on 15 September 2007
Here I sit at 19, about to go back to university for my second year studying English and I find myself wondering how I can value a mid 20th century science fiction novel over all the classics and anything else on my bookshelf.
Then I look at the front cover and see the quote "One of those books that haunts you for the rest of your life" and realise that quote sums up in one sentence exactly why I love this book to the exclusion of all others.
I must have first read this at age 11/12 and having done so many times since it NEVER loses its appeal. A love story, a story of immense tragedy, of politics, of the fragility of modern life and above all of the undeniable essential nature of mankind Wyndham incorporates all these facets into a perfect tale.
Perhaps I am viewing it through rose tinted glasses because of the effect it had on me at such an impressionable age, but judging by everyone else's reviews I doubt this very much. I don't think I am being melodramatic when I say this novel opened my eyes to the true nature of the world. The characters are perfect, I felt like they were real people and at the end of every reading I am sad to close the last page and say good bye to them, if only for a short while.
My dog eared and much loved copy takes pride of place on my bookshelf. This is a novel for anybody out there who looked at the world around them and wondered... what if?
on 11 August 2015
I am presently duplicating my favourite books from my print library and downloaded this a few weeks ago. Yesterday I got around to reading it. I was horrified to discover that not only had the entire text been translated into US English but whole sections had been deleted!
This is a classic book. It was on the GCE curriculum. It is a desecration to mutilate it in this way. Furthermore, there is nothing to suggest that the book has been abridged
on 25 April 2013
Day of the Triffids is a favourite from my childhood that I revisit often. However, this is not the full text; some scenes seem to have been considered surplus to requirements: The suicidal doctor; Umberto and the exposition of the Triffids' origins and worldwide spread (I didn't read much further once I realised). They've made a mess of it too; Umberto is mentioned later in the text despite having been excised, for example. I could see no mention of the fact that this is an abridged version. Avoid.
on 2 March 2005
Some of the best sci-fi has a long shelf-life because it's long-sighted, prescient - prophetic even. Day of the Triffids is a fine example of a science fiction tale that has as much to say about what worries and frightens people today as it did over 50 years ago. It all starts in a comfortable, well ordered, peaceful Britain, where a man who has suffered an accident at work is waiting in his hospital bed, to have the bandages removed from his eyes. As far as he knows, everything is fine, except the clock has struck 8 O'clock and he hasn't heard any sign of the medical staff. The quiet, orderly peacefulness is deceptive though. Politics, economics, technology and, most of all, hubris have the world balancing on a knife edge and it will only take a chance slip or two to plunge human civilisation into chaos. The situation:
1) There are satellite weapons hanging in the sky - out of sight and out of mind, but threatening the world with germ-warfare, nuclear attack and other ghastly inventions of amoral science;
2) A plant has been bred or genetically modified by the dastardly enemies of democracy, to provide a very useful type of oil that is going to make fish oil and a range of other profitable oils obsolete, thereby threatening certain Western economic interests. The plant has some other more alarming qualities and therefore has to be 'imprisoned' and fastened to the ground;
3) An abortive attempt at industrial espionage spreads the interesting and profitable new plant over the whole planet;
4) Both accidents-in-waiting happen in quick succession: one or more of the satellites is (probably) struck by a comet, or something of the sort and explodes with a spectacular and devastating pyrotechnic display and possibly some virulent disease is also rained down - and then, when human-kind is incapacitated by the after effects of the previous evening's illuminations, the GM crops escape confinement and attack;
5) Civilisation turns out to be a thin veneer and desperate people adopt desperate measures in order to survive.
These nightmarish events are just the beginning. The tale is related by that hospital patient who started his record of events puzzling about where the medical staff had got to and why he hadn't had his breakfast or had his bandages removed. He's a biologist whose job in cultivating the new oil-rich plants had landed him in the hospital, where he was recovering from a blinding sting when the comets hit the satellites. When he emerges from the hospital, he finds a terrifyingly changed world. He tells how quickly order unravelled and how the few survivors devised strategies to stay alive.
John Wydham must have put a lot of thought into how people would behave under these conditions. He clearly gave careful consideration to the sorts of behaviour that would make the difference between continued survival and slow or sudden death, the psychological and physical demands of adjusting to a catastrophically changed environment, how people would have to change their way of thinking about ethical and moral issues. He highlights some of the best and the worst of human nature. It's an excellent book and I highly recommend it.
on 13 June 2003
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.
on 6 November 2014
When I first read ‘The Day of the Triffids’ I was still a teenager and I stayed up most of the night because I couldn’t put it down. It was written back in 1951, but when you read it today it still feels current and terrifyingly real. It is similar in some ways to Stanislaw Lem’s ‘Invincible’, where primitive beings have the ability to overcome intelligent and technologically powerful humans by acting in a swarm-like manner.
Wyndham’s vision of the disintegrating modern civilisation in which most people suddenly became blind gives the reader chills. A friend of mine who also read it throughout the night said that he was surprised to see people in the street the next morning. Personally, it definitely made me wonder what a fragile world we lived in; even more so today.
I watched all the film adaptations but I daresay that none really conveyed what readers imagine when reading ‘The Day of the Triffids’.
Some reviewers complained about undertones of sexism in the novel, but such political correctness ignores the fact that in a primitive society we would all be forced to adopt roles based mainly on our gender and usefulness to the group.
If you like SF and haven’t read ‘The Day of the Triffids’, you have missed a real gem.
on 28 January 2006
Forget all the mental images you may have of this book; forget the film; in fact, forget men-eating plants altogether. Because this book is not about any of those things.
What it is about is hard to pin down. About how thin the veneer of civilisation is; about the dangers of global weaponry; about how different people would react to an apocalypse; about how society itself is best organised, or why societies are organised the way they are. What is certain is that, at various points in reading this book, you are forced to ask yourself questions to which there are no correct answers. And that is the mark of truly classic fiction.
What's more, this is a terrific story, impeccably told. A true pageturner that had me desperate to know what happened next, and yet wishing it never to end. And enough twists and turns to pack it full of incident. I'm now off to read Wyndham's other works, but I recommend you buy this now.
This book is really about survival in the midst of disintegrating society. Add into the mix a relatively unique plant the Triffid - that is: large, venomous carnivorous, capable of locomotion and communication.
Wyndham's novel published in 1951, it envisions the apocalypse that follows in an almost universal blinding of the population after an extreme fall of brightly colour-laden meteorites - that somehow burns out the optic nerve. The Triffids had been used as a crop, as a substitute for food oil. However, due to the resulting collapse of their careful management and harvesting. They then get loose from their `farms' and literally walk out; they became the killers of humankind. They are also happy to eat the resultant decaying remains.
This narrative throws up painful moral problems about collective conventions and pacts, which are submerged into disarray when disaster hits humanity. The repercussions for successful survival, in a forever transformed world. This is when our moral compass, concepts, and what we believe constitutes humanity, may become outmoded. A book written in 1951 is very much the product of its time. The narrative is the backdrop mise-en-scène of the Cold War society. The outlooks of the characters are often quite paternalistic, especially when any women are concerned. A book reflecting the attitudes and conventions of the time it was written in. That said Wyndham's storytelling transcends time and makes this book endure to the present day as a classic that does not stop being germane. A subject that still makes you think critically about humankind, morality and civilization - and question matters that we are so used to taking for granted. Since I first read this book, I have reread it every now then and still come away with chill down my spine.
on 31 July 2015
Warning: abridged version! Doesn't say so anywhere on the blurb, but I started spotting missing bits immediately, and often they are the bits that add colour to the book. There is another version available on Kindle which appears to be the full book.
on 29 March 2015
An excellent story that I first read back in the early 1960s, along with others this author wrote. Clearly, by modern standards, this story could have been developed further, but that was not the style of the day. The use of English was good as well.
It being released by another publisher (I believe it was Penguin Books earlier), is a chance to read the old story again. However, it's price through Amazon at about 50% more expensive than a Clive Cussler novel, or about 100% more costly than an early Lee Child story is a bit OTT.
Amazon, try harder!