Friday, April 29, 2011

Review of The Day of the Triffids

Author: John Wyndham
First Published in 1951
Thickness: 272 pages (Penguin edition)

If I were to deal in half stars, this novel would claim a 3,5 stars but as I had to choose between more or less, I chose a little less. Why? Because it is longwinded in the beginning and at some point I had the internal discussion of putting it aside and spending my time on something else instead. I'm happy I didn't, because the novel did pull through, but you do have to put on an attitude of half a century ago when everything was less violent and people mainly made the right choices and when they didn't, they would find a suitable punishment.

The story begins with a man, Bill, who wakes up in a deserted hospital with a bandage around his face and eyes. He had been attacked by a scientifically altered species of plant and in order to restore his sight he had to wear a bandage for more than a week. When he wakes up on this particular wednesday morning, the day the bandages were supposed to come off, no one answers his urgent rings and after some pondering he takes them of himself.
When he investigates the state of the hospital he finds it not devoid of people, but devoid of people who can see. It seems that in a night, the population of London has become blind, perhaps the whole world has gone blind, since all broadcasting signals have ceased to exist.
The night before there was a so-called meteor shower which had most of the inhabitants of the world looking at the sky and finding themselves blinded the day after. Only those who hadn't watched remain sighted.

Bill makes his way through a London much too quiet, trying to make sense of what has happened. Due to the circumstances he finds another sighted woman, Josella, being held hostage by a blinded one. He rescues her and they continue together.
Thanks to a light signal they find another group of sighted persons who already have plans of starting a new community, which are abdruptly stopped by a raid.
Bill gets separated from Josella and as soon as he can goes on a quest to find her again. This takes him to the countryside and he meets with other survivors.

The last 70 pages of the novel span almost a decade, in which you see how Bill needs to adapt to a new lifestyle and a new enemies.

The title of this novel might confuse you. My initial thought was that it centered around an invasion from outer space but nothing of a kind. People become blind and a genetically altered plant, a carnivorous plant, takes advantage from this.
One man's dead, is another one's bread, sort of speak.

As I said before, the novel started quite longwinded but halfway through it gets more interesting. Being written 60 years ago, it does feel like a civilised novel about the deterioration of a civilization
I've read another novel about a community stricken with blindness (Blindness by Jose Saramago) which is a novel that deals with the implication of suddenly becoming blind. A very raw and humane novel.
The Day of the Triffids deals with the blindness as a mere symptom, not a lifestyle radically altered. As the main character still can see, he can't feel the effects of suddenly losing his sight. He sees people around him commiting suicide or brutally taking hostage of someone who can see so they have a guide in life.
Chaos invoked in the span of a few hours.