You might not expect a novel about killer plants to be thoroughly lacking in over-the-top corniness, but John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids handily pulls it off.
William Masen awakes one morning to find that he is among the few humans in London who still possess the capacity for sight. The reason for sudden widespread blindness involves a meteoric event, and the circumstances that most of the helpless citizens find themselves in are scary enough without the addition of a more sentient threat: large, hostile plants known as “triffids”. Without specific safety precautions – the removal of a ten-foot-long stinging stem that can be wielded by the plants with amazing accuracy – the triffids are dangerous organisms, chiefly because they are both carnivorous and mobile. A city (and perhaps a country?) full of blind persons is no match for both a crumbling society and a giant deadly weed. Depressing, right?
An element of hopelessness is certainly present in Wyndham’s novel, but it’s more frequently both fascinating in its depiction of a strange concept, and gripping in its realistic narrative. Forget for a moment the fact that this story was adapted for film in 1963; while that version might be plenty entertaining in its own way, the source material compels because of its believability and the grounded nature of the story. At only 222 pages, you’ve got time to fit this SF classic from 1951 into your schedule!