The Day of the Triffids
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The story is told by Bill Masen, a biologist for the Arctic and European Oil Company. The oil Arctic and European sell, however, isn’t used to fuel trains, planes and automobiles : it’s a food supplement derived from a recently ‘discovered’ species of plant life known as “triffids”. Bill believes the species is not a naturally occurring one, but was instead created in a laboratory by scientists. With the Cold War still in full-swing, Bill points the finger squarely at the USSR. It’s possible the intention was to create them solely as a food source : the oil derived from triffids is so rich in vitamins that it’s seen the bottom fall out of the fish-oil market. However, a triffid is also so dangerous it could also have been created as an extreme form of biological warfare.
Triffids are carnivorous plants : insects always provide a quick and easy snack, though as time goes on, they seem to develop a preference for decomposing human flesh. It appears they can hear and make a strange rattling sound that some believe to be a form of communication. Even more dramatically, they can actually walk. They also have very dangerous ‘stingers’, which can reach a length of around ten feet and – if they connect with bare skin – can be fatal. When triffids have attacked humans, they tend to strike first at the head – blinding a remarkably high number of the victims. A colleague of Bill’s at Arctic-European believed this to be significant as the only real advantage humans had over triffids was their sight. With this removed from the equation, humans become little more than lunch.
Bill’s introduction to triffids came at an early age, when triffids were still a novelty and little was known about them. Although stung, he survived – luckily, the triffid in question was immature. As the book opens, Bill is recovering in hospital from another close encounter – a couple of drops of triffid poison splashed into Bill’s eyes. The treatment included heavy padding and bandages, meaning that Bill couldn’t see a thing. As a result, he missed out on a very dramatic free show : the previous night, the Earth apparently passed through some comet debris that resulted in a dazzling light show in the sky. Unfortunately, it also blinded everyone who watched it. Obviously, protected by his bandages and padding, Bill is now one of the few sighted people left and triffids are now a bigger threat than they should have been.
There are some very quaint, old –fashioned elements to this book, the most obvious centring on Bill’s relationship with Josella Playton. Josella is the first sighted person meets after leaving the hospital and – shortly after they’ve shaken hands – start discussing the size of the family they’ll have together. Josella, it has to be said, is a good deal more pragmatic than Bill – who seems to be the sort of character born to shout “I say !”. However, even after the world as we know it has ended, there are still some who seem unwilling to allow Josella to live down a rather racy book she once wrote. Nevertheless, this is definitely well worth reading. In fact, it seems to describe a world we’re well familiar with in places : genetically modified plants, biological weapons, a web of satellites orbiting the planet in the name of ‘defence’ and an end to civilisation under greater threat from humans than aliens.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Left beside Gonzo.