Within the last chapter the main characters discover that humans have established a secure base on the Isle of Wight, giving our main characters an opportunity to escape. However, we also discover that a feudal military dictatorship has established itself in southern England and they want to take over the main characters' farm. Within a space of about five pages the main characters learn about the feudal dictators, escape from the feudal dictators, and the book ends. It just...ends. It felt like Wyndham was trying to throw in one final drama before the book ended. It might make more sense if the book was serialized and Wyndham didn't know when it was going to end, but as the ending of a novel it leaves a lot to be desired.

Ultimately this is a B-movie book so the expectations aren't very high for this book. That being said, even for a B-movie level of a book, I felt like the writing left a lot to be desired. It would have been a lot better if the triffids ever felt like more than just a headache for the main characters, and if  the ending wasn't as abrupt as it was. But if you like old B-movie quality sci-fi you can't go wrong with this.

- Kalpar

1 comment:

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