This novel is the story of a disaster that is caused by ecological disaster, genetically altered plants and satellite warfare. These are such modern and relevant themes today it's amazing to consider how ahead of it's time this book was when it was written. The recent hugely successful movie 28 Days Later borrows most of it's ideas from this book, and the other "ruined earth" novels of this period by John Christopher, John Wyndham and (earlier) by HG Wells. This shows that this book, or at least it's ideas, can still be popular after all this time.
The hero and narrator Bill awakes in hospital following an accident. He finds that just about the entire population of London has gone blind following a comet and it seems that he is the only one who can still see. He emerges into the silent, ruined, confused & helpless world and begins his journey to survive. Now that no one can see there is no longer any order and blind people very quickly die or descend into anarchy. Meanwhile the Triffids, a new genetically modified stinging plant, become a very real and dangerous threat now that human superiority is gone.
The first couple of chapters of this novel have never been bettered in painting an electric atmosphere. The reader gets a very real sense of the isolation and danger in the new world. It's no surprise that "Wyndhamesque" is an adjective often used to describe gripping and eerie atmospheres in books and film. Reading the opening you are left biting your nails watching the action unfold as if you were actually there.
As well as a great story there is a great deal of thought behind this book. There is much discussion about what the new society of survivors need to survive, and some augments about religion, class and morals along the way. The novel suggests that one of humans greatest threats to survival in the long run are all the old outdated attitudes and prejudices. Meanwhile the earth has been destroyed by careless use of warfare showing that, despite all the Triffids, peoples greatest enemy are actually ourselves. The violent gangs of blind humans and the violent world with no order come across as far more evil and terrifying than the actual Triffids do.
The heroine in the novel, Josella is an excellent female figure. In most other sci fi from this period the female lead is little more than a puppet to scream and cower at the scary things so that the male hero can rescue her over and over again. However Josella is strong, sensible & liberated and manages to avoid all these old insulting attitudes. She spends most of the book on her own doing just fine, and when we meet with her again she has grown independent and resourceful. This book is always refreshingly progressive and hasn't dated at all.
There are some minor faults with this book: Bill and Josella fall in love just a little too easily, and the comet that blinds everyone is never quite fully explained, although some theories are put forward that it might be some kind of satellite weapon that's malfunctioned. Perhaps the mystery is designed to add to the suspense? The Triffids aren't actually the main focus of the book, they're just a very dangerous nuisance that can often be fatal. They are none that less terrifying for that. But we have seen that the real enemy is actually the collapse of society and what happens once our laws, morals and production of food are gone.
Overall this is a wonderful book with some interesting ideas to consider if you read between the lines. Day of the Triffids is an edge of your seat book that will keep you engrossed until the very end. It's been one of my favourites since I first read it years ago aged 12. The highly readable text and fabulous atmosphere make this book a classic. It's just a shame that The Day of the Triffids is normally remembered as just a really bad monster movie instead of the excellent book it is.