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Book Review: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

March 3, 2011 1 comment

People with red eyes on green background pursued by plants.Summary:
Bill wakes up in the hospital the day after a worldwide comet show with his eyes still bandaged from a triffid accident.  His regular nurse doesn’t show up and all is quieter than it should be except for some distraught murmurings.  Shortly he finds out that everyone who saw the comet show has lost their sight, leaving a random bunch of people who just so happened to miss it the only sighted humans left in the world.  A hybrid plant created years ago for its highly useful oil, the triffid, is able to walk and eats meat.  Swarms of them are now wreaking full havoc on the people struggling to save the human race.

Review:
This book reads like the novelization of a 1950s horror film.  Man-eating plants!  Dangerous satellite weapons of mass destruction!  Humanity being reduced to the countryside!  Classic morals versus new morals!  This is not a bad thing, and Wyndham seems to be conscious of the innate ridiculousness of his tale, as it possess a certain self-aware wittiness not often present in apocalyptic tales.

Bill is a well-drawn character who is enjoyable as a hero precisely because he is an everyman who is simultaneously not devoid of personality.  He is not the strongest or the smartest survivor, but he is just strong and smart enough to survive.  Similarly, his love interest, Josella, impressively adapts and changes over time, and their love story is actually quite believable, unlike those in many apocalyptic tales.  In fact, all of the characters are swiftly developed in such a way that they are easy to recognize and tell apart.  This is important in a tale with so much going on.

On the other hand, the action is stuttering.  It never successfully builds to an intense, breaking point.  Multiple opportunities present themselves, but Wyndham always pulls the story back just before a true climax.  After this has been done a few times, the reader loses the ability to feel excitement or interest in the characters and simply wants the tale to be over.  In a way it is almost as if Wyndha couldn’t quite decide which direction to take the action, so took it briefly in all directions instead.  This makes for a non-cohesive story that pulls away from the investment in the rich characters.

Additionally, I do not believe the whole concept of the triffids was used to its fullest extent.  The name of the book has triffids in it, for goodness sake.  I expect them to feature more prominently and fearfully than they do.  Perhaps I’ve just read too many zombie books, but the triffids just seem more like a pest than a real threat.  The concept of man-eating plants taking over the world is a keen one, and I wish Wyndham had invested more into it.

Overall, the book is a quick, entertaining, one-shot read that could have been much more if Wyndham had made better choices as an author.  I recommend it to kitschy scifi and horror fans looking for a quick piece of entertainment.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Reading Challenge: R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril

September 2, 2010 16 comments

Woman in green hue.I love horror.  Love love love it.  I know a lot of readers don’t.  They say it scares them too much or keeps them awake at night.  The thing is, I used to be one of those readers!  I used to avoid horror because when I was younger horror would absolutely petrify me for weeks on end.  I’d think every squeak my old house would make was the boogey-man coming to get me.  But then I decided, “Enough of this shit!  I’m letting my fears get in the way of an entire genre.”  So I dabbled my toes, then I jumped in, and now it’s one of my favorite genres.  Horror lets me get lost in a world where it’s ok to be scared and supernatural things occur and I basically get to watch car crashes repeatedly.  It’s awesome.  The whole genre.  I can’t believe how much I’d be missing if I’d continued to avoid it!  For instance: Zombies. Tree porn. Everything Stephen King ever wrote.  You get my point.

Anyway, so when I saw via Chris at Book-a-rama that Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting a mystery/suspense/thriller/dark fantasy/gothic/horror/supernatural reading challenge for the spooky fall months of September and October entitled R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, I knew I wanted to sign up.  Not that I won’t be reading horror for these two months anyway, but I thought if I signed  up, it’d alert you guys to the challenge.  Maybe one of my lovely readers is tentative about one of those genres?  Well this is the perfect opportunity to stretch your boundaries!  Plus you’ll be in the company of a lovely bunch of people for a couple months to do it.

Of course, that’s my other reason for participating.  I want to virtually meet other book lovers who are reading horror!

Originally, in light of the fact that I try to keep my reading unstructured and fun, I was going to sign up for one of the lower levels of the challenge….then I saw how much of my TBR pile fits! Lol, so I’m signing up for the Peril the First level: read four books that fit into any of the genres I mentioned above.

My potential reads for the challenge (direct from my TBR pile) include:

I hope you’ll sign up and do the challenge with me!  Especially if you’re afraid of horror.  You can sign up for one of the lower levels and just dip your toe in. 🙂

Any votes for which four out of my list I should read?