Friday, June 24, 2016

The Tripod Tetralogy by John Christopher

    • The White Mountains
    • The City of Gold and Lead
    • The Pool of Fire
    • When the Tripods Came
      • All by John Christopher, a pen name of Sam Youd, an English author who died in 2012 at the age of 89
    • Published 1967 (White and City), 1968 (Pool) and 1988 (Tripods)
    • Other works by the author (he has several pen names): The Death of Grass, The Guardians, The Sword of the Spirits trilogy and many more.

    • The first three books take place in the future after some cataclysm about 100 years before. 
    • Metallic, alien creatures --- known as "Tripods" --- have hemispherical bodies and legs about 30 feet tall. They roam the planet and have three large cities in Germany, Japan and Panama. 
    • Humans are "capped" at age 14: the head is shaved and covered with a mesh device that ultimately attaches to the scalp (hair grows through it). This makes them more docile and keeps them from questioning anything the Tripods do.
    • Will is a 13-year-old in England and definitely questions the Tripods. Through various circumstances he learns of free men in the "White Mountains" (the Alps, where the Tripods don't go) and journeys there, making friends along the way. The first three books tell his story and of the struggle to defeat the Tripods.
    • The world Will lives in is somewhat medieval. Towns and villages are small and people stay close to home. Thanks to the caps people have no desire to travel or adventuring. There is no electricity nor television, radio, cars, etc...
    • The fourth book is a prequel and explains how the alien Tripods took over the planet: television brainwashing!

    • In 7th and 8th grades we had to do a LOT of book reports. Our teachers had piles of books for us to pick from (probably collected through Scholastic Books) and they included many great options:
      • Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Pigman, The Slave Dancer, The Outsiders, Go Ask Alice, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Rite of Passage, A Wrinkle in Time, The Wizard of Earthsea, The Blue Man, Freckled & Fourteen, anything by Judy Blume, and so many, many more.
      • Yes, I went to junior high school in the 1970s as should be obvious from this list!
    • For one book report I picked up the Tripod books and LOVED them. Good story, excellent world-building, science fiction-y. It hit all my buttons.
    • I have read these books several times over the years and I still adore them. I was happy to find the prequel in 1988. 
    • My only big criticism is that there are no female characters to speak of, just a brief interlude where Will stays in a castle and a mother and her daughter figure briefly in the story. The people fighting the Tripods from the White Mountains are ALL males. (Does it go without saying that all the males are white too?)
      • John Christopher was a science fiction writer who published several short stories around the same time as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, James Blish, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and the rest. All of these men were born between 1905 and 1925. Including women as protagonists in the stories just didn't happen in those days.
      • In the prequel from 1988, while the main character is still a teenage boy, several supporting characters are female so that's something. The times they were a-changing by the 1980s!
      • But some girls really love science fiction. I was one of them. I was also really good at science and math but since I was a girl who was also good at English and history, no one ever tried to steer me towards STEM careers.
        • I'm talking about teachers; my parents would have let me study any subject I wanted. 
        • Some of those books in the list above --- A Wrinkle in Time and Rite of Passage --- were sci-fi books with female protagonists. I adored those stories too.
      • When I was growing up it was very rare to see a character in a sci-fi story who "looked like me". I know people tend to loathe the "political correctness" of diversifying book, television and movie casts but I think it would have been really neat (to use a 70s-ism) to read more science fiction books with teen girl protagonists.
        • That's why it's important for everyone to have representation, not because it's politically correct, but because there are a lot of different kinds of people and we all like to see archetypes of ourselves on page and screen.
          • In the 1960s Uhura was awesome on "Star Trek" but she still had to wear a mini-skirt.
          • Leia was kickass in "Star Wars" in the 1970s but she was also a princess who needed to get rescued.
            • Let's hope Rey in the most recent "Star Wars" doesn't turn out to be a princess too but I won't hold my breath.
          • One exception was Penny Robinson, a character on TV's "Lost in Space", played by Angela Cartwright. She had brown hair just like me! I didn't watch this show until the 1970s when it was in syndication so even though Penny/Angela is really 10 years older than me, by the time I watched the show she was my age!
            • I was a big fan of both Cartwright sisters. Veronica played Jemima on "Daniel Boone". I think I might have picked up my love of the name Veronica from the actress.

1 comment:

  1. "There is no electricity nor television, radio, cars, etc..." Not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe, it's primitive as can be.
    "Sam Youd, an English author who died in 2012 at the age of 1989." And walked with Jesus.
    Should I read about the Tripods?