Monday, October 20, 2008

The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham

(hb; 1951)


A comet passes by the Earth, and has two effects: one, it blinds the majority of Earth's people; two, it turns the triffids -- tall plants with gourd-like mobile roots and stinger-blossoms, previously regarded as tame botanical oddities -- into army of clever, click-emitting killers who are dedicated to stinging mankind into extinction.

William Masen, a biologist who has the good misfortune to have been hospitalized and face-bandaged during the beautiful light show put on the comet, escapes being permanently blinded by it. (Ironically, the hospitalized Masen had been attacked by a triffid he was studying, and temporarily blinded by its poison. Prior to that attack, he'd warned fellow scoffing scientists that given how triffids reproduce quickly and possess stingers, they were a threat to mankind. Even Masen hadn't calculated how big a threat the triffids were.)

Masen provides the first-person narrative, which spans approximately seven years. His narration, for the most part, is calm and collected, his recollections simply-stated and viewed through a curious, science-minded lens. Most of the horrors he sees -- and there are many, whether they're perpetrated by triffids or men -- are left to the reader's imagination, as he travels across England, trying to rejoin Josella Playton (whom he met after the comet's passing), potboiler author and potential wife.

Triffids, at once an examination of the human race and scary science fiction thriller, is one of the best science fiction novels I've ever read. Wyndam's style is straightforward and almost dry, but between Masen's clear-eyed recollections, the distinctive characters, the steady pacing and the defiant, hopeful denouement, it's classic (in the truest, positive sense of the word).

Clean-cut and exciting work, this -- worth owning.

The Day of the Triffids became a film in 1962. Philip Yordan (aka, Bernard Gordon) scripted this movie; Steve Sekely and an uncredited Freddie Francis co-directed it. Howard Keel played Bill Masen. Nicole Maurey played Christine Durrant. Ewan Roberts played Dr. Soames. Mervyn Johns played Mr. Coker. Alison Leggatt played Miss Coker. Janina Faye played Susan.

On September 10, 1981, a short-lived television series, bearing the same name, began airing in the UK and Australia. (It lasted six episodes.) John Duttine played Bill Masen. Emma Relph played Jo Payton. Maurice Coulborne played Jack Coker. Jonathan Newth played Dr. Soames. Gary Olsen played "Red Haired Man Torrence." Perlita Neilson played Miss Durrant.

In 2001, Simon Clark wrote and published a sequel to the novel version of The Day of Triffids, The Night of the Triffids.

No comments:

<em>Sharp Objects</em> by Gillian Flynn

(pb; 2006) From the back cover “Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: ...