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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

What I liked:

The triffids. They're ungainly, amusing, and deadly. Unlike others, I didn't find them silly or ridiculous, which may be because Wyndham doesn't weight them down with a lot of supernatural or "alien" powers. They're a force of nature, not much different from lions or tigers on the loose. They're just...different, a new species, and the inherent mystery in that only deepens their appeal.

The humor. This is evidently a Wyndham staple. He's got a light touch, and he uses it well to humanize his characters and make you like them (even if you don't always agree with them). The characters with little or no humor in their bones are the ones you have to watch out for, which is pretty much like real life.  Of particular note is a newsreel piece on the triffids that is so pitch-perfect, it's hilarious.

The focus. Give me a book called "The Day of the Triffids" and I'm thinking it's all about battling triffids--you know, "Night of the Living Triffids." But it isn't. And that's a good thing here because Wyndham, unlike a lot of zombie moviemakers, understands that his triffids aren't complex enough to make that story significantly different from a thousand other similar stories. So he keeps them on the periphery for much of the book, only bringing them on stage when they can be truly effective. Instead, he focuses on survival and, ultimately, a number of different ideas about how to rebuild human civilization. (But it's a short book, by today's standards, so these ideas aren't explored in any depth; they're more food for thought than anything else.)

What I didn't like:

That every time the hero faces a tough question about what to do next, the answer is miraculously, conveniently provided for him by suddenly changed circumstances. Perhaps Wyndham couldn't bear to have his hero make a controversial decision. Funny thing is, the most controversial decision of the entire book gets made at the very beginning, and it's passed off as a no-brainer. This is when the hero decides to save himself at the expense of all the recently, helplessly blind.

What didn't bother me:

The sexism. There are a lot more important things to worry about than the off-handed sexism of a story from a time and a genre that are unquestionably male-centric. Better to look at the positives: a heroine who displays more brains than the hero on at least one occasion, who is resourceful enough to escape a dying city and, by herself, travel great distances to a place of relative safety and security, and a girl child who is more observant than our much older, male hero, who is quick-thinking, and who readily learns how to kick some serious triffid ass.