Monday, April 6, 2009

Book Recommendation: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham



I've always been a big fan of H.G. Wells. Evidently, so was John Wyndham, and it shows.

The Day of the Triffids is a fantastic post-apocalyptic romp that really leaves one thinking about what would happen after "the end". The book, published in 1951, reads almost like a zombie-apocalypse but with killer plants. If the premise sounds silly, it's not in practice. It's terrifying.

When I finished, I wondered if George Romero hadn't read the novel...perhaps inspiring Night of the Living Dead? Okay, that might be a far-fetched idea, but the comparison works.

The narrator/protagonist, Bill, wakes in a hospital after having bandages on his eyes due to an accident with the eponymous triffids. He was wearing a helmet, which protected him for the most part; the triffids are cultivated for their oil, which has a "variety of uses". But, these killer plants can down a person with one sting of their poison, and they feed on the corpses. Well, Bill's accident proves to be quite fortuitous, because a strange "meteor shower" leaves most of humanity blind while he is in the hospital. (You will, dear reader, discover that the meteor shower was nothing of the sort...)

The only advantage mankind had over the triffids was sight. Now that most people are blind...have you ever really wondered what would happen if 99% of the planet went blind overnight. Terrifying.

Wyndham does a fair bit of philosophizing about the nature of mankind, especially through the kinds of societies that emerge after the apocalypse. In that way, it is easy to offer a Marxist type criticism of the book. But I believe the author strikes at something much more primal, something at the core of human nature beyond simple societal structures. Is humankind, at the heart, self-destructive or hopeful?

As with any book, there are a few stumbles, but it was a tremendous read. I'll give it a solid 4.5/5. Its my blog, so I have the prerogative to distribute half-points as I will.

Now, why do I read so "slow"? To tell the truth, I don't. It takes me forever to read a book because I only spend about five minutes a day reading for pleasure. Between writing, my family, and my job...you have the picture, I'm sure. Once a book picks up at the climax, I'm up all night. (As I was Saturday into Sunday.) I also have to read in a near sensory-vacuum. I know many people who can read anytime/anywhere. Not so with this fellow. I need a nice, quiet, semi-dark space. If I manage a book a month during the school year, I'm doing well. I wish I had more time, really, because books like Triffids are fantastic.

10 comments:

Barry Napier said...

Your blog always gives me the coolest reading suggestions. I was finally convinced to read House of Leaves through your blog and it is without a doubt the best horror novel I have read in about 5 years. I will definitely be giving this book a try as well...

Jamie Eyberg said...

sounds like a cool premise.

I can't read with any distractions either. My wife, on the other hand, can read with the television on, the kids crawling over her, and me talking to her. I envy her for that.

Catherine J Gardner said...

Triffids is the only Wyndham book I haven't read. I saw the television series as a child and it scared me so much I couldn't pick up the book. Guess I'm big enough now to give it a go.

Aaron Polson said...

Barry - yikes...House of Leaves. Even the mention strikes terror.

Jamie - I suspect writers tend to be more intense readers.

Cate - you can handle this, really. I wish I knew more about the geography of London. Some of the description in the first half was lost on me.

Brendan P. Myers said...

Also enjoyed Triffids. If you liked that, "The Genocides" by Thomas M. Dish might also be right up your alley.

Enjoyed "Baited" at 52 stitches, and congratulations on your SLEW of recent acceptances.

BT said...

I remember reading this a long time ago - it may have even been during high school - yep, that long ago. I thought it was an excellent book then - when the movie came out, I was a huge fan and still am - I watch it whenever it resurfaces.

I read about a book a week, normally, but I do need quiet to get started. Once I've lost myself it wouldn't matter if the house fell down. I kid you not. I've been known to sit beside the phone and not hear it ring.

Is that a sign of intense reading or of being easily led astray...

Robert said...

Simon Clark wrote a sequel to this aptly titled Night of the Triffids: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Night_of_the_Triffids

Aaron Polson said...

Brendan - thanks for the rec; acceptances sometimes come in spurts like that...

BT - not hear the phone? I wish I could tune out the world sometimes.

Robert - sounds like a good read. The triffids were quite creepy for something seemingly benign.

Bobbie Metevier said...

I always meant to read this book. I think I will.

Cheers.

Aaron Polson said...

You won't be sorry, Bobbie.