HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Tripods (Book 1): The White Mountains
Author: John Christopher
Cover Illustrator: Anton Petrov
Publisher: Aladdin. reissueed in 2014
Related website: http://www.KIDS.SimonandSchuster.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 9-13
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Christopher, John. The Tripods (Book 1): The White Mountains (originally published in 1967; republished in 2014 by Aladdin, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Division of Simon and Schuster Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10020). Thirteen year old Will Parker lives in the small, fictitious village of Wherton, England, near Winchester, with his father and mother. The time is an unspecified future when life has practically returned to medieval feudalism, though some small artifacts such as watches from before “the Black Age” are still used, because the earth is ruled by huge, three-legged, monstrous machines known as Tripods. They maintain control by placing a metal cap on the heads of people which makes them compliant. It happens to everyone who has turned fourteen in a yearly ceremony. For a few individuals, the capping does not work right, causing them to be mentally deficient, and they wander around as “Vagrants.” Following the capping of Will’s best friend and favorite cousin, Jack Leeper who is a year older than Will, Will is upset that Jack no longer wants to play with him.
Sometime later, Will meets a man calling himself Ozymandias who pretends to be a Vagrant but is actually part of a resistance movement located in the White Mountains (i.e., the Alps) and is recruiting people to become part of it. As a result, Will and his not so favorite cousin Henry Parker, who is a month younger, run away. After crossing the English Channel with Captain Curtis, another secret member of the resistance, the two boys are joined by a French teenager, Zhan-pole (actually Jean-Paul), whom they call Beanpole because he is tall and skinny. But on their journey, Will becomes seriously ill, and they eventually find out that a Tripod is chasing them. What will happen to the trio? Will they make it to the White Mountains? Or will they be caught and punished? Aside from a few references to drinking beer and ale, there is nothing really objectionable in this book, and no bad language occurs. Our good friend Rhonda Bosworth wrote, “I read these as a kid and loved them. Then I read them again as a Christian mom to see if my boys could read them. I think they are great.”
John Christopher was the pseudonym of author Samuel Youd (1922-2012). The biggest complaint about The White Mountains that I saw from reader reviewers was dissatisfaction with the ending. Of course, there are two sequels to continue the story and explain any gaps. At the same time, Christopher noted that his American editor liked the first chapter of his original manuscript but told him that the rest of the book was a mess and needed a complete reworking. After he had rewritten it from the end of Chapter 1, the editor then said that the beginning and the end were okay, but the middle was still wrong. So he produced the third version which we have today. Perhaps if we had his first effort, some things might make more sense. In any event, youngsters (and older folks too), who like science fiction where there is a definite war between good and evil with the characters fighting for their survival as well as the survival of free-thinking mankind and the good winning in the end, should enjoy the book. I certainly agree with Rhonda’s assessment that it is great.