The Night of the Triffids is, unsurprisingly, a sequel to the John Wyndham classic sci-fi / horror thriller The Day of the Triffids. The eponymous plants are a genetic mutation/creation who, after a freak occurrence renders most of the world’s populace blind, seem intent on taking over the world. That book ends with a small colony of humans setting up shop on the Isle of Wight, working towards a a plan to rid the world of triffids and take control of the earth once more.
Thirty years or so have passed when we start this book. The narrator is David Mason, son of William Mason, who is a local hero (and who was the narrator of The Day of the Triffids). David has not followed in the footsteps of his father, instead becoming a pilot. As with its predecessor, this book opens with the discovery that something has gone badly wrong, an inability to see… but for very different reasons than last time. Much worse, though, the triffids, plants that lurch around on wooden boles, look somewhat like sunflowers but have a poisonous sting which they can lash out from about ten feet away, and that seem to have a form of collective intelligence, are in a much better position to take advantage of the situation than they were before.
The author, Simon Clark, wastes little time getting us into the action and makes a real attempt to write in a way that Wyndham himself would have been pleased with, from the almost poetic language at times to the elaborate use of metaphor (he succeeds rather more with the latter than the former). He even references H.G. Wells and others of the era, keeping the atmosphere in line with Wyndham’s own prose. Once things get going, things move at a very brisk pace, and some of the extended action scenes are truly compelling. Initially, the structure and styling of the book seem a little too closely imitative of The Day of the Triffids, thus the writing comes across as slightly self-conscious for the first couple chapters. Clark warms to his theme, however, and does a tremendous job of logically extending the initial premise into a plot that pulses with a life of its own. The only real criticism of the latter sections of the book is that the plot twists are just that bit too obvious. For this reason, along with the slightly weak start of the book, I feel it doesn’t quite deserve 5 stars – but it only misses by a narrow margin.
The characterisation is handled very well, with personalities being allowed to shine through in situations rather than being formally presented by the author. Many of the major characters from The Day of the Triffids are here and are developed logically from those that we who have read that book already know, but many of the main characters are completely new and stand up well in their own right. The action sequences are very well written, too. The ending is, as with its predecessor’s, rather abrupt, but the conclusion is satisfying when reached - perhaps even leaving the way marginally open for a sequel of this sequel?!
Overall, The Night of the Triffids is a fine work of fiction that will keep any sci-fi/horror fan happy, and Wyndham fans will be more than pleased with how Simon Clark has continued the story.