Monday, March 19, 2007

The White Mountains

The White Mountains, by John Christopher
$5.99 at Amazon.com ISBN: 0689856725
This is part one of three books called the Tripod Series. It's becoming a boyhood classic along the lines of Treasure Island or the Hardy Boys. I read it when I was about 12, and re-reading it now I'm overwhelmingly impressed by how good it is. Easy to get into, loaded with suspense and adventure, this is the book for the young man in your life, or to read yourself if you're looking for a thrill that doesn't require deep concentration. Some of us who grew up in the '80s may remember the comic strip adaptation which appeared in Boys' Life magazine. Familiar or not, this is definitely one story you'll want to check out. You'll find it in the Teen section of your local bookstore, but there's nothing childish about it.
Here's the gist of it: Will Parker is enjoying the tail end of his idyllic childhood in the English countryside at an unknown date in the future. Thinks have changed since the England of our day: people use waterwheels for power (electricity is unknown), and have little knowledge beyond their provincial villages. It sounds like the Middle Ages except for one thing: as boys begin to enter puberty they are abducted by Tripods, giant robotic saucers on legs with tentacles sixty feet high. While inside, they're fitted with caps that control the population's minds. In a few cases this causes insanity, or even blinding pain in its victims. In the vast majority of cases, the boys simply become docile slaves to their robotic masters.
What are the Tripods and where do they come from? No one knows for sure. Will and a few other boys, however, decide before it's too late that they'd rather not be capped and lose control of their own thoughts. This sends our hero off on an adventure to find other members of the resistance and one day, hopefully, destroy the Tripods and restore humanity's freedom.
The quest begins as Will and his buddies travel many miles across the treacherous White Mountains, pursued by the Tripods the whole time. Adding an additional level of mystery to the story are the ruins of ancient buildings, towns, and even subways which we soon recognize as all that remains of modern Europe. All the fun of camping out with you friends, and the adventure that comes with being half soldier and half spy set in a weird and disturbing future make this an unforgettable treat at any age. The Tripods are wicked cool villains, and later in the series Will visits one of their cities. Being one of the only survivors of a world-wide disaster is a popular enough fantasy, too. If it's with your best friends at twelve years old, how can anyone resist it?

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