Well, I'll start as I read this a month ago just before it was chosen.
I gave this book a 9/10 rating at IBList. Not really for the plot which, although probably original at the time seems just a bit tired today (perhaps because it is so well known) and fairly simple in its linearity. Not for the characters, who are largely stereotypical and predictable. And not for the scientific or social value, as many of the details are quite unconvincing and even naive, especially as regards the wandering hordes of blind people.
It's quite simply a brilliantly written story that manages to be compelling and absorbing despite the anachronisms and plot flaws. John Wyndham tells the tale with the confidence and skill of the finest of writers. Maybe the 'Englishness' of it all might not appeal to some, but most books tend to have a recognizable national bias; this is just something we have to accept (and hopefully enjoy).
It probably wouldn't stand up too well to a re-reading, at least not in the short term, but that doesn't decrease it's value as a quality book. My overriding memory of the Day of the Triffids is that it was a great book to read and for a week or so it had me completely absorbed.
Last edited by Ropie; August 31st, 2005 at 05:41 PM.
I have to agree that this book was pretty readable. I didn't have any complaints about anything in particular really from the writing standpoint. Some aspects were a little dated, i.e., the relationship between the main character and the woman.
One thing I wondered a lot on my way through the book was "Where are all the triffids?" I guess "Day of the Triffids" conjured up an image of many triffids all arriving one day to wreak havoc. In truth, I thought "Day of the many blind people" would have been more appropriate. That's a little, tongue-in-cheek. I did enjoy the book a great deal and thought there were a lot of good ideas in there.
One thing the book really seemed to be working on was a sort of what-if approach to how society could move on in the face of such a disaster, both in how people would behave and how groups would get on. All of the different small and large groups that were set up along different systems to try and survive was a very interesting concept, with the blindness and triffids making for very interesting constants after the disaster. I can't say that I'd ever given as much thought to how such groups would survive (perhaps in reading Parable of the Sower, but not to the same degree there.)
Another thing that I found really interesting was the thoughts on sattelites, especially given that the book was published 6 years before Sputnik went up. The whole idea of the common people having no idea what is up there pointed down at us still has a lot of relevance today. We just don't know what our or other governments have up there ready to deploy. I liked that he never really answered the question of whether it was a man-made catastrophe or not.
I guess there's also sort of a Frankenstein aspect to the book, as well, with man-made triffids rising up to almost wipe out mankind. Beware the seeds you sow, even if they do produce good oil....
Another thing that I have to wonder is that the triffid seeds allegedly came out of Russia. This was written in the heart of the Cold War. It seems like there could be some statement there to beware the sleeping red giant. The main character's friend at the triffid farm put together that triffids would have an advantage over people if people couldn't see. I can see an implication there that the Russians thought of that as well, allowed triffied to propogate in the rest of the world, then wiped out the sight of all other people. Russian radio announcement: (Tonight there will be dangerous lights. Hide somewhere where you can't see the sky.)
So clearly I seem to have loved the ideas behind the book, even if the book was written 55 years ago. The actual characters and plot, not as compelling to me, but the ideas. Not bad at all.
I forgot to mention: My soundtrack for this book, "Return of the Giant Hogweed" by Genesis, 1971, the story of how venomous plants come from Russia to take over England.
Last edited by Erfael; August 31st, 2005 at 08:53 PM.
I also quite liked the book. It was interesting to see how the author thought such a scenario would develop 55 years ago. There were, of cause, a couple of things that I considered to be pretty unbelievable (So, there was a clear sky that night all over the world??!!), but that's all right. I like the fast pace with which the story developed and how different types of people reacted to the situation. For example the guy who wanted to go back to a feudal type of society to be ready to fight other nations was pretty interesting. Maybe Wyndham wanted to show, that war is a bad thing (WWII had just ended a couple of years earlier and this guy was thinking already about the next war - maybe like west an east during the Cold War).
I think there actually would be not to few women even today who would behave in a very sqeamish way (I know some who defenitely would).
I will defenitely read some of Wyndhams other books in the future.
I also wondered this at the start Actually, I personally found the blindness issue far more interesting than the triffids. But maybe if the book had been called 'Day of the Blind People' it just wouldn't have had that memorable quality that comes with walking, man eating plants, and we wouldn't all know about it. Probably just a good bit of marketing.Originally Posted by Erfael
I love this book, and its easily stayed in my top 10 since i read it.
Not knowing much about the book before i started it (apart from seeing a chessy movie adaptation as a kid), i was suprised at the whole blindness thing. But i thought it was done very well, and made the triffid takeover much more interesting. I had a few nightmares in which i was either blind, or even worse the one who could see and having to protect my loved ones.
From a book from the 50's i was expecting either aliens invade like War of the Worlds, or alien (plants) infiltrate society a la Invasion of the body snatchers. The 'coincidental' blindness allowing an already established and farmed species to take over was pleasantly unusual, and i've not read anything similar since.
Did everyone else buy the whole Russian genetic experiment, and satelite lasers misfiring explanation? I seem to remember they were postulated by characters as opposed to the all-knowing narrator, so can't be accepted as true. I took them as being allegorical to how red communists were implicated in everything that went wrong during the cold war as propoganda.
The production of plants like the triffids by genetics is insurmountably impossible even with todays (far superior to the 50's). Even creating plants with such a nutirious oil can't be done, the walking, thinking, carnivorous plants are not only impossible, but ludicrous.
I assumed that the plants were aliens, which are atually better adapted to space travel (seeds can survive conditions no plant ot human ever could). Therefor the meteor shower doesn't need a conspiracy explanation. Didn't they also have 3 'legs'? 3 lines of symmetry is generally an obvious pointer to aliens in SF (see Rendezvous with Rama).
Maybe Wyndham was pointing out how people will accept any explanation that least disturbs their worldview, and even create there own hypotheses that quickly get remembered as facts. I guess genetic engineering and secret star wars projects going haywire are more believable than aliens even with no evidence (nowadays routine DNA testing would be employed).
Anyway, although i didn't accept the characters explanation, the babbling i wrote above explains why i didn't think this was a flaw in the book. The characters may not be the most memorable, but the situation was brilliant and the writing easily up to standard.
Isn't there a book in which the population goes blind?
Ah, Blindness by Saramoga. Supposed to be brilliant (and Noble Laureate Author), but i've still not read it.
A city is hit by an epidemic of sudden blindness. The authorities segregate the newly-blind and all who have come into contact with them. It is not long before the criminal element take over, the compound is set on fire and the blind escape - only to find a deserted, looted city.
I think the books, as perhaps does Wyndham, need to be put into a bit of historical perspective. We have talked about Wyndham fairly generally HERE if you want to take a look. The points about communist threats etc are what was prevalent at the time of writing, as also shown (and used!) by the US Sf films of the time. Like the threat of atomic war, a lot less frightening now, thank goodness.
As I've said in there, Triffids is my favourite Wyndham, though funnily enough, not always regarded as his best.
(Oh, and a big 'Yay' for Erf using Hogweed as a soundtrack. LOL. )
I certainly haven't read as much science-fiction as most of you, but Day of the Triffids makes my top 10 sci-fi list very easily.
First of all, It is one of the most chilling books I have ever read. The whole idea is presented in such a detached way that it literally sent shivers down my spine. I had some (relatively minor) quips but at the end, it worked. And worked very very well. It was a real page-turner and I gobbled up the whole thing with only a couple of breaks inbetween.
I'll try to list things which I considered could have been improved upon:
1. Romance. In a novel of this length and structure, there is no tangible way to present a credible romance or interpersonal interaction of that sort. Even so I felt Wyndham could have done better. The whole affair had a neglected look about it, as if it was only added as an afterthought, or to satisfy certain people who expect or even demand some sort of romantic relationship in every frigging book. As it was, it's introduction was so abrupt and so clumsily handled that I almost wondered why Wyndham hadn't called upon a ghost writer to handle the emotional parts.
2. Josella. For such an important character, she really didn't much more than a cardboard act - and a paperthin one at that. I dunno what Wyndham was trying to show that. Initially there is no co-ordination in here dialogues and her personality seems to be alternating between the stereotypical housewife and a rebellious feminist. Perhaps Wyndham meant to show that she hadn't yet sorted her own priorities?
Oh well. And latter on her appearence seem to be resticted to a couple of sentences here and there, some supposedly romantic and altrustically philosophical dialogues and as a shadow that hovers at the edge, underdeveloped, underused and a poorly utilised means to end than a living, breathing entity of its own.
3. Length. Okay, I get why the novel was so short. But it is one of those novels, which, if written in modern times by a skillfull author would have been far more successful. Mainly because so much happens, and so much is mentioned in passing or totally glossed over.
At the outset this sort of threadbare description has it's own charm, but after a while you begin to yearn for some depth to the characters, some fattening up of the narrative and well-written interaction. The book could have done with a couple hundred more pages.
Characters like Josella, Susan and Coker could have been given more substance. I realize that the focus of this novel is not on the characters but showing, not telling, can be far more effective in getting certain points across. (re: the romantic relationship etc)
1. Brilliant premise. Or should I say setup. The premise is very wishy-washy scientifically, but if one is able to employ the suspension of disbelieve for a little while, the whole thing has a very epic and a very scary feel to it.
2. Triffids. Parts containing the triffids were the second-most interesting bits in the story for me. The plants are exotic, so humane and yet so unlike the run-of-the-mill monster (at least in my imagination) that they bordered on scary. I think part of this is because Wyndham spends a lot of time establishing the Triffids as characters. From the description, i can pretty much picture the Triffids and this happens very rarely.
3. The writing style. It reminded me of Kingsley Amis and G. K. Chesterton all rolled into one. Certainly very distinctively British. I like how the action was interspaced with philosophical ruminations and the style seemed very natural to me. But then again I am sucker for verbose prose and the british authors of 1940-50's seem to have that thick-set prose so in contrast with people like Asimov and Clarke.
4. The descriptions of the decay and derelict cities. George Stewart does them marginally better in Earth Abides, but I felt they were very well done. You get a real feel of how everything is going to rot, and the gloom lies heavy on you. The attempt at putting countryside (cheerful) vs cities (urban gloomy) were conventional but worked very well.
5. Theme. Boy did it send chills down my spine! I think this is what I liked most about the story. The questions that rise up in the course of the narrative. The choices are never directly tackled I felt, but they serve as interesting discussion points. They set the reader's mind working and constantly questioning, requestioning and analysing the character's motives and putting them to practice in realistic conditions.
In this he does better than George Stewart in Earth Abides and Zelazny in Damnation Alley. The how's and wherefore's of the building process after the catastrophes are drawn pretty clearly and cleverly. There were a couple of sentences that reasonated with me a lot. We have grown so accustomed to living on luxeries and other's work that a real exposure to nature will probably leave us as helpless as our ancestors millions of years ago.
my response to a couple of points made by Yobmod.
The satelite reason was postulated by the narrator (and I won't call him all-knowing, certainly is this regard). The general consensus seemed to be focused more on meoter fallout and other celestial reasons.Did everyone else buy the whole Russian genetic experiment, and satelite lasers misfiring explanation? I seem to remember they were postulated by characters as opposed to the all-knowing narrator, so can't be accepted as true. I took them as being allegorical to how red communists were implicated in everything that went wrong during the cold war as propoganda.
From the reading it seems to me that we never quite find out 'exactly' how Triffids came into being. Certainly the narrator's researcher friend seems to believe that they possess intelligence, but an intelligence intrinsically different from the human one. This does seem to point out towards some sort of alien intervention but the Triffid world certainly didn't seem capable of morphing artifical inteligence (notice the lack of computer) with biochemical substances.I assumed that the plants were aliens, which are atually better adapted to space travel (seeds can survive conditions no plant ot human ever could). Therefor the meteor shower doesn't need a conspiracy explanation. Didn't they also have 3 'legs'? 3 lines of symmetry is generally an obvious pointer to aliens in SF (see Rendezvous with Rama).
Very true.Maybe Wyndham was pointing out how people will accept any explanation that least disturbs their worldview, and even create there own hypotheses that quickly get remembered as facts. I guess genetic engineering and secret star wars projects going haywire are more believable than aliens even with no evidence (nowadays routine DNA testing would be employed).
Oh, I don't think it is a flaw. But It isn't a full-blown explaination either, nor is it a mystery whose solution can be found in clues scattered through-out the narrative. I think the author meant us to engange our fancy for a moment and focus more on the sociological and psychological impact of catastrophe and the mystery of the triffids.Anyway, although i didn't accept the characters explanation, the babbling i wrote above explains why i didn't think this was a flaw in the book. The characters may not be the most memorable, but the situation was brilliant and the writing easily up to standard.
No, I agree completely. The blindness thing was the central issue which led to most of the really interesting problems in the book. The triffids were a nice complicating layer to that blindness.Originally Posted by Ropie
Ooh, I can't agree here. I'm always for tighter, more concise storytelling (you may notice I'm not a huge fan of BFFs). More words, in a case like this, would only serve to cloud the issues and bog down the ideas. I think a lot of readers now have been trained that if a book isn't really long it's not as good somehow, that a book has to throw light into every corner, lay open every door.Originally Posted by Beleg
I think Triffids is so successful at so many of the things that it attempts because Wyndham allows the reader to follow out some of the puzzles on his or her own. He shows us the doors, says, "There's the door. I can't go through it with you," and turns you loose on it all by yourself rather than crashing through every door, stomping all through the rooms, overturning every single item to see what's underneath and telling us about it. Admittedly, I guess the reader has to be willing to do some work to mine all the treasures, and each person will find different things behind those doors, as their personal experiences are different.
I'm not sure where the artificial intelligence comes into the discussion. I also can't see why a different sort of intelligence implies some sort of alien activity involved. We have all sorts of crazy life forms on earth already. Plants are drawn toward light already, why couldn't a few (imagined...this is 1950) genetic twists allow them to be drawn by sound? Seems to me there is no more leaning toward aliens than any other explanation. Are we to assume aliens just because it's sci-fi?Originally Posted by Beleg
Last edited by Erfael; September 1st, 2005 at 10:02 AM.
Ooh, I can't agree here. I'm always for tighter, more concise storytelling (you may notice I'm not a huge fan of BFFs). More words, in a case like this, would only serve to cloud the issues and bog down the ideas. I think a lot of readers now have been trained that if a book isn't really long it's not as good somehow, that a book has to throw light into every corner, lay open every door.
Perhaps. I personally think that every story needs a certain ammount of pages to maximize its effectivity. The number of pages needed for that can differ from story to story.
Personally speaking, my favorite sci-fi authors are Arthur C. Clarke and Roger Zelazny, both of who generally write short, 250 odd page paperbacks instead of 600 page sociological sf tomes. Similiarly, in fantasy, I like John Crowley's shorter works as much as I like Erikson's 1000 page novels.
I just feel that I could have enjoyed this novel even more if the novel had been a little bigger, and attention had been paid towards fleshing out certain characters. In other words, the story still had room to expand.
All subjective, I suppose.
It doesn't necessarily imply the involvement of alien activity for sure, but from the description of the narrator, I can't see how humankind was in the position to somehow develop sentience at this (triffid) level unless they made some truly major breakthroughs in secret. As such, alien intervention still seems to me to be the likliest explaination.I'm not sure where the artificial intelligence comes into the discussion. I also can't see why a different sort of intelligence implies some sort of alien activity involved.
Of course, it may be that the author purprosefully tried to keep this vague. It certainly is a very dated book scientifically and if I may be allowed to make a generalization, I think in this modern day and age focus has shifted more and more towards writing sci-fi following more logical paths and thought-patterns.
Sure a genetic twist might enable them to be drawn towards sound, but how does this explain their ability to choose and differentiate between the more vulnerble parts of the body? It certainly seems to me to be more than a natural favoring and bordering on full-time intelligence.
And the plants are apparantly clever enough not to fall for the same trick thrice, even applied at different places. And the way they gradually build-up resistence against electric current (admittedly the evidence for that are Susan's claims) shows there is something weirder at play here.
Are we to discount the aliens just because it's the cliche?Are we to assume aliens just because it's sci-fi?
I think this may be key to our whole little debate. I've certainly found that older SF doesn't concern itself quite as much as newer with making sure that things were logically sound. So we're not likely to come to some conclusion that suits our more scientifically-informed ideas. But one thing that doesn't sit well with me as far as the alien explanation is that never once in the book does Wyndham mention aliens in any way shape or form, not even in the personal musings of the narrator. So while there may not be sufficient evidence out in the open to show that the triffids were human creations, it seems to me like an even bigger stretch to assume that now we have aliens and that they somehow brought triffids to earth.Originally Posted by Beleg
I'm not sure how serious your question about the aliens being cliche is, but I initially took it seriously and thought it a good point. But the more I think on it, I'm not discounting them because they're sci-fi cliche, but because Wyndham didn't give us any reason in his text to think a) that there are aliens, and b) that they brought on the triffids. It seems to me there are far more reasons to discount the possibility of aliens than there are to discount the possibility of triffids being of (some) human origin (bogus 1950s science accepted), even if the reasons the narrator gives aren't the precise way they came about.
Edit: I think given that he didn't hypothesize too much on the origins beyond the possibly Russian origin, Occham's Razor would support that the human origin is rather more likely than the alien one.
Last edited by Erfael; September 1st, 2005 at 12:01 PM.
This is how i came to the same conclusion. Triffids being aliens explains everything, otherwise a huge amount of unlikely conspiracies and coincindence is needed.It doesn't necessarily imply the involvement of alien activity for sure, but from the description of the narrator, I can't see how humankind was in the position to somehow develop sentience at this (triffid) level unless they made some truly major breakthroughs in secret. As such, alien intervention still seems to me to be the likliest explaination.
The triffids were so different than any Earth species, i simply cannot see how they can have come about. (And i'm sure they were more intelligent than simply being audiotaxic, but can't think of any concrete examples at the mo).
(As i am hopefully only a few months away from my doctorate in biol chem, i guess the idea of geneticly engineering the triffids seems more unrealistic to me than aliens. Aliens could happen, genetic engineering on this scale, for this purpose, is ridiculous But its a personal bias)
This i'm afraid completely lost me. What does morphing mean in this context? What do computers have to do with intelligence?This does seem to point out towards some sort of alien intervention but the Triffid world certainly didn't seem capable of morphing artifical inteligence (notice the lack of computer) with biochemical substances
If you meant that the triffids seemed too stupid to be space-faring, then i disagree, as we were never let in on how intelligent they really were. But it did remind me of other books with plants that had technology (Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon) or travelled in space (hothouse by Aldiss and Vinge's Fire Upon the Deep ) - in some cases the plants are not especially intelligent. Also the triffids as the first stage of an invasion seemed attractive, a type of biological warfare like the red weed in The War of the Worlds.
Last edited by Yobmod; September 1st, 2005 at 12:12 PM.
It's rediculous in 2005 now that we know a lot about that sort of thing, but was it rediculous in 1950? Seems back then they would seem equally unlikely. And if we're arguing authorial intent, we can't approach it from 55 years later.Originally Posted by Yobmod