Constructive Writing: The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham

Day of the Triffids coverBut even to make the setting intelligible I find that I shall have to go back father than the point at which I started. (p.25)

Unashamedly John Wyndham is explaining that the first chapter of his book was purely a hook. An opening that works to get the reader interested.

I knew now that something fearful and horrible was happening. I could not stand my isolation and helplessness any longer. (p.11)

In the first few pagers the reader has found a lead character to relate to, one who is competent in a difficult situation, and who is considered a failure by his father. The reader also finds a world, similar their own, in which a drastic change has occurred. Overnight, almost everyone has become blind.

’When she found as the kinds was blind too, what did she do? Took ‘em into our bed with her, and turned on the gas.’ (p. 24)

What follows is less an action adventure, as the involvement of the predatory triffids might suggest, and more an investigation on humanity, personality, and what would become of us if blindness fell on a population.

’…I’ve been haunted by Coker – the first generation, labourers; the next savages…’ (p.260)

It is an interesting, well written, occasionally funny read.

Changing Status: The story is told as a narration, from a character who is smart, resourceful, and considered a failure or near-loon by authortiy figures. Constantly he proves himself in the problems that present.

The Worst: Triffids. In one creation of genius, John Wyndham has elevated a book about personalities  into a dramatic book about surviving in a hostile environment. The triffids are a plant spieces that kill, and they thrive in a sightless world. The world has turned to their advantage.

Believable Characters: The backbone, basis, and end-all of The Day of the Triffids are the characters. Now, the book is not excellent in its depiction of characters – they do present as two dimensional. However the characters do represent personalities, and how each type of person deals in, and with, the new world is perfect. I mean that. This is why the book is considered one of the best Sci-Fi books ever (and made into a few films).

Time Pressure: A disease is spreading in the city. Those who are sighted try, because they must, leave before infection. And once out, they must find somewhere to live before the triffids kill them. There is an ever present urgency to their actions… yet the occasional human decision/need to delay urgency adds reality, character, and urgency.

Educate: What is the best course of action in a catastrophe? Very few people know what to do in a troubling situation (a flight instructor once said, “The greatest threat to a pilot in a crash situation is: they run out of good ideas and time very quickly”.). If you want to know what to expect in a world returned to year one, read this book.