For those unfamiliar with the visionary British ‘Logical Fantasy’ author John Wyndham, triffids are genetically-engineered mobile, carnivorous plants. Standing at least seven foot (over two metres) tall, and clumsily propelled by three leg-like roots, triffids share with more prosaic vegetables the ability to grow through exposure to sunlight and rainwater, and collecting nutrients from soil. However, triffids also have the ability to lash out at animals (including humans) with a long whorl, lacerating the victim, whilst delivering a poisonous dose strong enough to kill a grown man. These biological wonders then slowly digest parts of the rotting carcass.
In The Day of the Triffids, the Soviet created flesh-eating hybrids, are received in the West like a Trojan Horse. Despite the lethal nature of triffids, their cultivation is encouraged on an industrial scale, since triffid-oil has health-giving properties, as well as many profitable applications. When almost everybody on Earth is rendered sightless after viewing mysterious, and hypnotic green ‘comets’, blind panic ensues, and the triffids seize their day.
The Day of the Triffids is thoughtful, compelling, and written in a style that compliments Wyndham’s rich imagination. Only the contemporary dialogue gives an indication that the story was penned six decades ago. Zombie aficionados may perceive parallels between triffids and the undead. Zombies and triffids share in common a graceless style of movement, a taste for human flesh, and a tendency to gather in large numbers. Both creatures show little regard for their individual safety, and killing one will not deter others. As with zombies, triffids can sustain a great deal of physical damage. One must also consider the differences; triffids display collective intelligence, are a communicative species, and though extremely attuned to sound, can not see.
Another aspect of Wyndham’s classic that will resonate with zombiephiles is the presence of countless hungry souls completely unaccustomed to blindness. They make easy targets for hunting triffids, but also themselves resemble cumbersome zombies. When the lead characters are trapped in a motionless car, the pawing mob of blinded people descend on the vehicle with zombie-like menace.
As for the oft-debated question ‘Zombies versus Triffids?’ I would come down on the triffid side of the fence. In many respects zombies are a triffid’s natural prey, since Zombies are beasts rarely given to stealth. Furthermore, triffids feed on decomposing meat, which is essentially what zombies are. The poison is designed to kill humans, which are roughly the same size as zombies. They also possess greater powers of reasoning than their partially-alive opponents. Nevertheless, triffids do have an Achilles heel, namely their dread of fire. One flaming zombie would force a hundred triffids into febrile retreat.