The White Mountains

by John Christopher
Series: Tripods 1
Reviewed date: 2007 Oct 25
Rating: 2
214 pages
cover art

My dad read the Tripod books to me when I was a kid. When I saw a set at Half Price Books, I had to buy them. The White Mountains is not as good as I remembered. The book does little more than set the stage for the sequels. The sequels are awesome, though, so it's worth it.

Giant metals tripods from outer space enslave humanity. People live simply in rustic villages. Technology as basic as clockmaking has been lost. They tell dimly-remembered stories about the time before the Tripods came, when men overpopulated the Earth and fought wars amongst themselves. At the age of 14, every boy and girl is Capped. The metal Cap melds with the skull and ensures complete loyalty to the Tripods.

In a small hamlet in England, a 13-year-old boy named Will Parker has just lost his only friend. He has just watched his only friend Jack get Capped; Jack is now a man, his personality has changed, and Will realizes he wants no part of Capping.

A passing Vagrant called Ozymandius notices Will's dissatisfaction, and tells him about a community of free men. He tells Will to travel south, cross the English Channel, and continue on the the White Mountains. There, in the cold mountains where the Tripods never go, he will find the last remaining community of free men.

Will sets off to find the White Mountains. He picks up traveling companions: Henry, a boy from his village; and later Beanpole, a brilliant young French boy with a penchant for inventing. Together they find the White Mountains--but not before they have a run-in with a Tripod, which Will manages to destroy with a hand grenade scavenged from a weapons cache in a bombed-out subway.

Most of the action is boring, though. We learn very little about the Tripods--that comes in the sequel, The City of Gold and Lead. Beanpole is annoying--he keeps trying to invent things like the steam engine. And half the book is about how hungry the boys are, because they have to subsist by stealing food along the way. That's realistic, but it's not an interesting story.

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