First published back in June of 2001, British horror author Simon Clark’s novel ‘The Night Of The Triffids’ formed the fully-authorised 50th anniversary sequel to John Wyndham’s classic post-apocalyptic novel ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ (1951).
It’s now twenty-five years since the world was irreversibly changed by the meteor showers that left the vast majority of the world’s population blind, which led to the outbreak of the vicious Triffid plants from the previously-secured farms.
David Mason (the son of Bill Mason) wakes one morning to find that the world has been immersed in complete darkness. Looking up to the sky, the sun seems to have vanished. In an attempt to locate the cause of this total darkness, Mason flies his triffid-fuelled plane up into the heavens, in a hope of finding out what it is that is responsible for bloating out the sun. But the flight goes wrong, and after losing contact with his base on the Isle of Wight, Mason plummets towards the Atlantic, only to crash-land on a floating island in the middle-of-nowhere.
To his dismay, the small island is inhabited by his father’s old foe – the triffids. However, Mason quickly finds he is not alone on the island, after running in to sixteen-year-old Christina Schofield who appears to be immune to the usually deadly triffid stings. Thankfully, rescue arrives soon enough in the form of a passing ship transporting a team of American scientists.
Learning of the young girl’s immunity to triffid venom as well as Mason’s ability to refine triffid-oil into a workable fuel, the captain for the ship is ordered to return to Manhattan without further delay. Mason’s hopes of making his way home to the large community he has grown up with on the Isle Of Wight go ignored.
Upon arriving at the equally triffid-free Manhattan, Mason realises that those across the Atlantic have fared a lot better than their European counterparts. Here society has returned to something approaching the lifestyle of the 1950’s before the triffids first attacked; with electricity, running water, televisions, cinemas and cars all present across the entire city.
Adjusting to this new way of life in this thriving New York community, Mason begins to realise that there’s something rotten at its core. He begins to see that Manhattan isn’t the dream city that it first appeared to be. The basis of the community has been built on slavery and oppressive brutality. Ultimately responsible for this xenophobic dictatorship is a General Fielding, who Mason soon realises is his father’s old rival – the paramilitary commander Torrence.
With the thoroughly evil Torrence ruling over the vast city, a band of rebels has formed to stand against the dictator’s tyrannical rule. One of which is the young woman named Kerris who David has struck up a close friendship with. And as Mason soon learns, Kerris has more reasons than most to hate the oppressive tyrant.
Meanwhile the triffids have been evolving. A larger, more aggressive strain of the ferocious plant has mutated. Taking advantage of the blanket of darkness that has fallen over the world, the triffids are forming ranks, preparing themselves for war. Another war on mankind...
Like with Wyndham’s original ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ (1951), Clark’s sequel is written in the first-person-perspective of our principal protagonist, the son of the original narrator - Bill Mason. This is not the only aspect of the novel that purposefully mirrors the original. The ‘waking up in absolute darkness’ at the beginning is clearly a very deliberate homage to how ‘The Day Of The Triffids’ (1951) started out. Indeed, many of the characters that are brought into the sequel seem to be built around those from the original, not to mention the surprising resurrection of the hideous antagonist from the original – the paramilitary commander Torrence.
Instead of taking Wyndham’s original and working from there with an attempted pastiche of the original, Clark has instead taken the much more wise route of understanding the universally high-regard that is felt for this modern literary classic, and with this in mind, has taken the sequel in a purposefully different direction. Clark clearly knows his strengths and his own personal style of writing, and has incorporated this in a very sensible fashion into the Triffids storyline. Here we have more fast-paced almost pulpish scenes with plenty of outlandish exaggeration ramping up the thrills and spills of the plot. In doing this, Clark has lost a hefty slice of the grittiness that Wyndham brought to the original, replacing it with an upping-the-anti on the triffid threat level, along with sending the storyline off on a whole new ‘oppressive tyrant’ angle.
Taking the novel’s predominant focus away from that of the triffids for a good portion of the tale, Clark instead brings in an age-old message around mankind’s despicable thirst for war on itself – even at a time when humanity is very possibly on the brink of extinction. With two separate colonies at each other’s throats, Clark utilises the post-apocalyptic backdrop to its full extent, bringing out a tense and utterly unpredictable new direction for the tale.
Comparing the two novels is a bad idea. Firstly, they’re vastly different in so many fundamental ways. And secondly, Clark knew he would never be able to stand his sequel up against Wyndham’s original, and so he hasn’t gone for anything ground-breaking or jaw-dropping. Instead we have a well-written and utterly enjoyable horror romp with plenty of action, wildly pulpish mutations, and a finale to get you jumping out of your seat.
Okay, so I admit that Clark goes a bit too far with a number of elements in the tale. There’s far-fetched and then there’s Clark’s uber-mutated triffids gone berserk. But then you need to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Accept it for what it is – a B-movie in book form. Even the colourful cover of the book screams ‘don’t take me too seriously’. So in a nutshell…don’t!
The novel runs for a total of 406 pages.
© DLS Reviews