OCTOBER READ - SPOILERS - The Day of the Triffids
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Did anyone else find themselves laughing at the bit in the beginning when the narrator describes how everyone was oooohing and aaaahing over the meteor shower/comet debris and he was unable to view any of it?
I'll be back!
(Edited for typo.)
I very much liked the ending, by the way. How they think about what to tell their children, and how they don't want their children growing up continuously thinking that the old world was better. Again, it makes perfect sense, and I like that the main characters think this through.
I've taken out my mother's old paperback copy, which is still miraculously intact, and have started my re-read. The first chapter is still awesome.
Wondering what the "not typhoid" disease that strikes most of the blind people after a few days, and that the narrator assumes the audience knows what it is, is supposed to be.
Cholera ? Radiations ? Neither would really explain why "sighted" persons seem to have some plot armor against it.
If it was cholera I guess sight would give them better control of what they're eating/drinking but barring more visible contamination germs don't show to the naked eye, and in the narrator's group he and those blind people live in the same general environment with the sighted directing the blind regarding what to pick.
If it was radiations, I don't think just having been out of direct sight of the "fireworks" would be sufficient protection against a level of radiations that causes sickness and death within days ? Plus other blinded people like those at Josella's farm were apparently unscathed.
A good book, to me, is one I know I can re-read and continue to enjoy or find new things to like. This is one of those books. The protagonists' practicality in dealing with the sometimes harsh realities of survival seems very real to me, as are the ways other groups try to cope. I don't remember noticing the hints that the green flashes and the plague might have been human-caused before; or that Wyndham implies that humans may well be responsible for their own downfall, without actually coming right out with it. I did feel that people were pretty quick to despair over their blindness, even before the triffids were a real problem - after all, many blind people cope perfectly well and find ways to compensate for their sight. Of course, having so many more blind people than sighted would make a difference.
There was less action and more pontification than I expected, but I thought the way various groups tried to handle things was fairly reasonable in context. I liked that Bill got taken prisoner early and was put in danger. I was sort of expecting an Earth Abides kind of vibe until that point. It wasn't dire, and as a reader, I knew it wouldn't last, but it did surprise me and I liked that.
I'm not really bothered about the portrayal of women in this book. It is certainly more positive than most SF of the era. After the initial rescue, Josella was practical and independent, and Susan was a tough kid. I'm more bothered by the fact that Dennis is the only blind character that is portrayed as adaptable. In fact, for a book in which most of the world goes blind, there are remarkably few individual blind people.
Despite the odd weakness, I still think this is a fantastic book.
I too thought at first that the newly-blind were giving up too quickly, commiting suicide before they'd even tried to adapt to their situation, and even before they had realised just how bad things really were. I do think that some individuals would react that way, but perhaps Wyndham showed us too many of this type of person. Obviously the majority did stick it out, at least for a while, as we are shown hordes of the blind struggling, but we didn't get as many close-ups of them as we did of the suicidal which I think skewed my perception of the proportions.
I also agree with Bookmarque's point about serendipity in post 9. It seemed too much of a coincidence that the blindness would strike just at the point where the triffids had developed to the stage where they could best take advantage of it. But apparently it really was just coincidence.
All that said, I really enjoyed the book. It kept me gripped, wanting to read just one more chapter. I liked the calm narrative voice which managed to convey tension and emotion without ever becoming angsty or histrionic. The different social structures which are formed in the aftermath are fascinating to compare, and any one could be used to base another novel on. Susan was a great character, and the triffids were always suitably menacing. The whole book felt unmistakeably British, with people keeping a stiff upper lip (or berating themselves for not) and having to overcome their gentlemanly instincts!
I enjoyed it so much that I have been persuaded to take The Midwich cuckoos off my shelf and read that too.
I liked Bill's canny calmness. Especially in one of the final scenes where he hatches a plan to escape the red-headed man's quest for feudalism. The old sugar in the gastank ploy. I'd love to have seen their faces.
One of the things I like about the book is the way we are made aware of the horrors without graphic descriptions. We know that there are rotting corpses all over the place, but they are never described in detail. Bill describes the smell before he leaves London, but he doesn't spell out what it is.
I too am reading The Midwich Cuckoos as my "it's almost Halloween" read. :o)
Also, does anyone know if the triffids were being tapped for oil like a maple, or if they had to be destroyed to extract it. Because if they were being destroyed it changes the dynamic a bit.
I suspect this is one aspect of the story that doesn't bear over-analysis.
I never noticed that the disease only affect the blind - I never assumed that was so - just that it is the blind we see dead of it. In fact, I think at one point when Bill is searching for Josella, he does fear that she has died of the plague.
It remains one of my favourite books.
I was expecting more of a connection between the green comet and triffids as well. Like maybe the green lights were actually glowing spores developed by the triffids and expelled into the air by them in one great effort to blind everyone. And they would have coordinated all this with their ominous tap tap tapping.
I'm not crazy about the women's roles, but on the other hand, the book would pass the Bechdel test. And thinking of women as breeding machines is not an unheard of male aberration even today.
I've added the DVD's to my Netflix queue. Thanks for mentioning them.
It's funny how you don't actually know what you're missing. I always loved the story in the Fawcett version, and it seemed complete to me, but now that I've read the Penguin edition, I feel like I was cheated for all those years.
A good precursor to many of my favorite "end of the world" stories I love so much today. Wyndham did it before it became all the rage. I felt a little distant from the characters though and found it hard to root for them. Probably because of the British "stiff-upper-lipness" of it all. I would have liked to have learned more about the colony they joined at the end, too. Otherwise a solid SF story.