The Pool of Fire

by John Christopher
Series: Tripods 3
Reviewed date: 2007 Oct 31
Rating: 4
218 pages
cover art

The final installment of the Tripods trilogy is as good as the previous book. In The City of Gold and Lead, Will Parker and Fritz infiltrate the Tripods' domed city. Will escapes from the city and brings back much-needed information about the Masters, including the news that the Masters are planning to destroy the Earth's atmosphere. Humanity has only a few short years to defeat the Tripods before every last creature on Earth will choke to death in the poisonous air of the Masters.

The Pool of Fire moves quickly. Will and Fritz spend a year traveling through Asia recruiting freedom-minded boys to their cause. Then Will helps the Resistance capture a Tripod and kidnap a living Master for their scientists to study. Will serves as the Master's prison guard, and inadvertently makes a discovery: alcohol incapacitates the Masters.

That leads to a plan: small teams will sneak into the Masters' domed cities and dump alcohol into the city water supply. Will and Fritz are chosen to lead the attack on the domed city in Germany.

The attacks succeed. The Masters are incapacitated, and the Resistance cracks the city domes, asphyxiating the Masters in Earth's oxygen atmosphere. Except at one city: the attack on the domed city on the Panama Canal fails.

The Resistance has a backup plans: primitive airplanes and bombs. This plan fails too. The backup backup plan is balloons and bombs. Will, Fritz, and Henry are among the balloonists who attack the domed city. The attack is nearly a failure, because the bombs keep bouncing off the city dome before exploding. Finally Henry lands his balloon on the dome, and, cradling his bomb and holding it against the dome, sacrifices his life to ensure the bomb cracks the dome. The Masters are defeated.

The Pool of Fire--and the whole Tripods trilogy--makes a big deal of Will's shortcomings. Will, as the first-person narrator, is frank about his impatience, his rashness, and his foolish pride. His struggle to control himself is a constant throughout the story.

John Christopher comments on humanity, too. When the Masters are defeated, Will assumes that men will remain united. Why should they war with one another, as they did in the past? That would be foolish. But Will is in for a shock. At the first Conference of Man, bitter partisanship rules the day. The Americans and the Chinese leave in a huff, the Germans blame the French for instigating trouble, and the English delegation withdraws in disgust. Will, Fritz, and Beanpole realize that although they have defeated the Masters, their work is not done.

Fritz said, "I think perhaps I will give up my farming. There are things more important."
Beanpole said, "I'm with you."
Fritz shook his head. "It is different for you. Your work is important, mine not."
"Not as important as this," Beanpole said. "What about you, Will? Are you ready for a new fight--a longer, less exciting one, with no great triumphs at the end? Will you leave your seas and islands, and help us try to get men to live together, in peace as well as liberty? An Englishman, a German, and a Frenchman: it would be a good start."
The air was cold but exhilarating. A gust of wind scattered powdery snow from the face of Jungfrau.
"Yes," I said, "I'll leave my seas and islands."

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