Currently listening to John Wyndham’s excellent novel The Day Of The Triffids, narrated by Graeme Malcolm, who does a fine job, a very matter-of-fact, practical delivery that really suits the material.
It’s a post-apocalyptic survival story. A freak meteor shower renders the overwhelming majority of the human race blind overnight–one of the most disturbing apocalypses ever written. The narrator is one of the few who escaped blindness, due to his eyes being bandaged during the event. He wakes up in a hospital in which civilization has totally broken down and must learn to survive in a drastically changed world.
The titular “Triffids” are large plants which possess both the power of locomotion and a fatal stinger that use to kill large animals, in order to draw nutrients from the flesh as it decays. Civilized humans cultivated them for their oil–against humans who are panicked by their sudden loss of sight, it’s the triffids who do the harvesting.
Listening to the story unfold I have been struck by similarities to the current television show, The Walking Dead. In both the focus is not on the implacable and seemingly endless swarms of mindless shambling hazards, but on the human element.
The difference is that the survivors that Wyndham posits are, well, a lot more believable characters than the ones on the TV show. I stopped watching TWD a few seasons back, and what I have heard about the program since hasn’t encouraged me to pick it back up.
The groups of survivors that gather in TDOTT have their conflicts, sometimes violent ones, but they aren’t manic cartoon villains. They have a plan for rebuilding a civilization, and while it’s clear that some of the plans are unworkable, Wyndham shows them as sympathetic–they may be wrong, but they aren’t evil.
Wynham’s hero Bill Mason knows that stores of food and fuel won’t last forever, and that running from supermarket to supermarket looking for unlooted shelves of canned goods isn’t a long term plan. After a few false starts he finds a farm which can be fortified against the triffid threat and begins to learn to be a farmer. He and another sighted survivor settle down and begin to raise a family, along with a few other survivors they have encountered.
The dangers that Wyndham’s survivors encounter, both human and non-, are just as potentially lethal as anything on The Walking Dead, but they are far more reasonable and, hence, more exciting to me. There is a logic to the triffid apocalypse that, sadly, is lacking in the zombie apocalypse.
I strongly recommend this novel. It was published in 1951, but I feel that it stands up well to the test of time. A true classic.