Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (novel #133)

My way of life, my plans, ambitions, every expectation I had had, they were all wiped out at a stroke, along with the conditions that had formed them.

The Day of the Triffids is a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi novel set in England, mid 1950s. A meteor shower leaves nearly all the earth’s human population blinded – all but a small remnant like the hero, and first person narrator, Bill Masen who was recovering from eye surgery the fateful night of the meteor shower. Artificially blinded by his bandages, Bill awakens to a world that makes no sense to his remaining senses.
When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere. ~ opening line

Bill, slowly comprehends what has happened. The unfolding horror is exacerbated by a second, and seemingly unrelated cataclysm – triffids – a mobile, poisonous, and apparently sentient plant species turns aggressive and carnivorous.

Man – is no longer the dominant species on the planet. 

There are others, like Bill, spared by freak circumstance, including of course a beautiful, young, slightly needy, but strong-willed woman. The sighted survivors are faced with three dilemmas: forming groups (there are conflicting visions of the future state of human civilization); what to do with the blind (trying to help them may only impede rebuilding society); and exterminating the triffids, though some were resigned to mankind’s new role – that of prey, seeking merely to survive.

Bill, and others choose to hope.
…perhaps they were at the beginning of something, after all, rather than at the end of everything.

I was excited to read this thriller as classics do not include a lot of sci-fi or horror. Plus, I thought the premise was intriguing, and I was very quickly rewarded. Wyndham doesn’t waste time setting things up. Through Bill, the reader must slowly, but immediately make sense of a world gone mad. 

I was quickly rewarded, but in the end a bit disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed with the ending, which leaves the fate of humanity still in doubt, but rather with how Wyndham got to that end. It felt as if he tired of his own story. After the first half or more of the book covered a few days, then a few weeks, some of the final chapters cover years in a few paragraphs. There was just so much that Wyndham could have delved deeper. It’s a great story, but for me, poorly told especially the second half. Wyndham used the novel to promote a distinct world view or political agenda, but he was pretty subtle, so I don’t object. Even fictional characters must have opinions after all, and it would be a boring world of literature if they were all the same as my own.

My rating: 3 1/2 of 5 stars

There are parts of the story very reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (one male, with multiple female mates for rapid repopulation) and Stephen King’s The Stand (the sudden culling of humanity).

This is the first time I’ve read The Day of the Triffids or John Wyndham. Have you read this novel…this author? What did you think?



  1. I enjoyed this book, but the second half was definitely weaker than the first. The only other Wyndham novels I've read are The Midwich Cuckoos and Chocky. I thought they were both better than this one.


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