Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Night of the Triffids, by Simon Clark

(hb; 2001)

From the back cover:

"The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndam's extraordinary bestseller, is one man's description of doomsday: almost the entire population has become blind, and the world has a new master -- the monstrous triffid plant. The novel ends with its narrator, Bill Masen, leaving the British mainland with his wife and four-year old son to join a new colony on the Isle of Wight.

"Simon Clark takes up the story twenty-five years later.

"In the 29th year since the fall of the old world, David Masen, the now grown-up son of Bill, wakes one morning to discover that the world has been mysteriously plunged into darkness. The few sighted people have their artificial lights, but once more the triffid has the advantage. . .

"Setting off to seek the cause of the darkness, David finds himself stranded. Eventually rescued and taken to New York, he discovers a very different sort of colony: prosperous and technologically advanced. But all is not as it seems. This sophisticated society hides an evil secret -- and David is about to come face to face with an old enemy from his father's past."

Review:

Clark's sequel to John Wyndam's The Day of the Triffids hews closely to the even-handed tone of the original novel, all the while expanding on the concepts and characters created by Wyndam.

When David Masen, son of Bill and Josella Masen, is taken to New York (after crash-landing his plane on a vegetable-based, triffid-filled island) by his American steam shipping rescuers, the tale turns even more surreal, with shades of Escape From New York thrown into the plot mix. Not only that, the triffids are evolving into terrifying new forms, forms that allow the triffids to overcome previously-effective barriers that protect the remaining humans from triffid sting-attacks.

Author Clark twist-ably builds on this increasing surreality, keeping tight focus on Wyndam's source novel themes -- man's arrogant war-like nature, evolution (triffid- and human-related) and science, and, of course, terror.

Clark also builds well on Night's characters, a few of whom originated in Day, while introducing compelling new characters.

Some of these new characters resemble, temperament-wise, characters from Day, namely: Kerris Badekker, David's love interest and daughter of General Fielding (Kerris resembles Josella Playton-later-Masen); Christina Jane Schofield, a feral, triffid poison-immune teenage girl discovered on David's strange-vegetable island (she resembles the little girl Susan from Day); and General Fielding, an overly-ambitious, militaristic Tetrach (governor) of one of four Manhattan Island-based sectors. (Fielding bears a resemblance to the brutal, efficient Torrence from Day.) Sam Dymes, co-leader of the United Liberty Confederation (a rebel faction opposed to General Fielding's eugenics-based plans), resembles Coker (from Day).

My only complaint about this novel is that the opening paragraph of the Night is too much like the opening paragraph of Day -- not only does it seem like Clark is trying too hard to emulate Wyndam's dry-wit style (at least initially), but Night's opening paragraph is clunky and confusing. (The opening paragraph in Day is clever and quotable.)

This is a minor complaint, though, as the rest of the novel is excellent, a can't-put-it-down science-fiction thriller.

Worth owning, this. Not only that, it'd make a kick-butt film, too.

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