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Issue 80 - Heavy plants crossing

Whisky Magazine Issue 80
June 2009


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Heavy plants crossing

Jefferson Chase looks at a ground breaking 50s novel.

So you think you're having a bad day?

Imagine if you woke up to find that 99 per cent of humanity had gone blind, and giant, man-eating, ambulant plants were poised to take over the Earth?

That's the scenario faced by Bill Masen, the hero of John Wyndham's groundbreaking 1951 science-fiction novel The Day of the Triffids.

Like any right-thinking person, especially in a novel set in England, Masen's first reaction is to head a pub. There he encounters a group of fellow imbibers who are having trouble, without eyesight, avoiding the gin and locating the good stuff.

Masen obliges by finding the correct drink.

I looked at my companion. He was taking his whisky neat, out of the bottle.

“You'll get drunk,” I said.

He paused and turned his head toward me. I could have sworn his eyes really saw me.

“Get drunk! Damn it, I am drunk,” he said scornfully.

This tiny scene encapsulates what makes Wyndham's work worth reading for non-science fiction fans. The Day of the Triffids is less concerned with fantastic scenarios than with human nature, with how we react – for better or worse – when our normal daily routines are disrupted.

Global catastrophe, from Masen's point-ofview, is an eye-opener.

Looking back at the shape of things then, the amount we did not know and did not care to know about our daily lives is not only astonishing but somehow a bit shocking. I knew practically nothing, for instance, of such ordinary things as how my food reached me, where the fresh w...

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