Audrey II Feed me Seymour Does it have to be human Audrey II Feed me Seymour Does it have to be mine Audrey II Feeeed me Seymour Where am I supposed to get it Audrey II singing Feed me, Seymour Feed me all night long That s right, boy You can do it Feed me, Seymour Feed me all night long Ha ha ha ha ha Cause if you feed me, Seymour I can grow up big and strong.
John Wyndham published his novel The Day of the Triffids in 1951 and it s influence on speculative fiction since has been Triffidulous Including Little Shop of Horrors Being perhaps an allegory for Cold War paranoia and also maybe a cautionary tale about the deleterious effects of mucking about with nature and the biological results of such shenanigans.
Wyndham does an above average job with characterization in a post apocalyptic setting as the world has been dealt a knockout one two punch from a Triffid infestation and a blinding meteor shower This is also a very post WWII English story and its perspective is clearly consequential from the earlier conflict.
All in all, a classic sci fi story that should be read by any self respecting fan of the genre, and it s fun when its not being the world after destruction English stiff upper lippery For a person who claims not to like science fiction, I read and enjoy quite a lot of it In my professional life, I would now expect my students to rephrase their claim, as it is obviously not matching the evidence, but being stubborn, I stay firm This is a thought provoking novel, and it has not lost much of its message since its first publication Humankind is still prone to self destruction by carelessness and short sightedness, and we still have diverse ways of dealing with and interpreting catastrophe Groups are still likely to form around strong leaders, and they are also still likely to be intolerant of other groups and their interpretation of society What I particularly liked about this sci fi take on apocalypse and the survival of a few people was the insight that knowledge, however complex and vast, can be lost if humanity is not organised enough to provide a place for teaching and learning I also think the reflection on the limitation of theoretical knowledge is spot on, showing the difficulty to apply theory without practical advice and guidance The religious aspect is equally interesting Future generations will need a creation myth to make the new world they live in meaningful My favourite take on this idea is still Margaret Atwood s MaddAddam, but The Day of the Triffids works with the same theme.
As for the triffids, they are a symbol for human intervention in natural environments, but they remain rather bizarre and undefined There is no actual need for them to be there at all The whole catastrophe could have taken place without them interfering In a situation where the vast majority of humanity turns abruptly blind, the natural world constitutes enough of an obstacle to overcome without walking and talking plants to add to the predicament But as a thought experiment, I found them rather amusing Recommended for people who don t like science fiction but enjoy reading it anyway.
This was so great I have a lot of thoughts so I ll try to write up a review later.
When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere Not exactly up there with It was the best of times etc but a great opening line I think The Day of the Triffids is John Wyndham s best known and most popular book by far A case can be made for some of his other books being better, The Chrysalids and The Midwich Cuckoos for instance, but Triffids is the people s choice, and having just reread it, decades after my first reading, I can see why This book has a great premise, set in the ever popular post apocalypse scenario and awesome implacable monsters I was going to write this book is clearly the precursor to the zombie apocalypse genre as if it was an original thought that would have won me the Nobel, but before climbing to the rooftop with my megaphone to air this world shattering observation I Googled triffid zombie and loads of people have made the same connection Pretty obvious really, but while there is a surfeit of zombie books, films and TV shows there are not nearly enough The Walking Plants shows being made If homicidal flora was a popular sci fi horror subgenre, the triffids would be the most badass, with Robert Plant coming in a close second.
At the beginning of the book, triffids are already commonplace, a rich source of top quality oil and farmed throughout the world In spite of their nasty habit of whacking people on the face with their retractable sting, they were kept well under control by the farmers Unfortunately one night a green meteor shower hit the Earth creating stupendously spectacular light show that unfortunately causes blindness to people who look at it This suits the triffids very well because they don t need eyes and they soon break out of their captivity and start to overrun the world The narrative is told from the protagonist, Bill Masen s point of view, who luckily escaped blindness while hospitalized The plot focuses on Bill s struggle to survive in this post apocalypse landscape, his meeting with numerous people, communities and groups of survivors.
I first read this book decades ago and before this reread I thought that the meteor shower and the advent of the triffids seem too much like a coincidence Now I realize that the one thing did not in any way create the other If there was no meteor shower people would have gone on happily farming triffids for fun and profit Another misconception I had was that The Day of the Triffids is all about the triffid invasion, a sort of The War of the Worlds with plants instead of tripods In fact, emphasis is placed on the post apocalypse aspect of the book than the fight against triffids The triffids are mainly environmental hazards Most of the plotline concerns the different types of communities that are formed after the global blindness event How some sighted people try to help out the blind, while others treat them as slaves Wyndham even explores the new types of social s that are developed to adapt to the circumstances Polygamy, feudalism, despotism etc are explored as potential models of society Basically, it is not wall to wall monster plants busting fun Another awesome triffid art by Cthulhusaurus RexIn fact, the triffids are off stage for much of the book, only toward the end that they are seen as the main threat to humanity s survival The book has depth than I expected but the pace seldom slackens If you are, indeed, looking for some plant busting action you won t be disappointed but you have to be patient for a bit Wyndham had on his mind than that I think one missed opportunity is to have one blind central character, not necessarily the protagonist, who is naturally blind from birth, to depict how he copes in comparison with the nu blinds In fact, the blind characters are generally ineffectual, not a Daredevil among them It is ironic that the bad guys treat the blinds like second class citizens, while Wyndham himself uses them as tertiary characters or less Where are the brilliant blind scientists, strategists, fighters etc I wonder if this book is popular among the blinds Characterization is not really the novel s strong point Bill is a fairly typical decent everyman protagonist, his love interest Josella has the distinction of being an author of a bestseller called Sex is My Adventure , a silly shocking book Other than that she does not do or say much of interest Later on, a little girl called Susan shows up, she is at least quite competent and quite lively Another supporting character Wilfred Coker, with his pragmatic and uncompromising attitude, is a good foil for our hero Fortunately, with the epic setting and plot, the flattish characters is not too much of an issue The triffids are, of course, magnificent creations, they communicate by drumming which makes them a sort of Neil Pearts of the plant world They may not have much of a personality but they have plenty of character The Day of the Triffids is indeed quite t rrific Definitely a sci fi classic not to be missed.
Notes This book may have also originated the wake up in a hospital to find the apocalypse has been and gone trope, as seen in the movie 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead TV series Next film adaptation hopefully one is in the works should have a cameo by Stevie Wonder whose lyrics would be perceived as incredibly propheticNo New Year s Day to celebrateNo chocolate covered candy hearts to give awayNo first of springNo song to sing He could even be the protagonist The way he sways his head all the time no triffid would be able to hit him.
QuotesAnd now, folks, get a load of what our cameraman found in Ecuador Vegetables on vacation You ve only seen this kind of thing after a party, but down in sunny Ecuador they see it any time and no hangover to follow Monster plants on the march Somewhere in them is intelligence It can t be seated in a brain, because dissection shows nothing like a brain but that doesn t prove there isn t something there that does a brain s job The obviously humane course is also, probably, the road to suicide Should we spend our time in prolonging misery when we believe that there is no chance of saving the people in the end Would that be the best use to make of ourselves There is one thing to be made quite clear to you before you decide to join our community It is that those of us who start on this task will all have our parts to play The men must work the women must have babies Unless you can agree to that, there can be no place for you in our communityTriffid Life Cycle from the 2009 not very good TV mini series click image to embiggen A triffid from BBC s 1981 mini series One of the reasons scifi gets a bad rap is that so much of it is so very shitty, and here s a prime example There was a major strain of woman hating, mansplaining, faux intellectual, oft Randian bullshit that sprang up in the latter 20th century, spearheaded by the idiot propaganda of Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury this miserable 1951 book was a harbinger.
The setup is standard scifi human overreaching leads to a holocaust In this case the overreach takes the shape of mass blindness like Blindness but dumber and, famously, a plague of deadly shambling plants, a proto Monsanto vision that s amusing enough to give Triffids the minor cult status it doesn t deserve But the major threat here is, typically, not the plants but the surviving humans So we get a tour through the civilized options socialism, feudalism, theocracy while Wyndham sputters that they re unworkable next to John Galt s solution selfish oligarchy Wyndham s world, where a tiny minority can see and the rest are blind, is a blunt metaphor for Rand s philosophy popularized eight years previous by her first hit, The Fountainhead Through no fault of anyone, a tiny group of people are simply competent And his point, made again and again, is that those competent people can t worry about the rest they re hopeless and must be left to die on their own To try to take care of them is to doom them and the oligarchy The thinking has to be done largely by people who are not directly productive, Wyndham suggests Either we can set out to save what can be saved from the wreck and that has to include ourselves or we can devote ourselves to stretching the lives of these people a little longer That is the most objective view I can take Sounds good, right Sign me up for the thinkin team You can be on the doin and dyin team And note the overt nod to the nascent Objectivist movement.
Wyndham s alter ego Bill makes these speeches often to his love interest, Josella, whom he spends much of the book searching for because he forgot that she directly told him where to meet her You can see why he loves her she s thrilled when, in the midst of crisis, he pauses to lecture her about Latin Chicks go crazy for that And she s totally down for the idea that the world must be repopulated by means of each man having a harem She s going to pick out a couple blind women for his harem Cool, right After all, most women want babies anyway, Bill notes The husband s justthe local means to the end Why a harem, rather than a polyamorous sort of deal Why should men have several partners but women just one Because John Wyndham is a jackass.
Here s what Bill does right after Josella proposes finding him a harem of blind breeder women I ruminated a little on the ways of purposeful, subversive minded women like Florence Nightingale and 19th century prison reformer Elizabeth Fry They so often turn out to have been right after all If you want to pause for a moment and ruminate a little on the fact that Wyndham just compared Florence Nightingale to a pimp, I understand I ll be here We hold the chance of as full a life as those blind girls can have, says Josella of the harem idea Shall we give it to them as part of our gratitude or shall we simply withhold it on account of the prejudices we ve been taught You don t need to worry at all, my dear I shall choose two nice, sensible girls The danger of lazy scifi is that when one invents a whole world, one can also invent human behavior in it It lends itself to didacticism to the creation of a reality that entirely supports one s worldview Dissenting opinions can be made to fail A character named Coker tries to create a society that protects the blind, and everyone dies, sosee Altruism is dumb After Coker comes around, he says of a less enthusiastic convert, You d think she d be reasonable Bill replies, Most people aren t, even though they d protest that they are They prefer to be coaxed or wheedled, or even driven That way they never make a mistake if there is one, it s always due to something or somebody else This going headlong for things is a mechanistic view, and people in general aren t machines They have minds of their own mostly peasant minds, at their easiest when they are in the familiar furrow.
But there are many furrows, and this one is full of shit.
Some books can be quite ill served by their titleNot enough triffids would complain those lured to this book by the promise of a fun sci fi romp centered around carnivorous sentient plants just to find something entirely different.
But you gotta agree a appropriate title for this unexpected gem of a book such asHow complete disintegration of society and civilization as we know it, the sudden helplessness and the painful realization how little it takes to throw us off our tenuous perch on the top of the food chain leads to uncomfortable ethical questions about societal structures and conventions and the implications of successful survival in a forever changed world where our morals and ideas and what we think constitutes humanity may become quite obsoletewell, it doesn t really roll off the tongue, does it This book is really about survival in the midst of disintegrating society and all the implications of it that go against the frequent and quite stereotypical portrayal of such happenings It s not an optimistic ode to the courageous and morally sound few who carry the torch of civilization into the future while dodging death, slaying monsters and coming unscathed out of numerous death traps, proving again and again that humanity triumphs over all obstacles No, it s somberly bleak than that.
In Wyndham s story, it did not take much to unravel our society All it took was a case of worldwide blindness after a breathtakingly beautiful meteor shower that left the vast majority of humans blind, and in the resulting confusion and struggle present day civilization found its end Add to it a plague like outbreak that followed, and finally the titular triffids semi sentient mobile carnivorous plants carelessly bioengineered by humans back when our supremacy was a given and the survivors of the disaster have their hands full when they try to survive and rebuild some kind of organized new worldStanding there, and at that time, my heart still resisted what my head was telling me Even yet I had the feeling that it was all something too big, too unnatural really to happen Yet I knew that it was by no means the first time that it had happened The corpses of other great cities are lying buried in deserts, and obliterated by the jungles of Asia Some of them fell so long ago that even their names have gone with them But to those who lived there their dissolution can have seemed no probable or possible than the necrosis of a great modern city seemed to meIt must be, I thought, one of the race s most persistent and comforting hallucinations to trust that it can t happen here that one s own little time and place is beyond cataclysms And now it was happening here Unless there should be some miracle I was looking on the beginning of the end of London and very likely, it seemed, there were other men, not unlike me, who were looking on the beginning of the end of New York, Paris, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Bombay, and all the rest of the cities that were destined to go the way of those others under the jungleThe questions that must be faced once the end of the world as we know it arrives are not heroicHow do we triumph over the monsters but quite prosaically practical and yet staggering in their implications How do we go on as a society and is there even a place for society as we know it What do we preserve What do we have to discard How do we deal with realizing our own weakness and fragility as a species Is there a place for the old values and ideas of good and evil, of morals, of responsibility or does the changed society make us necessarily evolve with it How much can we move on in the world that has moved on And the titular triffids lurk just around the corner, hiding in the background until you expect them the least, presenting a slow but steady threat to any attempts to regroup and rebuild, rising up the suddenly vacated niche of the top predators as humans are busy surviving but they are not the only monsters around.
The real challenge to the survival of humans are, of course, other humans As they come to grips with what happened, every group of survivors seeing and blind alike all have their own ideas where this new world should be heading to Conventional morals and usual laws collapse with the society that created them That s where Wyndham in a very detached, frequently deceptively neutral and sometimes even deadpan delivers the examples of various conventional and not so conventional societal set ups none of them even remotely ideal which all challenge ethical principles and societal conventions in so many different ways and the trouble is, some of them may be necessary in this forever changed world.
Of course, written in 1951, this book is very much the product of its time The eventual threat of the triffids originated, as one would expect in the Cold War society, from the unexplainable and mysterious depths of the enemy Russia The attitudes of characters are frequently quite paternalistic, especially when any woman is concerned The attitude towards disability are very appropriate for that time and, needless to say, not for our day and age And yet despite the dated attitudes there is a time transcending quality to Wyndham s storytelling and its purpose, and that s what makes this book survive to the present day as a classic that does not stop being relevant, that still makes you think critically about humanity and society and question things that we are so used to taking for granted, and that treats humanity despite all of our clear flaws and arrogance as something that deserves to survive and persevereWhen a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere The next stop in my end of the world reading marathon was The Day of the Triffids, the 1951 man versus plants tale by John Wyndham After an apocalyptic journey across the United States in The Stand and Swan Song, it was fascinating to read about how the U.
K might tackle doomsday and I have to say that the stoic and unruffled British response gave me hope for mankind s endurance With the first of several imaginative chapter titles The End Begins and cheeky wit, Wyndham introduces our narrator, thirty year old Bill Masen, who wakes at St Merryn s Hospital in the West End of London with bandages over his eyes It seems that the world has come to some kind of a standstill, but without his sight, Bill is slow to comprehend what might be happening Due to his injury, he missed out on the celestial event of a lifetime, a shower of green shooting stars which everyone looked up to observe while Bill was bedridden Stripping off his bandages, Bill wanders the halls of the hospital, discovering scenes he compares to Dor s pictures of sinners in hell, with patients massed in the lobby, sobbing or moaning, none of them with the sight to find the exit Running into a pub across the street, Bill finds two blind men One of them reveals that his wife and boys were blinded by the bloody comets along with everyone else in London The man bowed out of participating with his wife in suicide by gas fumes and is in search of something stronger than gin to drink to summon the courage to join them.
Bill backtracks to explain his occupation and how it landed him in the hospital He s a biologist specializing in the cultivation of a strange new form of carnivorous flora that appeared suddenly many years ago Covered with sticky, leathery green leaves, the plants grow anywhere from four to six feet in height and have a funnel like formation at the top of their stems from which a whip like stinger attacks its victims Three small sticks at the base of the stem allow the plants to walk and have inspired the media to name them triffids Quite a problem in some tropical regions, triffids are of a curiosity in the developed world, where they re kept chained up or cultivated on farms Bill holds the distinction of being one of the first Britons stung by a triffid and developed a fascination with the creatures His co worker Walter notes that the triffids seem to share some form of communication and that if not for the benefit of sight, man would quickly find himself under them in the food chain While on the job, a triffid splashes poison inside Bill s protective goggles, sending him to the hospital.
Wandering the groping city, Bill comes across the blind as they stagger the sidewalks for food He determines that assisting them would only delay the inevitable He makes an exception by responding to the screams of a young woman he finds being beaten in an alley by a blind man who appears to have lassoed her into service as a seeing eye dog Bill rescues the woman, an author named Josella Playton, and escorts her home, where she discovers her father and their hired help all felled by triffids which have surrounded the house.
Bill Josella find an abandoned apartment to spend the night and form a plan of action With no civil authority coming to help and Londoners resorting to suicide, Bill determines that they need to evacuate the city before the corpses pose a health hazard Josella suggests a farmhouse she knows of in Sussex Downs that has a water pump and makes it own electricity Before turning in, they spot a search light originating from University Tower and inspect it before leaving London There, the couple discover sighted survivors At the time, none of them are as concerned about the triffids as Bill is The Day of the Triffids kept my blood pressure strictly at 120 80 I can t remember getting excited once in the course of 225 pages and initially, I chalked this up as a fail Bill Josella seem so mild mannered in their response to the apocalypse, as if a cup of tea and to do list will make all this end of the world business quite all right, mate Bill observes some disturbing things, but like his narrator, Wyndham doesn t see much to gain by getting particularly upset by them It s such a stereotypically removed British approach and it took some getting used to.
Wyndham s writing is a delight and kept me flipping the pages, even when Bill Josella seemed inconvenienced than endangered I myself had not been one of those addicted to living in an apartment with a rent of some two thousand pounds a year, but I found that there were decidedly things to be said in favor of it The interior decorators had been, I guessed, elegant young men with just that ingenious gift for combining taste with advanced topicality which is so expensive Consciousness of fashion was the mainspring of the place Here and there were certain unmistakable derniers cris, some of them undoubtedly destined had the world pursued its expected course to become the rage of tomorrow others, I would say, a dead loss from their very inception.
The storytelling gets a bit choppy as Wyndham introduces retina damaging comets and then backpedals to introduce a carnivorous plant species one or the other would ve sufficed for a novel this short and I didn t find his explanation for either to be very compelling The life cycle of the triffid didn t seem particularly thought out and as a monster, leaves a lot to be desired Being attacked by a triffid actually seems preferable to surviving one, especially if you were blinded.
The time I allowed myself to think about Wyndham s slow motion apocalypse, the spooky it became A great silence overwhelms the world and the survivors are presented with quite a bit of remorse as they fend for themselves and leave the not so fortunate on their own The stoic response seems to be little than a coping mechanism on the part of Bill Josella and Wyndham does a great job of painting how hopeless the fight against nature would become The Day of the Triffids has endured in radio, film and television The 1963 film version in Cinemascope is one of the key creature features I grew up with The BBC produced a television serial based on the novel in 1981 and again in 2009, with Dougray Scott as Bill and Joely Richardson as Jo Wyndham s work has also had a big impact on apocalyptic tales not involving triffids, with both 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead taking their cues from this novel.