Sunday, July 29, 2012

'Nuff Read: The Day of the Triffids

"When a day you know is Wednesday starts off sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere." (Opening line, The Day of the Triffids, 1951)

Once I realized that multiple copies of The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham were available for borrowing, it was a no-brainer that I'd make the quick trip to the local public library. Both of the Monroe County Public Library's Rundell Branch employees who checked my book (counter and security) commented on how they had enjoyed the film version, I assumed they were both referring to a widely seen the classic 1962 version, not the much less widely seen 2006 version starring Dougray Scott.

Though a childhood fan of the 1962 film, I came to a desire to read the novel once I was made aware that it had been a source (of sorts) for two more recent pieces I have enjoyed. Just as Wyndham acknowledged the influence of H.G. Wells writing on his own work, both the film 28 Days Later (2002), directed by Academy Award winning director of Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle, and The Walking Dead comic book and television show both share DNA with Wyndham's novel, originally published in 1951. The most obvious shared plot point is the opening of each: the protagonist awakens in a hospital bed, and, unbeknownst to him,  the world has been somehow irrevocably changed...

The Day of the Triffidsis told from the protagonist's perspective as he (Bill Masen), recounts coming to terms with these changes and begins to go about establishing a new world for himself. Along the way he falls in love, makes enemies and utilizes his pre-catastrophe professional knowledge of a strange plant creature that has been exploited for human use: the triffids of the title.

Aware of its status as a "Classic Science Fiction Novel," as further reinforced by the sticker on the edition's cover tells me so, in terms of reading experiences, this novel should have been a slam dunk summer read for me. But something happened as I read. Elegantly written, using a splendid British sensibility (as well as employing an upper level vocabulary), the story just never fully came together for me. Regrettably, for novel entitled The Day of the TRIFFIDS there just wasn't enough triffid in the novel for me.

There is so much to recommend this book as a pleasurable read and as a potential high school level reading novel that many would want to read based on its influence on more popular modern selections. The story of survivors following twin tragedies (the blinding of the majority of most of Earth's population and the rise of killer plants) is readily engaging, and, (this is a significant point, so I'll say it again) given the success of post-apocalyptic media narratives, provides an obvious hook for readers There is an abundance of SAT level (or Tier 2 if you will) vocabulary, it just reads a "smart" book, an experience that is great for students of all levels: to feel like you're reading something that in addition to being "cool" also has a high level of vocabulary.

While I invite you to read The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, I regret to tell you that I can't promise it will be the most pleasurable reading experience of your summer--but in all likelihood I missed something or didn't read it carefully enough, I suppose. Maybe for you it will click, but for me, beyond reading it as a dream school approved selection, I think that I'll stick with more recent iterations of similar ideas.

Other reecent Summer Reading:
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
At the Mountains of Madness: The Definitive Edition by H.P. Lovecraft
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kankwamba

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