Good storytelling

I started to listen to the audiobook version of the book Day of the Triffids.

I’ve read this book when I was a child, and I really loved the story, but especially the cover.

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This is how I imagine myself when I weed my garden since reading the book

The message did not really sink in; at the age of 14 I was more interested in action and heroic struggle (even with a plant) than deeper meanings and whatnot. (It took a while to understand the end part of Alfred Bester’s Stars are my Destination, too -another childhood favorite.)

Listening to it again  I realized it is a great example of storytelling. In fact Wyndham wrote the first zombie novel ever -with walking plants, no less. (The best way to deal with a triffid is by decapitation as it happens.)

There is an underlying message: the catastrophe bringing down the human race was a double whammy of our own hubris: orbital weapons of mass destruction and meddling with nature for greed. He does not spell out the reason everyone goes blind, but he does not have to; the reader assumes one of those orbital weapons experience some sort of fault. He avoids spoon-feeding the reader. He’s a bit more direct about the origin of the triffids: results of Soviet experimentation, becoming pests due to human greed (an oil producing company pays someone to smuggle out seeds, but they are shot down and the seeds are dispersed over the Pacific). Again: the conclusions are left for the reader; nothing is spelled out completely.

From here on we have the same story as the movie 28 days later -except this is the original one. The hero wakes up in a hospital missing the celestial fireworks due to his eye injury, witnesses scenes of tragedy and horror as the society breaks down because most people have lost their sight due to the above mentioned celestial event. It takes a while to realise that the fight against triffids will be his greatest struggle as he and some other survivors start rebuilding a new world. While he recounts the events of how the old, consumerist world gave way to the new one the narrator is living, he also provides the reader of a critical description of the “old” world.

We have themes of morality, scientific hubris, greed, the breakdown of social order, of personal choice, of a critique of our own civilization, and the mindless adversary that stalks the survivors, just like in any of the zombie stories you’ll ever read.

In short: it’s a brilliant story.

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