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The Day of the Triffids

author: John Wyndham (1951)
date read: 7 February 2020
rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

This is a sci-fi classic that I’d never read, but I’m glad I finally have.

The plot is well-known: a meteor shower leaves most of the world blind, and the triffids take advantage of our sightlessness to make short work of humans. Civilisation falls into ruin, and only a handful of sighted people are left to make their way in the world. Bill Mason, the protagonist, is one of the few people left who can see, and we see the practical questions and moral dilemma he faces.

I enjoyed the book, which is clear and easy-to-read throughout. I never had any trouble disambiguating characters, or plot events, and despite being 70 years old it almost never felt anachronistic or dated – it’s presumably set in the 50s because that’s when Wyndham was writing, but I couldn’t tell.

(I had to suspend disbelief a little bit; if the entire world went blind in 2020, I think we’d fare a little better. Disability rights are nowhere near good, but there are plenty of people who already navigate the world blind, and they’d have a leg up on plenty of us.)

I like that it focuses on a single character, and doesn’t tell the bigger story. Is there more to know? Undoubtedly, but we’re left speculating as much as the main character. Why are the triffids more aggressive? How are they communicating? Will humanity rebuild, or is Earth triffid world now? The protagonist doesn’t know, and neither do we.

The book ends on a hopeful, but not idealistic note. Humanity might rebuild and flourish again, it might not – it’s not an unrealistic, fairytale ending. We’re left to imagine how things might play out.

Short, easy book that I may well read again.

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