I first read this novel when I was about fifteen, after being gripped by the brilliant BBC television adaptation of it some years before. And now, in the light of horror author Simon Clark recently writing The Night of the Triffids, I thought I’d give the original another whirl before I tackle the sequel. As a kid, this novel was as an exciting “monster story”; now, through the eyes of an adult, I see it as an ultra-realistic commentary on the collapse of mankind.
You might think “realistic” is the wrong word to use to describe a book about walking plants, but to be honest, the triffids themselves do not really play a very big role. The story concerns Bill Mason, a triffid farmer, who finds himself in hospital with bandages over his eyes as a result of a triffid sting. In his misfortune (or so he thinks) he misses the cosmic event of the century – the night sky is aglow with masses of comet debris, and the whole world is watching it in awe. The next morning, however, ninety-nine percent of the world’s population wake up sightless. This is the new world that Bill and a handful of others are faced with – a world of mass helplessness leading to starvation, to death, and ultimately to the unstoppable rise of the triffids, thriving on the demise of mankind.
If your introduction to the triffids has been that mediocre 60s B-movie, I urge you to forget about it and try this novel. It’s not a trashy sci-fi yarn; it’s a very insightful tale about mankind facing the end of the world – the mistakes we would make and the hopes we would have. Rightly regarded as a classic.