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The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Science fiction is not my favorite genre but this classic had me rethinking my mild aversion. Find out why…

The Day of The Triffids by John Wyndham
First Published in: 1951
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by: Jen
Find it/Buy it here: The Day of the Triffids

The Day of the Triffids is perhaps the best known, and most critically-acclaimed novel by science fiction author John Wyndham. Published in 1951, it tells the story of the end of the world as we know it. Humans are left blind after a mysterious comet lights up the world’s skies with eery bright green flashes ― allowing the mysterious Triffids free reign. The only individuals saved from blindness were those who, for one reason or another, did not witness the meteor shower. Biologist Bill Masen and author Josella Playton are two of them, finding each other and starting out on an adventure to survive and build a new world.

As I mentioned above, science fiction isn’t really my favorite genre and I had no real desire to read this book. My bias wasn’t helped any by having seen the horrendously cheesy 1960s film clips for the movie based on this book. Here’s the trailer:

But I read this book in large part because I was assigned it for a reading challenge. Much to my surprise, I LOVED it. Not only was it hugely entertaining, but it was well-written and raises interesting questions about loneliness, survival, and human morality. Thankfully, the novel isn’t about giant man-eating plants. The Triffids are much more interesting in the novel than they are in the movie version and they don’t simply go around chomping humans in venus-trap mouths.

Considerably less violent than Saramago’s Blindness (with a similar premise), Wyndham’s novel shows a slightly more optimistic account of humanity although he does present the range of possible human responses. I liked how this novel leaves unanswered questions (what are the Triffids? What was humanity’s role in the decline of civilization? What will the future hold?). But more than anything, I just enjoyed it as a very entertaining and fast-paced post-apocalyptical novel.

The book has been adapted into that awful 1962 version and two BBC series which are both supposedly much better.

So why should you read this book if you haven’t already? The Day of the Triffids is considered by many to be one of the best science fiction books of all time. It’s on Boxell’s list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die among several other “best of” lists. In addition, it is considered to be one of the first, if not the first, example of post-apocalyptic genre. Boxell’s book claims it was the “first of its time to anticipate disaster on a global scale” and that Wyndham “predicts the technologies of biowarfare and mass destruction, offering a sophisticated account of Cold War paranoia that was well before its time in terms of its exploration of the psyche of individuals in the face of social change.” If those arguments don’t convince you, it’s just an all-around entertaining book that is deeper and better written than any of myriad of post-apocalyptical YA novels on the market today.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read any others by John Wyndham? Which were your favorites?

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. I loved this book too, the science held up surprisingly well to this day – definitely a book worth buying in paperback and taking up valuable shelf real estate!

    There is a BBC adaptation from around 2010, it’s beautifully dark, sciency and personal – can’t recommend enough

    Liked by 1 person

    January 27, 2016
  2. I hadn’t heard of this book, but I do love sci-fi and post-apocalyptic stuff (if well-written), so to the TBR list it goes! Thanks for bringing attention to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 27, 2016
  3. Gwen #

    I am intrigued! I have no problem with science fiction in theory but just never generally find things that work for me, and I’d like to.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 27, 2016
  4. I read The Midwich Cuckoos in school and it excited and unsettled me in equal measure. I read The Day of the Triffids not long afterwards, having watched the 1981 BBC adaptation with my family. There was so much paranoia about nuclear attack and imminent apocalypse, that both books felt very possible and real, much more so than Alan Garner’s books, which I read at the same time and also loved, but in a childish way. Elidor was vaguely allegorical about the Cold War, mixed in with British mythology and fantasy. Wyndham felt very grown up and pragmatic. For me, the books were also a way to ask questions and talk about big topics. I often think I should re-read them to see how well my opinion as a 10 year old holds up. Maybe I will, now.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 27, 2016
  5. Jo #

    I read this years ago and really enjoyed it. I’ve since read The Midwich Cuckoos and The Chrysalids, which I also liked, although maybe not quite as much as I remember liking this… Maybe I’m due for a reread…

    Liked by 1 person

    January 27, 2016
  6. Tracy S #

    I was also very surprised when I read this book. Like Jen, scifi isn’t always my thing, but Day of The Triffids has become one of my favorite books. Midwich Cuckoos was also very good, and Chocky was good, too. I should try to find some of his others.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 27, 2016
  7. Book Worm #

    I also loved this book, its one of my favourites and as such the paperback is still sitting on my shelves instead of going to the charity shop, for me that is high praise indeed.

    If the thought of the giant man eating plants is putting you off, don’t worry as Jen said they are actually a small part of the novel its the exploration of humanity that makes this book great


    January 28, 2016
  8. Such a good choice and that’s coming from someone who, like you, doesn’t get on with sci fi. I just bought a copy for my 17 year old nephew who is at that point where he’s outgrown children’s fiction but doesn’t get on with most young adult stuff either

    Liked by 1 person

    January 29, 2016
  9. Many of the elements that make The Day of the Triffids great are still praised today, making it one of the most iconic books of the twentieth century.


    November 18, 2022

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