Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Day of the Triffids: Review

You know, one of the most shocking things about it is to realize how easily we have lost a world that seemed so safe and certain. (p. 93)

And, at its core, that's what The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1951) is about--how quickly everything mankind has been used to and sure of is destroyed when the majority of the population is blinded after the Earth's orbit takes it through a strange meteor shower (or comet's tail or even a nuclear fireworks show from orbiting satellites--we're just not sure) and venomous, carnivorous plants which are ambulatory start preying on the survivors. It is also about how humanity reacts in the face of such a shattering experience. Far more terrifying than the possibility of death by triffid is the realization of how quickly humanity could lose the qualities that have seemed to separate us from the beasts. Man can become very beast-like when the trappings of civilization are stripped from him.

Whether they decide polygamy is the way to go (to better ensure future generations) or to team up sighted people with those who are blinded or revert to strict religious tenets, it is interesting to watch various groups come up with survival plans and new "rules" for their colonies. It is also interesting to think about what tactics I might adopt if in the same circumstances. Despite the "Killer Plant" B-movie monster theme, Triffids is really a book of thoughtful contemplation about what makes humans survivors and what about humanity should survive.
 
****Spoiler (highlight the apparent blank area if interested) The finale is very open-ended. Of course, so is life. We never know what will happen tomorrow. And neither do the survivors in Triffids. They have driven the man-eating plants from the island, but the triffids still hold sway over much of England and the world. Humanity will have quite a battle before them if they are going to reclaim the Earth. It's left to our imagination whether they succeed.

This story wound up affecting me more vividly than I anticipated. My words of wisdom for my co-workers this morning? "If you ever decide to read the classic SF story The Day of the Triffids, don't do it right before bedtime." ★★★★

Quotes
When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere. [opening line]

It must be, I thought, one of the race's most persistent and comforting hallucinations to trust that "it can't happen here" -- that one's own time and place is beyond cataclysm.

And we danced, on the brink of an unknown future, to an echo from a vanished past.

It's humiliating to be dependent, anyway, but it's still a poorer pass to have no one to depend on.

Nobody is going to be muddle-headed enough to confuse ignorance with innocence now - it's too important. Nor is ignorance going to be cute or funny anymore. It is going to be dangerous, very dangerous. 

7 comments:

fredamans said...

Note taken... I'm awful at reading scary stories before bed. Great review!

John said...

I have a lot of Wyndham's books and have yet to read any of them. I know the move version of this one better as well as VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED based on his book MIDWICH CUCKOOS.

Bev Hankins said...

John...this had been on my long TBR list for quite a while (since my hard-core SF days). It fit well with a few challenges I signed up for...and there we go.

Karen White said...

I've just signed up for the Back to the Classics challenge and I'm enjoying reading the reviews. I've read John wyndham's books over and over so it was interesting to read a review from the perspective of a new reader. My favourite John Wyndham is The Chrysalids. I thoroughly recommend it.

Bev Hankins said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Karen. I'll have to see when I might work it into the reading schedule. I have SO many books of my own that I really ought to be reading.

Carol said...

I've borrowed this book from the library twice & never got to read it before it had to be returned. I usually read at night so I might wait until I have a holiday & have some daytime space - thanks for the warning!

Bev Hankins said...

Carol: I hope you enjoy it!