The two versions of the novel
Some people, reading about the origins of the triffids are puzzled by mention of Elovsk in Kamchatka as they often cannot find it in their copy of the novel. This is because there are actually two versions of the book in existence, the original and an Americanised version (as shown by the replacement of the British "tadpoles" with the North American "polliwogs" in chapter 2).
The quickest way to see which version you have is to look at the beginning of the very last paragraph of the novel. If it says:
"So we must regard the task ahead as ours alone."
you have the original version; if it says
"So we must think of the task ahead as ours alone."
you unfortunately have the American version.
I say "unfortunately" because the differences are not simply a few word changes. There are several substantial sections of the novel which have been removed in that version for no other purpose, as far as I can see, than to shorten the novel. I can see no reason why the deeper original version cannot be restored now. Out of interest, the original is about 90,500 words and the American version 79,500, so you could be missing 12% of the novel.
If you can't see the final pages (eg. you are searching on Amazon where they only show a few pages in the "Look Inside"), look at the second paragraph of the first chapter. In the full version, the paragraph begins:
"I felt that from the moment I woke. And yet, when I started functioning a little more smartly, I misgave."
The abridged version has:
"I felt that from the moment I woke. And yet, when I started functioning a little more smartly, I became doubtful."
So look for the "misgave".
Another confirmation is at the beginning of the fourth paragraph (of chapter 1). The full version says "Without a clock the place couldn't latch"; the US version says "Without a clock the place couldn't work".
At the bottom of the page, I give details on the (full) version that I possess and any others I hear about.
For the benefit of those with the abridged version, the major missing portions are set out below.
Red text indicates the common text before and after the excised portions.
Dr Soames (chapter 1)
The first person that Bill meets after leaving his room is a doctor called Soames who has also been struck blind. He gets Bill to lead him to his office on the fifth floor. There Soames tries to phone out but with no succcess; consequently he locates the window and throws himself through it.
It was difficult in that reverberating building to tell where the sounds were coming from, but one way the passage finished at an obscured french window, with the shadow of a balcony rail upon it, so I went the other. Rounding a corner, I found myself out of the private-room wing and on a broader corridor.
MISSING TEXT (about 585 words)
I opened the door. It was pretty dark in there. The curtains had evidently been drawn after the previous night's display was over – and they were still drawn.
Bill's father (chapter 2)
A short passage on Bill's father's view of his future prospects.
And until I was thirteen or fourteen I would shake my head, conscious of my sad inadequacy, and admit that I did not know.
MISSING TEXT (124 words)
It was the appearance of the triffids which really decided the matter for us. Indeed, they did a lot more than that for me. They provided me with a job and comfortably supported me. They also on several occasions almost took my life.
The origin of the triffids (chapter 2)
This is one of the the largest and most important of the missing portions, a long explanation of how Umberto Palanguez, along with Nikolai Baltinoff and a man called Fedor arranged the theft of triffid seeds from a Soviet laboratory in Elovsk, Kamchatka.
The laws of supply and demand should have enabled the more enterprising to organise commodity monopolies, but the world at large had become antagonistic to declared monopolies. However, the laced-company system, however, really worked very smoothly without anything so imputable as Articles of Federation. The general public heard scarcely anything of such little difficulties within the pattern as had to be untangled from time to time. Hardly anyone heard of even the existence of one Umberto Christoforo Palanguez, for instance. I only heard of him myself years later in the course of my work.
MISSING TEXT (about 2,270 words)
Perhaps Umberto's plane exploded, perhaps it just fell to pieces. Whichever it was, I am sure that when the fragments began their long, long fall towards the sea they left behind them something which looked at first like a white vapour.
Josella and her kidnapper (chapter 4)
A passage detailing the time spent between Josella's capture by the man and Bill freeing her where he goes into a bar and gets into a fight with a blind group.
"All right," he said. "From now on you can do your seeing for me. I'm hungry. Take me where there's a bit of good grub. Get on with it."
MISSING TEXT (about 655 words)
"I think, Bill," she said, "that though you wouldn't have guessed it to look at him, he wasn't perhaps too bad a man really. Only he was frightened. Deep down inside him he was much more frightened than I was. He gave me some food and something to drink. He only started beating me like that because he was drunk and I wouldn't go into his house with him. I don't know what would have happened if you hadn't come along."
Arrival at the University (chapter 6)
When Bill and Jo reach the University Tower and notice the crowd before it, they turn aside into Gower Street. There they park and make their way through a deserted house into the large communal gardens on the other side [which is actually the real Malet Street Gardens]. There, in the safety of the undergrowth, they watch the incident at the University.
"Steady," said Josella as we turned into the empty road. "I think there's something going on at the gates."
MISSING TEXT (about 335 words)
Whatever was going on was right at the front. We managed to find a slightly higher mound which gave us a view of the gates across the heads of the crowd.
Bill and Josella reflect on the disaster (chapter 6)
After meeting Elspeth Cary, Bill and Josella reflect on how hard it is to accept that they world they know has gone forever, and whether society can recover.
Josella lay down, clasped her hands behind her head, and gazed up into the depths of the sky. When the helicopter's engine ceased, things sounded very much quieter than before we had heard it.
MISSING TEXT (about 415 words)
Josella made no answer. She lay facing upwards with a faraway look in her eyes. I thought perhaps I could guess something of what was passing in her mind, but I said nothing. She did not speak for a little while, then she said:
Bill in his cell (chapter 8)
Bill examines his cell but finds little chance of escape. Alf returns with some food.
Alf went away, leaving me to my cogitations and a packet of his cigarettes. I surveyed the outlook and thought little of it. I wondered how the others would be taking it. Particularly what would be Josella's view.
MISSING TEXT (about 285 words)
When Alf reappeared with more food and the inevitable can of tea, he was accompanied by the man he had called Coker. He looked more tired now than when I had seen him before. Under his arm he carried a bundle of papers. He gave me a searching look.
Bill ponders on his choices (chapter 8)
While waiting in his cell, Bill ponders on which would be the best choice: to rebuild a new society like the University group or help the old like Coker.
After that I had simply my thoughts for company for a bit.
MISSING TEXT (about 250 words)
I knew I ought to make my mind up once and for all on the right course, and stick to it. But I could not. I see-sawed. Some hours later when I fell asleep I was still see-sawing.
Bill's search for Josella (chapter 9)
Bill wanders the near-deserted streets of London, searching for Josella. A woman who had been in her group directs him to a hotel where he learns that Josella had also fled the plague.
Above it all rose the Houses of Parliament, with the hands of the clock stopped at three minutes past six. … So it would flow until the day the Embankments crumbled and the water spread out and Westminster became once more an island in a marsh.
MISSING TEXT (about 1,385 words)
I reckoned Josella would think the same – and there was a hope that some others of our dispersed party might have drifted back there in an effort to reunite. It was not a very strong hope, for common sense would have caused them to leave there days ago.
The settling of Tynsham (chapter 10)
Details on how Beadley and Durrant's parties arrived at Tynsham and went their separate ways.
"It's finished," I said.
MISSING TEXT (about 965 words)
Of Josella, the girl could tell me nothing. Clearly she had never heard the name before, and my attempts at description roused no recollections.
The old attitudes of women (chapter 10)
Coker explains how women could previously allow men to handle many things that they must now learn to deal with themselves.
She looked understandably annoyed. Coker himself had been annoyed from the time he came in. She said:
MISSING TEXT (about 586 words)
"I don't see why you need to pour all your contempt for women onto me – just because of one dirty old engine," she said peevishly.
Coker harangues the woman (chapter 10)
A couple of paragraphs where Coker berates the woman for her attitude.
MISSING TEXT (104 words)
"Listen," said Coker patiently. "If you have a baby, do you want him to grow up to be a savage or a civilised man?"
Bill and Coker continue their discussion (chapter 10)
Bill and Coker continue to discuss how to get the reluctant community to accept new ideas.
"You'd expect her to see reason," he muttered.
MISSING TEXT (202 words)
"Most people don't, even though they'd protest that they are. They prefer to be coaxed or wheedled, or even driven. That way they never make a mistake: if there is one, it's always due to something or somebody else…."
Coker at Tynsham (chapter 11)
Coker inspects the arrangements at Tynsham and begins to reorganise it.
Coker reappeared again at the midday meal.
MISSING TEXT (78 words)
He had found most of the men to be plunged in gloom by a well-meant assurance from the vicar….
Travelling through the countryside (chapter 11)
As Bill and Coker drive through the countryside, Bill reflects on the preponderance of the triffids and the difficulties with recreating a society with them around.
"Another coincidence? Or were they coming to see what had happened to their pal?" asked Coker.
MISSING TEXT (about 895 words)
With only two more stops, one for food and the other for fuel, we made good time, and ran into Beaminster about half past four in the afternoon.
The experiences of the trio (chapter 12)
A resume of how the three survivors had escaped the comet and its aftermath.
I was feeling wilted and dry after some hours in the driving cab with the sun on it. … Then it was their turn.
MISSING TEXT (about 515 words)
They were an oddly assorted trio. The fair-haired man turned out to be a member of the Stock Exchange by the name of Stephen Brennell.
Mrs Forcett (chapter 12)
Coker arrives back with Mrs Forcett, the owner of a store who had slept through the comet and turns out to be a good cook.
Another half hour or so passed, and then Coker arrived.
MISSING TEXT (about 455 words)
Back in Charcott Old House that evening we gathered again around the map.
The necessity of leisure (chapter 12)
Talking to Stephen, Coker explains why a large settlement creates leisure time and the chance to learn.
"Now," he went on, "from my reading of history, the thing you have to have to use knowledge is leisure. … it was the labour of the countryside that supported them."
MISSING TEXT (about 135 words)
"Well?" said Stephen after a pause.
Dennis and Mary's plans (chapter 14)
A short paragraph about Dennis and Mary's intentions with Shirning before the comet.
Not that I didn't from the start prefer Shirning to the thought of Tynsham – yet to join a larger group was … But the sheds and barns remained in good condition.
MISSING TEXT (64 words)
With its own well and its own power plant, the place had plenty to recommend it …
The dead countryside (chapter 15)
On Bill's tours of the countryside, he notices that there are very few animals or people.
My first tentative trip there I took alone, returning with cases of triffid-bolts, paper, engine parts, … It upset her, and it remained the only visit she made.
MISSING TEXT (88 words)
It was at the end of the fourth year that I made my last trip, and found that there were now risks which I was not justified in taking.
The vanished world (chapter 15)
Bill and Josella talk about triffid intelligence, the world that's gone and what to tell their children.'
Josella frowned down on a group of four triffids ambling across a field below us.
MISSING TEXT (about 540 words)
"If I were a child now," she said reflectively, "I think I should want a reason of some kind….
Comets through history (chapter 15)
A short piece where Bill talks about the portentous view of comets in the past.
She turned to look at me.
MISSING TEXT (148 words)
"Are you trying to tell me that you don't think it was a comet at all?"
The fortunes of life (chapter 15)
Bill and Josella ponder on the randomness of life, why they happened to be the ones to survive.
"Poor little things," she said, as if she were gazing down rows of increasingly great-grandchildren, "it's not much that we're offering them, is it?"
MISSING TEXT (about 235 words)
We sat there a little longer, looking at the empty sea, and then drove down to the little town.
If you want to be sure that you have the full version, these are the details of the copy I have and the cover:
ISBN: 0 14 00.0993 0
Last reprint date: 1979
If you have another version that is unabridged, please contact me with the details and which cover it has (see this link for examples) and I will add it here.
This version has also been reported to be a full text (thanks to Claudette Wilkinson):
This version has also been reported to be a full text (thanks to James Mayuga):
ISBN: 978 0 141 03300 6
Last reprint date: 2008