Books »Tripod Series

john christopher white mountains tripod seriesA couple of years ago Jim re-bought The Tripod Series by John Christopher (actually: Samuel Youd), books he rememebered fondly from his boyhood, in beautiful hard cover editions on eBay. The Roger Hane illustrated covers have been gracing my shelf ever since, recently I finally got around to reading them. I'm a lover of sci fi books geared towards pre-teen boys and these three certainly fit the bill — they're fun, full of adventure, and take off to unexpected places. At one point, when the aliens are revealed, I was expecting a dark-oh-the-blackness-of-humanity twist but was so pleased with the real, amusing reveal. Oh the joys of young adult fiction, so much fun to be had.

In the first book, “The White Mountains”, narrator Will finds himself a year shy of becoming “capped” by the Tripods (a metal plate that controls the mind is installed at the onset of adulthood), massive, mobile metal alien towers that have long since over taken the Earth. He begins to question the Tripods' actions and mankind's past, which makes him a perfect target for Ozymandias, an icognito resistance fighter. Gathering friends along the way, he makes the treacherous trek to the white mountains (Swiss Alps) where more free men wait until they can take their world back again.

The City of Gold and Lead, my favorite of the trilogy, takes place years three later when the free men in the mountains have started enacting their plans. Will becomes an integral part of the plan, which takes him to the aliens' home city. Lots of surprises and tension in this one.

In the final book, The Pool of Fire, man's last stand is documented. I don't want to give away too much, you'll have more fun letting the stories unfold.

Christopher was a prolific but rarely profitable writer, considered a “first drafter” who rarely edited and wrote nights after coming home from his day job at an industrial diamond business's PR dept, a job he kept to support his family and his lust for storytelling. The Tripods series was his first foray into children's books, and not something he was looking forward to. Fortunately a publisher convinced him to try his hand and a modern (though not as well known as it should be) masterpiece was born.

There's a BBC adaptation that I look forward to viewing at some point, which aired in 1984; Disney still owns the film rights and an American movie may soon become a reality with Gregor Jordan to direct. Read the books first, the odds are slim that a new film version will do them justice.

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Posted on March 10, 2008

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