Tripods: The White Mountains: Book 1 (The Originals) Paperback – 3 Aug 2017
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About the Author
Christopher Samuel Youd was a British writer best known for his science fiction published under the pseudonym John Christopher. His many novels include The Death of Grass and The Possessors. He won the Guardian Prize in 1971 and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis in 1976, Youd also wrote under several other names including Stanley Winchester, Hilary Ford and Samuel Youd.
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Life lived along the lines of a medieval feudal system, but transpiring a century (or more) ahead of the present day...? This is John Christopher's future vision of humanity, surviving under the yoke of the monstrous Tripods; and this, too, is the basic reality with which we are immediately confronted in 'The White Mountains' - the first exciting instalment in the series.
The tale follows the heroic adventures of three teenage boys: Will Parker and his cousin Henry, escaping across the English Channel from the Tripods and the approaching threat of Capping; and 'Beanpole' (Jean-Paul) - the brainy friend and saviour they meet in France, who joins them in their quest towards those mysterious faraway mountains. And what a thoroughly good read it is, too!
Aimed primarily at a youthful audience (don't let that deter you!), the author barely puts a foot wrong throughout each of the ten alternately thrilling and moving chapters of this book. Chapter Five - 'The City of the Ancients' - must be singled out for particular praise, charting as it does the boys' anxious progress through the chillingly-described ruins of a deserted and decaying Parisian landscape, and being as good a piece of writing is you could ever hope to find: adroit, concise, and hugely affecting.
Really, this book offers much to delight the reader. There's humour galore in Will and Henry's first incredulous encounter with the 'Shmand-Fair' (chemin de fer - or railway, as we might prefer to call it), and their less than gracious reactions when Beanpole suggests its carriages may once have been propelled by 'giant kettles' - especially as this fascinating mode of transport has (quite literally) a much more limited horsepower, on first acquaintance; there's romance in the form of Will's awkward first love for the beguiling yet unobtainable Eloise; and there's exhilarating encounters and battles with the deadly Tripods themselves, as the three boys struggle to cross that last expanse between peril and the safety of the beckoning mountains beyond. What's not to like? Well, not much at all - unless...
Will and Henry's witnessing of a troupe of hooligan Tripods skimming across the Channel like hydrofoils (Chapter Four) is a little bit on the risible side, I suppose. Nor am I at all impressed or convinced when a principal character (on this occasion, Will Parker) suddenly succumbs to an undefined malady that keeps him confined to bed in a state of semi-conscious delirium for several days (as at the end of Chapter Five/beginning of Chapter Six), whilst those in close proximity remain entirely unscathed. The book's concluding paragraphs are perhaps a little on the weak side, too, compared to all that has gone before...
But look - I'm being really picky in bringing the author's slight stumblings to the fore. This book is a very fine introduction indeed to John Christopher's Tripods series of novels and I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending it; but if, in the first instance, you were to ask me why these books aren't more widely read in the author's native land (and why they aren't more highly regarded, too), I honestly couldn't tell you because there isn't an obvious explanation. Perhaps these Kindle e-books might help to right that wrong.
So - do Will, Henry, and Beanpole finally manage to reach the sanctuary of the White Mountains? I'm afraid that's something you will have to discover for yourself!
I will be passing this on to my son to read, along with the rest of the trilogy, I hope he will enjoy it as much as I did when I was his age.
The bbc serialised this trilogy in the early 80s and the episodes are out there on that well known video streaming site that amazon dont want you to use. Criminally, they canned it after series 2, something l dont think i ever recovered from. LOL.
Well written and of the quality of writing that makes you want to read just one more chapter before you put it down. I thought that the author did a good job portraying the mind and actions of a 13-year-old boy and it was interesting to read discoveries that he made that on describing them turn out to be things that are familiar with us today (underground Tube stations and trains, handgrenades) which to the boys are relics of ancient history of which they seem to know little about.
A nice easy read for children and adults alike. I'm about to purchase the second book in the series.
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