Er, yes, Cal I read the book. I’m a bit put off by the glib assumption that I didn’t. Did I at some point post something that caused you to file me in the “Drooling Idiot” bin?
Most of what you state as fact is offered by the characters in the novel merely as speculation. It’s never stated definitively whether the triffids were engineered, or whether they’d been found in some natural setting and possibly selectively bred, or what.
The whole orbital blinding weapon thing didn’t sit well with me, either. Joselle (or somebody . . . Coker?) speculates that perhaps satellites that were supposed descend in altitude to blind people in a localized area, but that dust from the comet caused them to go off in orbit, blinding almost everyone. But if it was designed to operate from a low altitude, how would it have enough intensity to blind people from its usual orbit? Well, it’s all offered as speculation, anyway, so who knows? But that’s exactly what bugged me. The lack of a firm, plausible scenario.
(Also, small nitpick: at the beginning of the story, the green flashes were attributed to a meteor shower caused by the Earth’s passage through the dusty tail of the comet, not the comet itself.)
And, yeah, of course you’d have to beef up the triffids if they were going to be the only threat to a normally-sighted populace, but that shouldn’t be too tough, should it?
tanstaafl, I can buy your moral for the story. Just seems kind of hamfisted, doesn’t it? “They kept dangerous plants about, which ran amuck when entire population of the world went suddenly went blind! Learn from their mistakes!” (Or, if you prefer, "They built hideous blinding machines that went awry, and unexpectedly made the populace vulnerable to the, uh, killer plants that they were, uh, growing in . . . vast . . . numbers. . . ")
If the either component of the disaster was a touch more plausible, I think it all would have been more satisfying . . . or if the two had been more closely related in some way–if blindness ultimately attributed to triffid-oil, or if the triffids were aliens and it was all part of a diabolical (and therefore logically-consistent!) invasion plan . . .
I kept waiting for a tidy explanation to tie it all together, and instead was left hanging.
The whole rebuilding society thing, as you say, Cal, was well-handled, which is why I still think it was okay . . . but it’s really odd that it’s Wyndham’s best-known book.