Saturday, 1 May 2010

Review of The Day of the Triffids

It is hard for me to be objective about this novel because I first read it when I was about 10 years old and it has been with me ever since. The idea that I could wake up tomorrow in a society that is collapsing because everyone has gone blind is bone chilling. How would I survive? What would I eat? Where would I go? What would I do? The early stages of the book had a searing impact upon my imagination as a kid.

Those who have not read the novel would probably think of it as a kind of b-movie with flesh eating plants chasing after people. This is a misconception. The triffids did not cause the breakdown of society, they just take advantage of it. At the start of the novel they are merely a nuisance and it is only towards the end that they begin to take over. They are a great plot device. Imagine being blind and having flesh eating plants around that can move only slowly but have stings that can lash out over ten feet. The tapping sound that they make would be terrifying.

One criticism of all of Wyndhams work (by people like Brian Aldiss) is that they provide 'cosy tea time catastrophe' novels with no real depth or realism to them. It is true that in DOTT the two main characters have not suffered real loss. They have both lost their parents but neither has lost a partner or children or a brother or sister. We don't get a sense of grief and pain. Emotionally the story is very 1950s. On the other hand we are exposed to realism. People do die. The little girl they find has lost her parents and is traumatised. There are riots, suicides and even attempted rape. Just because the novel is not graphic doesn't make it unrealistic. There is something to be said for suggestion rather than being explicit in art.


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