The Day of the Triffids
was a fun, fast and entertaining classic science fiction novel. It also had a few deep ideas buried beneath its blockbuster movie script exterior. And most certainly this was a well written novel as with the other science fiction classics I have encountered.
I knew little about The Day of the Triffids
save that it featured man eating plants (all thanks to cultural references the old film based on the novel). As a result I was pleasantly surprised to find that the plot had a great deal more substance than it let on. The triffids were in many ways a subplot to the main plot: that being the freak cosmic accident which turned most of the inhabitants of the planet blind. As a result the mobile and carnivorous triffids are free to feast upon the blind people who roam the streets, now reduced to struggling to get around and find food.
The substance of this novel can be found in the ideas about blindness and what appears to be the element of cognitive dissociation utilised by the novel. The idea of everyone on the planet, save for a select handful who avoided the catastrophe, becoming blind raises questions of what would happen. John Wyndham's idea is a dark and grave one, one touching on themes raised by other noted sci-fi authors such as Wells or Orwell. He challenges whether, in such circumstances, many would commit suicide rather than live crippled; whether others would survive by struggling and fighting against the other blind inhabitants of the planet; and more frighteningly whether others still would use those who could see like parasites. Wyndham also challenges what the responsibility of decent human beings would be if they retained their sight, to such blind members of society.
The element of cognitive dissociation I perceive in this novel is how it takes real world ideas and plunges them into an unfamiliar environment. This is what many theorists state sci-fi is about: taking ideas such as what it is to be human or real world controversies (i.e. euthanasia, cloning or abortion) and placing them somewhere else. In the case of this novel it seems to me that Wyndham takes some of the ideas of the issues raised by the Cold War and places them in an apocalyptic environment. The 'cosmic accident' is challenged as to whether it could have possibly been satellites up in space set to fire radiation upon other nations and blind them. The triffids are suggested to be the result of USSR biological breeding programs. In this way it seems to me that Wyndham either indicates the perceived threat from the USSR as being like the triffids: that if America ever weakened the Russians would swoop in and take advantage of the figuratively blind nation. Or else Wyndham writes to suggest that the work of both nations in their scientific fight and their cold war could perhaps lead to disaster for everyone across the globe jointly.
Either way The Day of the Triffids is a remarkable and amazing gem of a novel. I shall add it to my (long) list of personal favourite novels and attempt to obtain a copy for my library. This is a novel that is pure class in terms of entertainment and the ideas within. I fully recommend it in every way.