I chose The Day of the Triffids to be my third classic book of the year because I knew that John Wyndham’s books were cult classics within the science fiction genre. The Day of the Triffids was published in 1951 and except for the lack of modern technology, you would scarcely believe that it was not published yesterday.
I’d be forgiven for expecting The Day of the Triffids to be really quite silly. I did not mind at all, but that’s just what I expected. The Day of the Triffids starts with Bill Masen waking up in a hospital bed, in silently chaotic London, England, as one of the last people to retain their eyesight. Widespread blindness has turned people either vulnerable or violent, with some attempting to enslave those who can see, turning them into personal guide dogs. But there’s another menace – Triffids, walking poisonous, flesh-eating plants, who shoot to kill.
Bill Masen must simply survive in this lonesome world. He must accept the bleak future ahead, and that is why The Day of the Triffids is so captivating. I pictured the Triffids to be more bulbous than they appear in the BBC adaptation, but no less freakish. Yet, as I said, The Day of the Triffids never once comes across as silly. Perhaps it’s because it is set in familiar streets, such as Piccadilly and Shaftesbury Avenue, or because the Triffids are not cartoonish monsters, but eerie, dangerous organisms that can kill a human being within seconds by blasting them with poison.
The Day of the Triffids also paints a chilling picture of how quickly social structures are altered the majority of the population are unable to see. It no longer matters what social class you are, or where you buy your fancy clothes, just how useful you can now be. It shows just low in the food chain humans can become if a worldwide bodily catastrophe occurs. What, now, is the enemy?
The Day of the Triffids is not particularly action-packed or fast-paced, but it will have you on the edge of your seat all the same, as it’s strength is in its ability to allow you to imagine how you would react while everybody around you is in despair. I’m excited about John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids, which I’ve already purchased, and I’d also like to check out The Midwich Cuckoos.
‘When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.’
Published: 2008, originally 1951
Publisher: Penguin Books