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The White Mountains by John Christopher

The White Mountains (1967)

by John Christopher

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Tripods (1)

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    KingRat: The White Mountains contains issues similar to those of Uglies: secret control of a society, "mind control", induction into that society, and rebellion against it while pretending to be a member. There are obvious major differences too. Still, enough similarities in style and substance that I suspect people who enjoy one will enjoy the other.… (more)

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“Massive alien machines called the Tripods had ruled Earth for hundreds of years and enslaved the minds and bodies of most adults through the silvery caps they made them wear. Determined to escape the ritual Capping ceremony, Will Parker runs away, heading for the distant White Mountains and the small rebel camp there, hoping to join their desperate attempts to overthrow the rule of the Tripods. The journey is long, the missions dangerous and the hopes of survival very slim…”

The year was 1993. I was 10 years old, and I was spending the weekend with my grandparents. Despite being a bookworm, I didn’t bring any books with me, as I had been promised a trawl through my dad’s old books. Little did I know that one book (or more accurately 3 books) would hold my attention more than the others, and remain in my ‘favourites list’ well into adulthood.

The White Mountains is the first book of the fantastic Tripod trilogy by John Christopher, published between 1967-1968. The version of the book I read actually collected the trilogy into one volume, allowing me to read the trilogy back-to-back like one long novel. The front and back cover had scenes from the TV series commissioned in the 1980s, which added a very retro feel to it (though it looks slightly dated now!).

The back cover specifically had a picture of one of the Tripods, which brings to mind the most famous of sci-fi novels featuring alien invasion, The War of the Worlds. As a young boy, an adventure sci-fi story like this was just what I was looking for, and this book didn’t disappoint.

The Tripods – mysterious and frightening 3-legged mechanical monsters standing several stories high - rule the earth and have done for centuries. The origins of the Tripods is unknown initially, and any queries from inquisitive children is hushed by the already Capped adults.

All children are eventually are Capped, marking their progression into adulthood, which also surrenders their ability for free thought to the terrifying Tripods. It involves being pulled inside the body one of the machines by a long metal tentacle, and a metal mesh cap being placed on your head. There are sometimes complications with the process, resulting in Vagrants; men and women who experience a mental retardation, and who spend their remaining days speaking nonsense, and wandering from town to town.

The first book tells the story of Will Parker, a miller’s son living in a small rural town called Wherton in England. Will’s cousin Jack, who also is his only friend, on the eve of his own Capping poses some intriguing questions about the origin of the Tripods and the former greatness of the human race. However once Jack is capped, he no longer holds any opinions in this vein, and drifts apart from Will. As his own Capping ceremony grows closer, a now friendless Will begins to question his future under Tripod rule.

Enter Ozymandias; a mysterious new Vagrant in town who latches on to Will and begins to answer some of those burning questions Will has. There are still free-men, resistant to the Tripods rule, living in the fabled White Mountains; it lights a spark in Will. Realising there is nothing for him in Wherton, Will decides to journey to the mountains in search of answers.

Reluctantly he has to be accompanied on the journey by his other cousin Henry, who he despises. Henry’s mother has recently died and has been living with Will’s family, which is how Henry happens to follow Will on the night he leaves Wherton for good. Realising Henry could raise the alarm, Will accedes to him tagging along, although he will come to rely on Henry more than he ever thought possible. Along the way they add a young bespectacled boy called Beanpole to their clique, after he gets them out of a difficult situation early on.

I am re-reading this book at the age of 31 and time has not dulled my impressions of the book; I’m happy to state that it still fills me with the same excitement it did when I was a kid. While I grow older and my reading tastes grow ever more varied and challenging, I still like to escape every now and again to the books of my childhood. At nearly 50 years old, the story has a timeless quality for me, in the same way The Hobbit or the Narnia books have, and fully deserves its place alongside those classic books on my own bookshelf.
( )
  andersongs | Jul 21, 2014 |
I loved this book. I would have loved it as a child. I went through a very serious post-apocalyptic phase as a kid. White Mountains is the story of Will, who is excited about being capped and controlled by the Tripods. After meeting a vagrant he finds out that there are other ways of living outside the control of the Tripods. He and his cousin Henry, and Jean-Paul try to find the resistance force in the White Mountains. This is an exciting story that has just enough information about the Tripods to keep the readers speculating, which is such a fun activity as a reader. I would recommend this to any reader interested in science fiction or post-apocalyptic books. ( )
  Anna.Nash | Mar 18, 2014 |
Funny how things change with time. I was startled by the ending and had to read it again. I'm still trying to decide whether to read the rest of the series. I remember loving this as a child. I didn't remember that the central character was such a whiner. I read the 35th anniversary edition and liked the intro that John Christopher wrote. ( )
  njcur | Feb 19, 2014 |
This is the first of John Christopher's tripod trilogy which I vaguely remember from the TV series back in the 1980's. The book was written in 1967 and shows its age just a little: much less teenage angst than you often get in a young adult novel today on the plus side, and an absence of meaningful female characters on the minus. But overall a good adventure story that has lasted well.

At an unspecified future date humans live in a society that has reverted to medieval feudalism under the ultimate rule of the tripods, huge three-legged devices that stalk the land. In their fourteenth year all children are 'capped' by the tripods, with a metal cap that becomes fused to their skull: an event that they are taught to look forward to as the start of adulthood. But as his older cousin Jack is capped, and Will notices the changes in his character, he starts to have misgivings. Encountering Ozymandias, seemingly a vagrant, a person whose mind has been broken by the capping process, Will discovers that the cap is the means by which the Tripods control humanity and keep them docile. He resolves to join the resistance in the White Mountains that he is told about by Ozymandias, but this means a long and hazardous journey to the south. And an uncapped boy alone will attract suspicion ... With the unwelcome addition of his cousin Henry as a travelling companion, and the French boy Jean-Paul, nicknamed 'Beanpole' by the cousins, Will's journe is indeed fraught with danger, and wonder as well as the cousins encounter the mysterious city of the ancients.

With elements of HG Well's The War of the Worlds and a touch of John Wyndham this isn't maybe the most original book ever, but great fun. ( )
1 vote SandDune | Mar 16, 2013 |
Great story about a future dystopia where alien Tripods have taken over the world and humans live a rural, simple life (which actually looks rather attractive on the face of it). The author does a good job of describing the remnants of earlier civilisation from the point of view of Will and his friends who know nothing of it. I never caught this on TV in the 1980s and it is aimed at teenagers, but a cracking good story. 5/5 ( )
  john257hopper | Jul 15, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Christopherprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Burleson, JoeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Jessica : this, and the rest, with love
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Apart from the one in the church tower, there were five clocks in the village that kept reasonable time, and my father owned one of them.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
This book is purely science fiction and is a great read for middle schoolers.  The book is about a trio of boys who escape their communities to avoid capping.  Capping is when they are made to be docile and obedient to Masters, an unknown controller.  This is a perfect book to get kids, especially boys since all three main characters are boys, into science fiction.  This is a great book to teach in English classes as the story and structure is strong enough to do analytical reading.  Here is the link to his obituary , who died earlier this year, for kids to read: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0689856725, Mass Market Paperback)

Long ago, the Tripods--huge, three-legged machines--descended upon Earth and took control. Now people unquestioningly accept the Tripods' power. They have no control over their thoughts or their lives. But for a brief time in each person's life--in childhood--he is not a slave. For Will, his time of freedom is about to end--unless he can escape to the White Mountains, where the possibility of freedom still exists. The Tripods trilogy follows the adventures of Will and his cohorts, as they try to evade the Tripods and maintian their freedom and ultimately do battle against them. The prequel, When the Tripods Came, explains how the Tripods first invaded and gained control of the planet.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:37 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Young Will Parker and his companions make a perilous journey toward an outpost of freedom where they hope to escape from the ruling Tripods, who capture mature human beings and make them docile, obedient servants.

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