I had heard of ”The Day of the Triffids” for some time. It is hailed as one of the best within science fiction classics and I personally liked the idea of creepy plants attacking the world – very “Little Shop of Horrors”. So, that’s what I expected when my TBR-jar revealed that I should be reading “Triffids” next.
I was so wrong. Instead I found myself reading what turned out to be probably the best and most frightening dystopian story I’ve ever read. There are indeed stalking, seemingly evil plants that most likely want to take over the earth, but we never really know – and that is probably the main thing that makes this such a wonderfully terrifying and realistic tale: nobody shows up to tell the reader or our protagonist why the world has suddenly gone hay-wire, and while he has some knowledge that helps him and us get a better idea of what’s going on, there is never any answer. It isn’t spelled out that so and so is just evil or wants to corrupt the world – it just is.
It’s a menacing, constant presence that gives the whole book a feeling of urgency and despondency at the same time. Because if you can’t reason with someone (or some thing) and you can’t explain to yourself why you’re in a situation, it becomes difficult to hold on to your sanity. And that, more than anything, is what “Day of the Triffids” manages to show – the utter failure of human society when events beyond our reasoning occur. When something so meaningless and inexplicable happens, that we are unable to process it and what happens to most people when they find themselves in that position.
My version of the book has a quote on the cover that reads: “One of those books that haunts you for the rest of your life”, and I couldn’t agree more. I expected a science fiction-y, semi-silly (because evil plants, you know) old-fashioned story of how the world was invaded and then something miraculously happens in the last 5 pages and the world is saved (“War of the Worlds” – I’m looking at you!). Instead I got a haunting story of survival, mental struggle and a sobering look at human arrogance.
P.S. I read the original text published in 1951, which is beautifully written in a distinctly English voice. Halfway through, I had left home without my book, but happily realised that I had it on my Kindle – which turned out to be a completely different book! Large parts of the text were missing and instead of the flowing and beautiful language, it was written in U.S. English and seemed more like an action novel! So, be sure to get the original version!
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, published by Penguin Books in 2008 (org. published in 1951)