The Day of the Triffids (1951)

Creators

John Wyndham (writer).

Extent

Read in 2016.

Commentary

Having previously been acquainted only with the 1962 film adaptation, I was very pleasantly surprised by the great depth and seriousness of the original, which has stood up well. This version dispenses almost completely with the idea of a connection between the blinding meteor shower and the triffids. Years into the apocalypse, the protagonist tentatively draws the conclusion that both the blinding event and a subsequent plague were consequences of space-based weapon systems going awry, possibly as a result of natural meteors. As a biologist specializing in the farming of triffids he believes the plants are a product of some shady post-Lysenko development of Soviet science. Regrettably, these ideas (global blinding weapons; virus capsules in orbit on primitive craft; deliberately breeding in the traits of the triffids) are individually implausible, and it seems quite a coincidence for them to combine so catastrophically in the presumably short space after triffids become widespread and before their pseudo-intelligence is discovered.

Apart from the British isles not being hit with nuclear weapons, there is little to contradict the interpretation that some of the satellites were manually triggered. This may actually be a nuclear WW3 scenario. The survivors are too isolated to notice either way.

Wyndham includes a little bit of bland masturbatory post-apocalyptic fantasy, particularly in the very attractive, somewhat racy Josella, and the couple’s eventual love for their post-apocalyptic farm, but on the whole it’s impressively amoral. The eventual fate of the new civilization is suitably undetermined.

References here: The Chrysalids (1955), Always Coming Home (1985), 12 Monkeys (2015).

fiction text

Adaptation:

The Day of the Triffids (1963) IMDb

Extent

Seen in 2014.

Commentary

A handful of good ideas and many bad ones.

fiction moving picture