The Weathermonger



Book: The Weathermonger

Author: Peter Dickinson

Cover Illustrator: George Barr

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, reissued 1986

ISBN-13: 978-0385294508

ISBN-10: 0385294506

Language level: 3

(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 16 and up

Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Dickinson, Peter.  The Weathermonger (published in 1968 by Little Brown and Company; republished in 1974 by DAW Books, a division of Donald A. Wollheim Publisher, 1301 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY  10019).  Sixteen year old Geoffrey (Jeff) Tinker and his twelve year old sister Sally are orphans who live in Weymouth, England, where Jeff has been a weathermonger with the seemingly innate ability to temporarily alter the local weather to suit his whims since “the Changes” which caused England to regress back to primitive times, in which any machine or piece of technology is met with fear and loathing, took place five years previously.  He recovers from a blow on the head to find out that their guardian, Uncle Jacob, had been killed after being found working on a motorboat, and that the two of them have been left on a low platform in the bay to be drowned as witches when the tide comes in for taking too great an interest in banned technologies.  They manage to escape when Jeff creates a fog, find the motorboat, and make it to France where those unaffected by the bizarre state of mind have fled.  France and other European countries are unaffected but look on with some alarm, as their observation aircraft can detect a strange atmospheric disturbance emanating from the Welsh coast.

So, the two youngsters are sent back to England by the French authorities on a mission to make their way to Wales, find the center of the mysterious power that has converted their country into its pastoral state, and discover exactly where the machine phobia stems from.  The majority of the story concerns Geoffrey and Sally’s dangerous cross-country journey across hostile territory to its surprising source, part of the way in a Rolls Royce “Silver Ghost.”  Can they successfully make this trip through a countryside filled with enemies? What is causing the plague?  And once they locate its source, will they be able to reverse its effects and restore their nation to normality?  The Weathermonger is Book 3 in the Changes Trilogy, which is a highly regarded fantasy series for young adults, and older readers, preceded by The Devil’s Children and Heartsease. However, it’s completely self-contained novel, although the two previous volumes might help to give more background about “the Changes” in which some unknown force during a vague idea of the future in a late 60’s Britain has converted a large proportion of the people to recreate a quasi-Middle Ages state by destroying machines and by subjecting anyone found with a machine or a knowledge of mechanics to severe punishment or death.

In addition to some common euphemisms (blast, golly, gosh), the “d” and “h” words are used, and the term “Lord” appears as an interjection.  I don’t like this kind of language in any book.  I appreciate the Facebook meme which says, “If you can’t say it without cussin’, it ain’t worth sayin.’”  But I especially don’t like it in books intended for young people.  There are also a few mentions of drinking ale, wine, and “a nip of liquor,” and some references to human evolution towards the end.  Otherwise, the slim little book is quite well-written, the story is fast-moving, and the children’s travels through the summer countryside are suspenseful.  One person noted that it is, “at only 158 pages, in many ways superior to the over-written and plodding contemporary 400+ page fantasy novels that one finds on the store shelves.” The Weathermonger is a quick, interesting read.  Those who enjoy fantasy should like it.

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