Wednesday, June 23, 2010

John Christopher's White Mountains

Aliens have invaded and destroyed our modern way of life, replacing it with ... the good old days.

These aliens have done what we never could ... created world-wide peace. And they've (re)created a sort of utopian middle ages society for us to live in. All we have to do in return is submit to wearing a metal cap, which will keep us from ever getting violent and trying to wreck the peace.

It all sounds pretty cushy and most everybody goes for it. Except for Will, a boy who resists the thought of being capped and losing ... what exactly?

This is the set-up of John Christopher's "The White Mountains," first book in the Tripods Trilogy. It's an absolute masterpiece. Written so that a middle-schooler could read it, but with not a word that would embarrass or annoy an adult reader. Christopher is a writer with some extremely disturbing ideas and this trilogy will eventually take you there.

But first, Will has to make a choice and you, the reader, will have to ask yourself the same questions ... stay or flee? The question gets harder when a beautiful girl and an even cushier life are offered.

If you like this book -- and the other two books in the series "The City of Gold and Lead" and "The Pool of Fire" -- you'll find that the questions only get tougher in Christopher's other books, especially his disturbing "Sword of the Spirits" trilogy.

Beyond the science fiction elements, Christopher's work often nails the sometimes brutal relationships between friends. Re-reading "The White Mountains" recently I found more of this that I had remembered. Will often acts not out of heroic zeal, but sometimes petty jealousy, sullen resentment or even simple greed. Yet the fate of mankind, to say nothing of the plot of the book, depends on his actions.

The cover of this book makes things look so simple. Tripods are attacking; boys are running. But you will find much, much more inside.


WH said...

I loved this book when I was a kid - I think I read all three of the books in about a week when I was in 4th grade.

You mentioned middle school readers, but bright readers as young as nine can enjoy these books - I sure did.

Thanks for the flashback!

Anonymous said...

These have been reprinted with more appealing covers. I hope they reach a new audience! I nominated The White Mountains for a YALSA booklist; we'll see if it makes the final cut.