“The Night of the Triffids”
In 2001, fifty years after the publication of The Day of the Triffids, Simon Clark published a sequel, The Night of the Triffids. Set 25 years after the end of the original, it follows the story of Bill Masen’s son, David. He has become a pilot, living in the community on the Isle of Wight that was referred to at the end of the original.
A mysterious cloud appears, blotting out the light, and David is sent aloft in an aircraft to ascertain its extent. After losing contact with base, he crashes, encounters a feral girl and is rescued by an American ship. Hearing that the girl is immune to triffid stings, the ship is recalled to the USA, to New York.
New York turns out to be a dictatorship, run by Torrence, Bill Masen’s enemy from the Day of the Triffids, where virtual slaves work to keep the privileged in comfort. David and the immune girl find themselves torn between Torrence’s forces and a rebel army.
I was torn after reading this book. First if all, I enjoyed it and found myself picking up the book at every half chance to keep reading. It’s an exciting book, written in a similar style to the original. However, I rarely felt that this was really a sequel to Wyndham’s book, especially after the move to America when it often felt like a standard Hollywood sci-fi movie.
John Wyndham creates a fascinating scenario in the Day of the Triffids with 99% of the population blind, most of which would die, while the few sighted have to struggle against natural problems, such as finding food and shaping a new society, as well as the advance of the triffids. There is enough there to construct a hundred exciting stories, yet Simon Clark feels the need to invent so many extra developments.
The cloud which appears at the beginning is pretty much left as a mystery (it is explained as interstellar dust which just happened to appear). You suspect that there should be some link to the comet of the original but that is not developed. In fact, once David is taken to America, the cloud is almost forgotten. The only purpose seems to be to create the similar mysterious opening as the original, and to provide a reason for David to crash.
I also disliked the society of America, with its cars, underground trains, aircraft, submarines and tanks which seemed not only implausible (thirty years after losing 99% or more of the population, they have managed to gather enough people to run power stations, man ships, drive tanks, etc.), but also rather dull. When you think of all the possible societies that might have developed in thirty years, one that pretty much resembles the present day is one of the least exciting. I would have liked to have read more about societies managing with more basic skills and tools.
The appearance of Torrence again seemed unnecessary and implausible. It seemed far-fetched in the first place in Wyndham’s book that the same person Bill casually meets in London would turn up five years later on the South Downs. To find the same character twenty five years later in New York is even more unbelievable. It felt rather like a forced link, an attempt to join the two books together.
As for aquatic and gigantic triffids, this was unscientific at the very least. Organisms evolve and adapt when conditions change. But if the triffids had already conquered the world, why would they need to change so dramatically in twenty five years? Again, it was just an unnecessary invention as bog-standard triffids create enough exciting situations as they are.
So I was disappointed with this book as a sequel to The Day of the Triffids, while enjoying it immensely as a story. It is definitely worth reading.