Deserted, destroyed London

Favourite Stories: The Day of the Triffids


My favourite book during my schooldays 1960s/70s was The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. Wyndham wrote a unique range of science fiction books unlike any other I have come across. This book hooks you in from the very start; I did not have to persevere and try and work my way into it like you do with some books.

The story starts with the main character waking up in hospital the morning after a minor procedure on his eyes. He is expecting the usual hospital morning noises and activities. Then he starts to wonder why his breakfast has not arrived and why he hasn’t been aware of a nurse coming into his room. His eyes are bandaged, so he only has his hearing to guide him. He begins to wonder why nothing is going on; after all, he heard an outside clock strike 8.00 am. As a result, he decides to tune into the noises he can hear. However, he soon realises he cannot hear the usual sounds. This is a London hospital, but he cannot hear the traffic on the busy road outside. Gradually it dawns on him there isn’t any. Now he is unnerved.

The character’s hearing begins to come back, and he starts to pick up isolated, random noises; a few crashing sounds, bumps, shuffling, the odd cry. None are the normal sounds of a hospital. He presses the buzzer for the nurse. No one comes. He shouts out. Still no one comes. Finally, he realises no one is going to come. His fear suggests the world has undergone some radical change, but he doesn’t want to think about that. He feels on his own and now needs to investigate. Maybe there is an answer to all this and everything will be fine, but he just doesn’t know what that answer could be. However, his eyes are still covered. Dare he take the bandages off prematurely? Will his eyes be ready for it? Ultimately, he knows there is nothing else for it: he takes the bandages off.

I’ve tried to capture some of the feel of the start of this book, but John Wyndham does it superbly, and you just have to read on after the first page to find out more.

What has actually happened is that the previous day/night had seen the most spectacular and prolonged display of meteors, which showered the globe with a radiation that blinded people.  Unfortunately, before this effect was realised, because the meteor shower was so spectacular, everyone who could, watched it. The result is that most people are now blind, the world cannot function and everything is falling apart. The streets have become desolate and in disarray.

This dire situation is soon made infinitely worse by the Triffids. A Triffid is a deadly stinging plant which can uproot and move. Previously farmed and with most having their stings removed, they were never any type of threat to humanity, but they can reproduce and grow rapidly. So, unkept, they break out of their farms and start to terrorise the world. Blind people become as flies, wandering unknowingly into a Venus Fly Trap.

So this book is the story of how the Human Race attempts to survive. The real triumph of the book is the author’s ability to create a realistic, lifelike picture of what such a world would be like, and the ways in which human survival instincts come into play. I thoroughly recommend it.

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Andrew Bateson is 57 years old and initially trained as a Geologist. He has been a secondary school teacher for 22 years teaching Chemistry and Science to 11 to 18 year olds. Previously he worked in the Ceramic industry in research and development and then management. He has experience of both the independent and state sectors, teaching in single sex and mixed sex schools. As a Union Rep., he followed educational policy closely throughout his teaching career. He has retired from teaching to continue working with OOL and to retrain as a Psychotherapist.

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