The Day of the Triffids, Book Review

Who remembers the Cold War with Russia, global food shortages, or science fiction speculations of the 1960s? John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids takes readers back to such times; were they really half a century ago? Were those events different than current emergencies?

The human population’s COVID-19/Coronavirus responses were similar enough to events in this novel that Robbie Cheadle (of Roberta Writes) noted that, and therefore piqued my interest. I bought the book and read it during our family’s weekend trip to California.

©Chel Owens -some Triffid-looking plants near San Diego, CA

Wyndham’s story takes place in England in the 1950s. Our protagonist is Bill Masen, an everyman who starts us off with his whining (er… whinging). Everything’s quiet, he can’t see, he’s in hospital, no one’s been ’round to feed or bathe him or finally take the bandages off his eyes, and HE MISSED THAT METEOR SHOWER EVERYONE KEPT GOING ON ABOUT LAST NIGHT.

Don’t worry; Bill figures out how to function like the adult male he is. Problem is, the other adults aren’t as functional.

Apparently, Bill reflects later, he’s lucky that he didn’t get to see the shower (if there was one) because every person who watched it is now blind. Being blind, they are completely helpless. Despite this, most are maturely handling the situation by committing suicide, looting easy foods, and moaning in the streets whilst expecting an outside party to rescue them.

Oh, and there are 7-foot-tall walking plants called Triffids.

Oh, and Triffids also have a venomous stinger.

Buuut, that stinger was removed by farmers.

Buuuut, then stingers weren’t removed because that made their oil better.

Oh, yeah -backstory: the Triffids were the product of Russia breeding a new source of oil for the worldwide shortage of foodstuffs so we’re not sure how they came out exactly and then some Russian defector offered viable seeds for sale and he probably blew up over the ocean on delivery so anyway now Triffids are all over the world and everyone has one in his garden like a sort of sunflower that could kill his children.

We are, however, going to spend most of the book discussing other topics, like how people behave in crises. We’ll also discuss people in charge making shortsighted decisions. Furthermore, we will describe more people in charge and their foolish decisions.

Oh, and there’s also a sickness some people get. And they die.

In all, I loved the book. It moves at much the same pace and has the same feel as The War of the Worlds. It’s not Jurassic Park, although maybe the film adaptation was….

The 1963 film’s movie poster

©2022 Chel Owens

44 thoughts on “The Day of the Triffids, Book Review

  1. Gosh! I haven’t read this book since I was at high school in the 1960s! It sounds like a revisit is called for. From memory the movie is scary, but I get scared with grandma saying peek-a-boo so am no judge of scary movies!

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    1. Did you find War of the Worlds scary? It’s definitely a scary premise but the way the protagonist describes everything is definitely more like that style -like Jules Verne a bit.

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      1. I’ve never seen War of the Worlds, I find it difficult in a movie to “suspend disbelief”. That’s why I left the first LOTR’s movie after 20 minutes and never went back! “Jaws” and “Phantom of the Opera” (not the Andrew Lloyd Webber version but the first movie that came out long before that) were two movies that I became engrossed in. But I haven’t watched a movie now for maybe almost 20 years.

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  2. The Howard Keel film is not the story in the book. Wyndham spent 18 months finding a satisfactory ending to Triffids and the film completely ignores it; it couldn’t have the humans not winning the war! There was a British TV drama adaption which was more faithful to Wyndham’s story, but I feel it was a while back and probably forgotten now.

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  3. I read it when I was a teenager. I don’t remember much of the book, but there’s been two different TV series adaptations, so I know the story quite well. In the older TV series the triffids made this scary tapping to communicate with each other. It was closer to the book than the more recent one. Even to this day I get slightly unnerved when I hear a similar tapping…

    In fact I’ve read a lot of the English Disaster Novels (as they came to be known) by John Wyndham and also John Christopher (different guy, but wrote books like The Death of Grass and The World in Winter. Worth checking out).

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    1. Thank you, Joanne! I’ve not heard of the Disaster Novels but they sound excellent. And, yeah -the tapping part makes for great horror. I’m glad to hear that was an element in the TV series.

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  4. We are fans of all those campy movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I will need to read this source material first, of course. I doubt Triffids would flourish in our cold climate so I don’t feel threatened.

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  5. Hi Chel, The Day of the Triffids is an interesting read. It is fascinating to speculate how quickly things would fall apart in such a situation. Thanks for sharing your review. I was surprised and delighted to see this title pop up.

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