Sunday, 26 February 2012
The Day Of The Triffids by John Wyndham
Written in 1951 this book follows Bill Masen as he wakes up in a hospital, eyes covered in bandages, with no street sounds coming in from outside and no nurses coming to answer his calls, only the answer of moans and terrified screams. After taking off the bandages himself he walks through an almost deserted hospital, only coming across a few people who have all been blinded after watching a meteor shower the night before, and out into an empty London as society tries to come to terms with their new condition.
On top of this it seems that the new, alien-like plants are flourishing in this new situation. Having created a new form of fuel from the use of plant oils harvested from the bioengineered Triffids, these plants became a common sight in nurseries, plantations and even in parks and private gardens. With nobody to tend their stakes or ensure that their stings are kept under control they soon break free and start to multiply, creating a second problem for the now blind humans. The Triffids feed on decomposing flesh and their stings are filled with enough poison to kill a person, thus making the wandering blind people an easy target for the plants.
This leads to a fight for a survival with Bill finding groups of sighted people who, for one reason or another, didn't see the meteor shower, and who all have their own ideas of what should be done next. This brings up many moral dilemmas that aren't entirely answered but left for the reader to wonder what they'd do if left in that situation.
Now, whilst these two catastrophic occurences (meteor shower & Triffid escapes) are totally unrelated on the surface, if we take a depeer look we can see a theme behind the two; that of man being turned upon & punished by his own creations (it's later mentioned that the meteor shower may have been down to a malfunctioning weapons satellite). This theme is just as relevant today as it was over 6o years, perhaps even more so with our almost complete reliance on technology and our fight for cheaper ways to make more money through fuel, power etc.
What we see is a world trying to come to grips with it's sudden loss of what we now take for granted - technology, an endless supply of electricity & power and a formed society with upheld laws and conventions. As such they must now start looking at how to support themselves in the long run, protect themselves from the new top predators - the triffids - and create a society from scratch.
I found this book to be an incredibly thought-provoking read. I'm not usually one for reading books based on a breakdown of society but I'm afraid that now, if I do decide to read any more of this genre, they have a high bench mark to hit. Wyndham made his characters and their reactions to the situation realistic and believable. There weren't any gung-ho, 'I can do anything' people who actually lived up to their self-beliefs. Instead you had the feeling of reading about real people making real decisions with real consequences and the book was better for it.
I highly recommend that you read this book. It has stood the test of time and I'd happily call it a 'modern classic' that should be on everyone's book list. You don't need to be a fan of this genre to enjoy this book, I wasn't. Enjoyable, direct and very well written - a great christmas present!