Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Tripods Collection: The White Mountains - BookReview

"John Christopher is the pseudonym under which the British science fiction author Samuel Youd has been most successful."

Christopher Samuel Youd, under the pen-name John Christopher, wrote a trilogy in the sixties about machines that had taken over the Earth and brainwashed the human population; all except those under the age of 14 submitted to the “Cap”. Becoming a man, or woman, meant Capping Day, a great celebration and feast when one is truly overcome by the Tripods, freewill replaced by subservience.

For Will, a thirteen-year-old boy living in the small English village of Wherton, the day is approaching when he will become a man. But a brief encounter with a vagrant, Ozymandias, changes his destiny. Told of a land where free men live, far away from the hold of the Tripods, Will decides to leave his home and travel. It would be a lonely journey except… he is accompanied by Henry, his cousin, an annoying bully who Will dislikes immensely. And so the first story in the series, The Tripods: The White Mountains, begins.

To be unfamiliar with The War of The Worlds, a novel by author H. G. Wells, means you have spent your entire life in a parallel universe where books simply do not exist. So I will not explain the plot or detail its origins. I will, however, tell you that both The War of The Worlds and The Tripods have something in common: vast metal machines dominating the landscape; alien beings who wish to colonize the Earth. It is reasonable to suggest that John Christopher was deeply inspired by H. G. Wells’ work, expanding the plot to incorporate his lead characters and to give us a better understanding of a world dominated by alien superpower.

The White Mountains

And so Will and Henry, determined to free themselves of Tripod rule, journey overseas to France, where they meet new companion Zhan-pole, a bespectacled boy of intellect and curiosity. Upon hearing Zhan-pole’s name, Henry jokes: “More like Beanpole!” and so the nickname sticks throughout the trilogy as two now becomes three. Their adventures are not without problems however; every step they tread must be carefully chosen, or risk being noticed by those who serve their Masters, for the boys would undoubtedly be arrested and Capped.

Written in first-person narrative (like The War of The Worlds), we share Will’s experiences and feelings, making the story far more personal. I always prefer this approach, it draws you in deeper and helps you to understand the true uncertainty of their predicament. This is one for the young adult (and older) as it deals with relationships, friendships, and loss. Christopher carefully crafts this to precision, cleverly broadening the lives of these three young men only to bring it crashing down around them.

There is also conflict: Will’s feelings for Eloise, daughter of the Comte and Comtesse de la Tour Rouge, become so great that he is willing to sacrifice all – freedom included – to share happiness with this beautiful girl. It is a decision that angers his cousin and the two fight. Eventually, however, the decision to remain with Eloise is taken from him: during a tournament she is selected as Queen of the event, an honor that requires serving the Tripods in their city. Will is heartbroken. Leaving the Château de la Tour Rouge, he continues his journey in search of the White Mountains, where free men dwell. Thankfully, he is soon reunited with his two friends, Henry and Beanpole, and their quest nears its end.

Although it deals with many elements, it is friendship that remains the true message here. It is quite clear that Will, Henry and Beanpole need each other, and the trust that develops between them bonds them in a way that the Cap never could – being Capped means abandoning loyalty and genuine friendship, instead getting along together simply because the Tripods wish it. Empty harmony. What is the point in being harmonious if you don’t have the free will to enjoy it? What these three boys share is special, and real…

Though now out of print, but still attainable from various online sources, The Tripods: The White Mountains is highly recommended! Exciting adventure yarn that slowly but surely lures you into a world of danger, suspicion, and excitement. There is enough to keep both young and older fans happy as the journey of Will and his friends unfolds.

Purchase Tripods from the Starfoyer Enterprise Store:
DVD Books - Running time: 625 minutes