The Night of the Triffids

All bookaholics have books we’ve read more times than we remember. One of mine is The Day of the Triffids, by John Wyndham, an author my voracious reader parents introduced The Day of the Triffidsme to decades ago (my dad even kept a plant labeled triffidus americanus on the patio). Several of Wyndham’s other books also fall into the treasured book category, and a couple of years ago I even replaced my tattered copies with brand new editions (from their British publisher, through the Book Depository, as much of Wyndham’s work has gone out of print in this country).


The Day of the Triffids tells of the collapse of civilization after much of the human population is blinded by a strange comet’s light show, while man-eating and mobile plants called triffids escape from greenhouses and gardens and overwhelm London, the countryside, and as far as anyone knows, the world. The novel ends with the narrator, Bill Masen, and his family safe, at least for the time being, in a growing colony on the Isle of Wight, defensible against triffids from the mainland.


I only recently discovered The Night of the Triffids by Simon Clark, although it was published in 2001 and won the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2002. Clark, The Night of the Triffidsprimarily known as an author of horror novels, wrote this sequel with the permission of Wyndham’s estate (Wyndham died in 1969) and with obvious respect and love for Wyndham’s work.


The narrator of The Night of the Triffids is David Masen, Bill’s son. Some thirty years later, David pilots one of the ancient flying boats the Isle of Wight colony uses to maintain contact and trade with the other channel islands. One morning he awakens to total darkness, an echo of the long ago blinding. As the sunlight gradually comes back David’s adventures mount. Rescued after a crash by an American survey ship, he travels across the Atlantic to Manhattan, a seemingly idyllic island of civilization. But we all know that things are rarely as they seem.


Clark piles on the disasters and surprises, and the triffids continue to terrify (some American triffids reach sixty feet in height), but he knows, as Wyndham did, that sometimes one’s fellow humans are more to be feared than the forces of nature.


Clark is not Wyndham, but he’s done a good job of carrying on the voice and the story of The Day of the Triffids. I highly recommend all of Wyndham’s novels (Re-Birth and Out of the Deeps, British titles The Chrysalids and The Kraken Wakes respectively, are my other favorites, and The Midwich Cuckoos may be the best known after Triffids). The 1981 BBC TV version of The Day of the Triffids is excellent, and the most faithful to the novel, but unfortunately it seems to have gone out of print (if that’s the right term for an unavailable DVD).


Recent Reading: Old and New

There’s been no pattern to my reading lately–maybe it’s too early in the year for patterns.  Not that I’ve found much time for reading, but I keep trying. 

One night when I found myself staring in semi-panic at the proliferation of unread books in my bedroom, I snatched up something close at hand:  The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham.  First published in 1955, and known in the US as Rebirth, this copy was a replacement for the worn and yellowed 1969 paperback on my shelf.  Wyndham is largely out of print in the US, but his books are available through The Book Depository.

Told in Wyndham’s favorite first-person narrative, The Chrysalids is set in an unspecified future, long after The Tribulation, a mystery to the book’s characters, but clearly a nuclear holocaust of some sort.  In the 1950s that meant radiation and genetic mutation, and the central conflict in the book involves the fanatical efforts of the local leadership to maintain mankind, as well as the animals and crops, in pure form.  David, the protagonist, is a telepath.  He and the handful of others with the same gift appear to be perfectly normal, but in time it becomes clear they are not.  When others reach the same conclusion, the telepaths run for their lives.  Always the philosopher, Wyndham wonders which is more valuable, stability or change, regimentation or chaos?

Margaret Maron’s Three-Day Town is the latest in her Judge Deborah Knott mystery series.  Deborah and her husband venture away from their home in North Carolina to visit New York City, where they cross paths with Sigrid Harald, the NYC detective protagonist of Maron’s earlier series.  I enjoyed another visit with Deborah, but I didn’t find Sigrid particularly compelling (I haven’t read her earlier stories), and I missed Deborah’s enormous family and the often hilarious cases that pass through her courtroom.  I trust she and Dwight will be back home when we meet them again in Maron’s next mystery.

Meanwhile on my Kindle, I was reading Three Days at Wrigley Field, by K.P. Gresham.  Disclaimer here:  Kathy Gresham is an old friend and one-time critique partner of mine who decamped a few years ago to Austin.  When I heard that she had independently published this novel, which I had heard about but never read, I jumped at the chance.  I’m not much of a sports fan, but Kathy is, and her love and knowledge of baseball permeate this story of the first woman to try out for a major league team.  The book is about much more than baseball, of course, and well worth reading.

I half-read, half-skimmed my way through The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and frankly, I still don’t understand.  Why would I want to keep the friends of the friends of my friends posted on my activities?  Why would I want to follow theirs?  I have friends (actual in-the-flesh friends) who practically live on Facebook, and others who have pages there but only look at them every few weeks.  Just the other day my dental technician told me about someone who found her through Facebook–and she really wishes he hadn’t.  I guess I’m just not ready to join the party, spend the time, or invest that much effort in keeping up with the ever-changing privacy settings.  I feel a whole lot more secure here on my blog.


Thursday thoughts

Nothing special to write about tonight, but I thought I’d post a few random bits and pieces.  I’m on Day 117 (once I write at least one hundred words tonight) of my current writing challenge, trying to finish my work in progress by the end of the month.  My deadline has nothing to do with NaNoWriMo, and I don’t have a whole novel to write in that time, but the idea is the same.

I’m reading a new book by my friend Cheryl Bolen, With His Lady’s Assistance, the first in a planned series of Regency-set mysteries.  It’s a delightful book, and should be available shortly on Amazon and other reputable ebook shops.  I’ll post a review and a link when it’s up.  [Here’s the link, review coming soon.]

I’ve now read three of the six John Wyndham books I ordered a couple of months ago.  The Midwich Cuckoos was filmed (twice) as Village of the Damned, but Cuckoos is much the better title.  Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes (Out of the Deeps in U.S. editions) included a lot of action, but Cuckoos is a philosophical book for the most part, with a great deal of rather academic dialog and a first person narrator who warns the reader from the beginning that he will be telling the story as it happened, not as he learned of it.  I enjoyed the book, remembered most of it from long-ago readings, but I was struck by what now seems a very old-fashioned style and pace.  One of those classic books that makes one wonder if it would ever be published today.

The lastest version (3.4) of Action Outline has added graphic support.  Now you can tuck pictures into the text portion of your outline, which should be useful for research notes.

A friend (Hi, Margie!) sent me this picture in one of those email collections that circulates endlessly around the universe.  I hadn’t seen this little guy before.  I would happily give credit where credit is due, but I have no idea where the photo came from.

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