The Day of the Triffids

The Day of the Triffids

4.2 15
by John Wyndham
     
 

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In 1951 John Wyndham published his novel The Day of the Triffids to moderate acclaim. Fifty-two years later, this horrifying story is a science fiction classic, touted by The Times (London) as having “all the reality of a vividly realized nightmare.”

Bill Masen, bandages over his wounded eyes, misses the most spectacular meteorite shower

Overview

In 1951 John Wyndham published his novel The Day of the Triffids to moderate acclaim. Fifty-two years later, this horrifying story is a science fiction classic, touted by The Times (London) as having “all the reality of a vividly realized nightmare.”

Bill Masen, bandages over his wounded eyes, misses the most spectacular meteorite shower England has ever seen. Removing his bandages the next morning, he finds masses of sightless people wandering the city. He soon meets Josella, another lucky person who has retained her sight, and together they leave the city, aware that the safe, familiar world they knew a mere twenty-four hours before is gone forever.

But to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, one must survive the Triffids, strange plants that years before began appearing all over the world. The Triffids can grow to over seven feet tall, pull their roots from the ground to walk, and kill a man with one quick lash of their poisonous stingers. With society in shambles, they are now poised to prey on humankind. Wyndham chillingly anticipates bio-warfare and mass destruction, fifty years before their realization, in this prescient account of Cold War paranoia.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A thoroughly English apocalypse, it rivals H. G. Wells in conveying how the everyday invaded by the alien would feel. No wonder Stephen King admires Wyndham so much."
—RAMSEY CAMPBELL

"John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids is one of my all-time favorite novels. It's absolutely convincing, full of little telling details, and that sweet, warm sensation of horror and mystery."
—JOE R. LANSDALE

"My son's middle name is Wyndham. Does that tell you how much I respect and revere the late John Wyndham? And The Day of the Triffids is the best of them all. He was a wonderful writer who was able to reinvigorate science fiction with spectacle and true thrills, and do so with a writing voice that created both suspense and elegance. A true master."
—ED GORMAN

Gale Research
John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris is probably best known for Day of the Triffids, his novel in which the human race, blinded during a meteor shower, is threatened by carnivorous plants. A reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement wrote, "The language is excellent, and the description of London filled with the groping blind . . . has all the qualities of a vividly-realized nightmare."
Publishers Weekly
Short and sweet and to the point, the seven stories in this promising debut collection exuberantly explore the relationships that make life bearable. In a rueful examination of brother/sister love, "The Language Event," set at the Indy 500, manages to be rowdy and exquisitely wistful at the same time. Moore strikes another significant chord in "Big Pink and Little Minkie," conjuring magic by exploring the tenuous but often poignant truths to be gleaned from the mundane commuter experience. She hits the ball out of the park with the near novella-length "A History of Pandas," a flawless exercise in characterization. This sharp portrayal of sisterhood sings, as the narrator, called Sweet Pea, examines the root of her boundless adoration of her sibling Lydia, a preschool teacher whose early widowhood has forged a bond between the two that time can not diminish. In "Rembrandt's Bones," a professor of art history deals with two simultaneous deaths a student's suicide and the natural death of sugar-loving Opal, a childhood mentor who taught her to love words and always to appreciate the unexpected. Revealing a spiritual kinship with Lewis Nordan, Moore writes matter-of-fact yet outlandish sentences that read like tiny novels "Opal's Cousin Alma was married to my second cousin J.W. and when J.W. died, Alma showed up at the funeral with a lady-pink pistol and shot him five times in his open coffin before they could get the gun away from her. They couldn't figure out what to charge her with." Although all of the female narrators speak with nearly the same wry and self-aware voice, readers will enjoy this buoyant collection. Agent, Noah Lukeman. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780812967128
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/01/2003
Series:
20th Century Rediscoveries
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
210,337
Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.56(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

The End Begins

When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.

I felt that from the moment I woke. And yet, when I started functioning a little more smartly, I became doubtful. After all, the odds were that it was I who was wrong, and not everyone else—though I did not see how that could be. I went on waiting, tinged with doubt. But presently I had my first bit of objective evidence—a distant clock struck what sounded to me just like eight. I listened hard and suspiciously. Soon another clock began, on a hard, decisive note. In a leisurely fashion it gave an indisputable eight. Then I knew things were awry.

The way I came to miss the end of the world—well, the end of the world I had known for close on thirty years—was sheer accident: like a lot of survival, when you come to think of it. In the nature of things a good many somebodies are always in hospital, and the law of averages had picked on me to be one of them a week or so before. It might just as easily have been the week before that—in which case I’d not be writing now: I’d not be here at all. But chance played it not only that I should be in hospital at that particular time, but that my eyes, and indeed my whole head, should be wreathed in bandages—and that’s why I have to be grateful to whoever orders these averages. At the time, however, I was only peevish, wondering what in thunder went on, for I had been in the place long enough to know that, next to the matron, the clock is the most sacred thing in a hospital.

Without a clock the place simply couldn’t work. Each second there’s someone consulting it on births, deaths, doses, meals, lights, talking, working, sleeping, resting, visiting, dressing, washing—and hitherto it had decreed that someone should begin to wash and tidy me up at exactly three minutes after 7 a.m. That was one of the best reasons I had for appreciating a private room. In a public ward the messy proceeding would have taken place a whole unnecessary hour earlier. But here, today, clocks of varying reliability were continuing to strike eight in all directions—and still nobody had shown up.

Much as I disliked the sponging process, and useless as it had been to suggest that the help of a guiding hand as far as the bathroom could eliminate it, its failure to occur was highly disconcerting. Besides, it was normally a close forerunner of breakfast, and I was feeling hungry.

Probably I would have been aggrieved about it any morning, but today, this Wednesday, May 8, was an occasion of particular personal importance. I was doubly anxious to get all the fuss and routine over because this was the day they were going to take off my bandages.

I groped around a bit to find the bell push and let them have a full five seconds’ clatter, just to show what I was thinking of them.

While I was waiting for the pretty short-tempered response that such a peal ought to bring, I went on listening.

The day outside, I realized now, was sounding even more wrong than I had thought. The noises it made, or failed to make, were more like Sunday than Sunday itself—and I’d come round again to being absolutely assured that it was Wednesday, whatever else had happened to it.

Why the founders of St. Merryn’s Hospital chose to erect their institution at a main-road crossing upon a valuable office site, and thus expose their patients’ nerves to constant laceration, is a foible that I never properly understood. But for those fortunate enough to be suffering from complaints unaffected by the wear and tear of continuous traffic, it did have the advantage that one could lie abed and still not be out of touch, so to speak, with the flow of life. Customarily the west-bound busses thundered along trying to beat the lights at the corner; as often as not a pig-squeal of brakes and a salvo of shots from the silencer would tell that they hadn’t. Then the released cross traffic would rev and roar as it started up the incline. And every now and then there would be an interlude: a good grinding bump, followed by a general stoppage—exceedingly tantalizing to one in my condition, where the extent of the contretemps had to be judged entirely by the degree of profanity resulting. Certainly, neither by day nor during most of the night, was there any chance of a St. Merryn patient being under the impression that the common round had stopped just because he, personally, was on the shelf for the moment.

But this morning was different. Disturbingly, because mysteriously, different. No wheels rumbled, no busses roared, no sound of a car of any kind, in fact, was to be heard; no brakes, no horns, not even the clopping of the few rare horses that still occasionally passed; nor, as there should be at such an hour, the composite tramp of work-bound feet.

The more I listened, the queerer it seemed—and the less I cared for it. In what I reckoned to be ten minutes of careful listening I heard five sets of shuffling, hesitating footsteps, three voices bawling unintelligibly in the distance, and the hysterical sobs of a woman. There was not the cooing of a pigeon, not the chirp of a sparrow. Nothing but the humming of wires in the wind. . . .

A nasty, empty feeling began to crawl up inside me. It was the same sensation I used to have sometimes as a child when I got to fancying that horrors were lurking in the shadowy corners of the bedroom; when I daren’t put a foot out for fear that something should reach from under the bed and grab my ankle; daren’t even reach for the switch lest the movement should cause something to leap at me. I had to fight down the feeling, just as I had had to when I was a kid in the dark. And it was no easier. It’s surprising how much you don’t grow out of when it comes to the test. The elemental fears were still marching along with me, waiting their chance, and pretty nearly getting it—just because my eyes were bandaged and the traffic had stopped. . . .

When I had pulled myself together a bit, I tried the reasonable approach. Why does traffic stop? Well, usually because the road is closed for repairs. Perfectly simple. Any time now they’d be along with pneumatic drills as another touch of aural variety for the long-suffering patients. But the trouble with the reasonable line was that it went further. It pointed out that there was not even the distant hum of traffic, not the whistle of a train, not the hoot of a tugboat. Just nothing—until the clocks began chiming a quarter past eight.

The temptation to take a peep—not more than a peep, of course; just enough to get some idea of what on earth could be happening—was immense. But I restrained it. For one thing, a peep was a far less simple matter than it sounded. It wasn’t just a case of lifting a blindfold: there were a lot of pads and bandages. But, more important, I was scared to try. Over a week’s complete blindness can do a lot to frighten you out of taking chances with your sight. It was true that they intended to remove the bandages today, but that would be done in a special dim light, and they would allow them to stay off only if the inspection of my eyes were satisfactory. I did not know whether it would be. It might be that my sight was permanently impaired. Or that I would not be able to see at all. I did not know yet. . . .

I swore and laid hold of the bell push again. It helped to relieve my feelings a bit.

No one, it seemed, was interested in bells. I began to get as much sore as worried. It’s humiliating to be dependent, anyway, but it’s a still poorer pass to have no one to depend on. My patience was whittling down. Something, I decided, had got to be done about it.

If I were to bawl down the passage and generally raise hell, somebody ought to show up if only to tell me what they thought of me. I turned back the sheet and got out of bed. I’d never seen the room I was in, and though I had a fairly good idea by ear of the position of the door, it wasn’t all that easy to find. There seemed to be several puzzling and unnecessary obstacles, but I got across at the cost of a stubbed toe and minor damage to my shin. I shoved out into the passage.

“Hey!” I shouted. “I want some breakfast. Room forty-eight!”

For a moment nothing happened. Then came voices all shouting together. It sounded like hundreds of them, and not a word com- ing through clearly. It was as though I’d put on a record of crowd noises—and an ill-disposed crowd, at that. I had a nightmarish flash, wondering whether I had been transferred to a mental home while I was sleeping and that this was not St. Merryn’s Hospital at all. The sound of those voices simply didn’t sound normal to me. I closed the door hurriedly on the babel and groped my way back to bed. At that moment bed seemed to be the one safe, comforting thing in my whole baffling environment. As if to underline that, there came a sound which checked me in the act of pulling up the sheets. From the street below rose a scream, wildly distraught and contagiously terrifying. It came three times, and when it had died away it seemed still to tingle in the air.

I shuddered. I could feel the sweat prickle my forehead under the bandages. I knew now that something fearful and horrible was happening. I could not stand my isolation and helplessness any longer. I had to know what was going on around me. My hands went up to my bandages; then, with my fingers on the safety pins, I stopped. . . .

Suppose the treatment had not been successful? Suppose that when I took the bandages off I were to find that I still could not see? That would be worse still—a hundred times worse. . . .

I lacked the courage to be alone and find out that they had not saved my sight. And even if they had, would it be safe yet to keep my eyes uncovered?

I dropped my hands and lay back. I was mad at myself and the place, and I did some silly, weak cursing.

Some little while must have passed before I got a proper hold on things again, but after a bit I found myself churning round in my mind once more after a possible explanation. I did not find it. But I did become absolutely convinced that, come all the paradoxes of hell, it was Wednesday. For the previous day had been notable, and I could swear that no more than a single night had passed since then.

You’ll find it in the records that on Tuesday, May 7, the Earth’s orbit passed through a cloud of comet debris. You can even believe it, if you like—millions did. Maybe it was so. I can’t prove anything either way. I was in no state to see what happened myself; but I do have my own ideas. All that I actually know of the occasion is that I had to spend the evening in my bed listening to eyewitness accounts of what was constantly claimed to be the most remarkable celestial spectacle on record.

And yet, until the thing actually began, nobody had ever heard a word about this supposed comet, or its debris. . . .

Why they broadcast it, considering that everyone who could walk, hobble, or be carried was either out of doors or at windows enjoying the greatest free firework display ever, I don’t know. But they did, and it helped to impress on me still more heavily what it meant to be sightless. I got around to feeling that if the treatment had not been successful I’d rather end the whole thing than go on that way.

It was reported in the news bulletins during the day that mysterious bright green flashes had been seen in the Californian skies the previous night. However, such a lot of things did happen in California that no one could be expected to get greatly worked up over that, but as further reports came in, this comet-debris motif made its appearance, and it stuck.

Accounts arrived from all over the Pacific of a night made brilliant by green meteors said to be “sometimes in such numerous showers that the whole sky appeared to be wheeling about us.” And so it was, when you come to think of it.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A thoroughly English apocalypse, it rivals H. G. Wells in conveying how the everyday invaded by the alien would feel. No wonder Stephen King admires Wyndham so much."
—RAMSEY CAMPBELL

"John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids is one of my all-time favorite novels. It's absolutely convincing, full of little telling details, and that sweet, warm sensation of horror and mystery."
—JOE R. LANSDALE

"My son's middle name is Wyndham. Does that tell you how much I respect and revere the late John Wyndham? And The Day of the Triffids is the best of them all. He was a wonderful writer who was able to reinvigorate science fiction with spectacle and true thrills, and do so with a writing voice that created both suspense and elegance. A true master."
—ED GORMAN

Meet the Author

John Wyndham (1903–1969) was a successful English author who wrote novels and short stories from the 1950s to the ’70s, focusing on science fiction and creating many classics still popular today, including Out of the Deep.

Edmund Morris won a Pulitzer Prize for The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, the first in a trilogy, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for the sequel, Theodore Rex, both available as Modern Library Paperbacks. He lives in New York.

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The Day of the Triffids 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Ashburysgr More than 1 year ago
This book was finished in record time for me. I read it in three days, which a book of this size would be a week. I like to take my time and absorb the book, but this just grabbed and and ran away! The plot is very unqiue and very life like, if large man eating plants can be life like. I don't know what training Wyndham had, but he got the human condition spot on. I ws kind of surprised that the Triffids did not have such a more pronounced roll in most of the book. Only in the beginning and end of the book, but it was just enough to keep you going on.
Madam_Fynswyn More than 1 year ago
After reading this book as a teenager it changed how I viewed the entire world. It made me realize all the things I took for granted and all the things that someday I/we may have to do with out. It made me wonder just how we would evolve regardless of what caused the changes. John Wyndham was a genius! Read anything you can get your hands on by him. Personally, I think of this book every single time I look at my sunflowers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Day of the Triffids captures your imagination without all the ridiculous sex and violence so prevalent in todays literature. Appropriate for ages 10 and up.
TRFeller 3 months ago
This is the second time I have read this book, and I have also seen at least two movie adaptations. My science fiction book discussion group chose the book for April at my suggestion, so I re-read it. I had forgotten how good it is. The premise is the world suffers two calamities. The first is the appearance of walking, carnivorous plants called Triffids. At first they are kept under control and even cultivated because of the oil derived from them. Then a meteor shower causes the vast majority of the world’s population to go blind. The story is narrated by Bill Masen, who had missed viewing the meteors because he was recovering from a Triffid sting to his eyes. The main female character is Josella, a party girl who missed the shower because of a hangover. Otherwise, Bill and Josella are pretty ordinary people, although Josella is a minor celebrity, to her embarrassment, and the story is about how ordinary people are coping in a post-apocalyptic world. The book was out of print at one time, but I checked out the 2003 Modern Library trade paperback out of the library. This edition calls it a “20th Century Rediscover” with an introduction by Edmund Morris, the biographer of Theodore Roosevelt, and even a Reading Group Study Guide.
HomeSchoolBookReview 10 months ago
Thirty year old William (Bill) Masen lives in London, England, and is a biologist who works with triffids, strange tall plants that can move around on their own, have a very poisonous sting, and will even feed on dead flesh, but they are cultivated because their oil is quite valuable. One of Bill’s coworkers, Walter Lucknot, once noted that triffids would be better adapted for survival than people who are blind. Then Bill is accidentally stung by a triffid and spends a week in a hospital with bandages over his eyes. He misses the most spectacular meteorite shower which the world has ever seen, but removing his bandages the next morning, he finds masses of people wandering the city who have been blinded by the green flashes. He soon meets 24 year old wealthy author Josella Playton, another lucky person who has retained her sight because she took a sleeping draught and slept through the meteor shower, and they eventually fall in love. Bill and Josella discover a group of sighted survivors at the university led by a man named Michael Beadley, who plans to establish a colony in the countryside, and they decide to join the group. But before they can leave, a man called Wilfred Coker stages a fire at the university and kidnaps a number of sighted individuals, including Bill and Josella, each of whom is chained to a blind person and assigned to lead a squadron of the blind to collect food and other supplies. However, people begin dying of an unknown plague, and Bill escapes but finds neither Beadley’s group nor Josella. All the while, the triffids seem to be proliferating. What has happened to Beadley’s group? Will Bill ever find Josella? And how will he cope with the triffids? On Amazon there was a big discussion about modern versions of this book being edited, abridged, censored, and/or bowdlerized, removing a scene in Chapter 1 when Bill Masen encounters the doctor in the corridors of the hospital who commits suicide and other “adult” parts, and excising all cursing and similar expletives, ostensibly in an attempt to make the story more suitable for children and younger readers. My copy did not have the doctor’s suicide in Chapter 1, so it must be abridged, but it does contain other suicides along with a very significant amount of cursing and profanity, and some descriptive violence is found as when a sick person is shot through the head, so I would not say that it was necessarily censored or bowdlerized. Also, there are copious instances of smoking cigarettes and drinking various kinds of alcoholic beverages. Some relativistic thinking occurs, especially in a discussion of marriage and reproduction, and polygamy is implicit in Beadley’s scheme. A group with “Christian standards” is portrayed in somewhat of a negative light. At the same time, someone says, “Whatever the myths that have grown up about it, there can be no doubt that somewhere far back in our history there was a Great Flood.” One reviewer wrote that author John “Wyndham chillingly anticipates bio-warfare and mass destruction, fifty years before their realization, in this prescient account of Cold War paranoia.” It is an interesting story, and those who enjoy science fiction with a touch of horror should like the book. Simon Clark wrote a sequel, The Night of the Triffids (2001), set 25 years after Wyndham’s book.
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Wonderful book ( 5 stars.) I wanted to reread it after a 20 year gap.  But no nook version!  (- 2 stars)
Sammy28 More than 1 year ago
The only thing more amazing than this book is the fact that it was written so long ago. The author must have been able to see into our Monsanto future. Creepy! A must read for sure.
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