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The White Mountains by John Christopher
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The White Mountains (original 1967; edition 1967)

by John Christopher

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1,971305,456 (3.92)57
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.
Member:selfnoise
Title:The White Mountains
Authors:John Christopher
Info:Scholastic Edition, unknown date
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:sf, ya

Work details

The White Mountains by John Christopher (1967)

  1. 30
    The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (mcenroeucsb)
  2. 10
    Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (mcenroeucsb)
  3. 00
    The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (Cecrow)
  4. 00
    Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (KingRat)
    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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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
This is a science fiction book which takes place in Earth's future. Large, metal "beings" called the Tripods now exist alongside humans, and civilization has gone back a few steps since they came. There aren't nearly as many humans as there used to be, and most knowledge of science has been erased from the general human memory, leaving us back in a time when everything was powered by horses and no one knew what the stars truly were. When a child comes of age (14), he or she is taken into a Tripod for the day and comes out with a metal Cap grafted into their scalp. It changes something about them, making them an "adult," and our 13-year-old protagonist is starting to have doubts about whether or not this is something he wants to undergo.

I read this series once when I was a kid, and I was pleased to see that I still like it just as much as an adult. The world is well-built and very interesting, and I particularly enjoyed the dramatic irony of watching characters discover objects from the current day (such as cars and the subway system) and trying to puzzle out what they had been used for. I tend to have a particular soft spot for stories like these which view my own society from an alien viewpoint.

I also liked the interactions between the three main characters. Attention was paid to shifting loyalties and how, in groups of kids and teens, you may be closer to one person one day and then the dynamics might completely change the next. I thought that was more interesting and perhaps realistic than everyone just liking each other out of necessity.

The only real complaint that I had about this book was that it felt like John Christopher fell into the old trap of telling rather than showing. I think this book would have benefited from the author taking more time to develop relationships in scene and using these relationships to develop side plots. One particularly notable example is the relationship that the main character, Will, develops with a girl named Eloise. They become very close, but as a reader, you never really feel anything for Eloise because there are only two or three brief interactions between them that are actually rendered "onscreen," and those tended to be the unusual interactions. You don't really get to see how their daily life with one another felt. The real kicker is that the books are so very short that the author definitely had room to expand if he wanted. ( )
  NovelInsights | Sep 21, 2019 |
I could cut a long review short: 'The Tripod Trilogy' is a terrific sf series for the young ones, the darkest revelation of a post-tripod-conquest world is, obviously, that women don't matter at all. Where does that leave all the young men?

I read these books when I was 11 or 12 and I can't remember if I noticed the lack of girls then. I possibly was too busy having a crush on the strong-but-silent Fritz....

The story begins with Will losing his cousin Jack as a friend after the annual Capping ceremony takes place. When boys and girls are Capped they become men and women. They also no longer have any interest in "childish" speculation about the mysterious giant tripods that perform the ceremony and somehow rule the world. In the vulnerable time after losing his friend, Will meets a man posing as a vagrant - someone who, after capping, loses their wits and wanders freely across the country - who offers him the chance to run away across the channel to 'The White Mountains' where there is a community of free men.

Only men, mind you, only men. This can be justified by one thing - not stated in the text, the author presumes that the reader won't notice or care the specific denial of a chance at freedom for girls. Vagrants are only a small percentage of the Capped, and the majority of that small percentage are men. This is tactfully theorized to be the result of male brains being more prone to resist the dominating orders of the Cap. Women accept domination. This was written in 1967 and the author later went on record, not apologizing, to say that he wrote the books the way he did because it was understood that young boys don't want to read about girl heroes, but girls like reading about boys. That's totally reasonable....not.

I have all of these objections, and the problem increased as we got further away from the first book which mentioned Will and Henry's mothers, and the Comtesse, and Eloise; I still immensely enjoyed rereading these books. Christopher had a wonderful sense of pace and giving just enough description to keep the adventure and conceit afloat without bogging the story down with info-dumps. The baffling fact remains that there are no women among the free men at all, none mentioned. Perhaps they provide the sandwiches for the boys' picnic lunch at the start of 'The City of Gold and Lead'.

My 11-year-old self doubtlessly was horrified by the noxious green clouds and the oppressive artificial gravity of the city, not to mention the inhabitants, but I recollect dwelling on those kinky mask-and-shorts uniforms all the slaves wore....

One part of the series' appeal is how it covers so much ground in a very short time, Christopher practically uses montages in the second and third books to accelerate into the action. Will's character is fairly well drawn, he is a very believable whiny teenager. Henry, Beanpole and the "taciturn" Fritz are merely sketches, speculated about by Will, but the reader never gets to know much of them except by what their adolescent brains choose to add.

The books keep accelerating to a climactic finish with 'The Pool of Fire', but not before Will and Fritz have a long walking holiday through Europe and the Middle East stealing boys. Afterwards, Christopher presents a stern gloss on world politics with "The Conference of Men". In a bittersweet turn, the world is free once more, but women have either faded entirely within their glass coffins or are simply enjoying being mastered to much to participate.

John Christopher does an excellent job of making a world dominated by giant metal tripods seem real and creates a classic escapist story where intrepid pre-teens save the planet. If only he'd thought of the giddy trouble those young men could get into in a liberated world with no females.

How it All Began - Twenty years later, Christopher explains the origins of his homo-erotic fantasia in 'When the Tripods Came' ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
The White Mountains is a book that I greatly enjoyed reading, because of idea of a post-apocalyptic, alien invasion children’s book. Throughout the book, the author continuously explores and introduced a humanity that has quietly accepted their alien ‘masters’. The author does a wonderful job in the first chapter explaining everything currently known about the Tripods. The caps worn by adults and children over age thirteen, are a symbol for chains of oppression and rose-colored glasses. Chains hold people down, forcing them to accept whoever is holding the other end. While rose-colored glasses blind the wearer to the true reality are around them, making them only see the good in everything. The caps are a creative mixture of chains and rose glasses. Everyone wearing the caps are made complacent, to blind to see that they are enslaved. This changed is seen after a Will’s friend, Jack, receives his cap. Jack goes from a normal happy kid, to an ‘adult’ who has no time for fun, only work. The author wonderfully uses this as motivation for Will to take Ozymandias’ offer to leave town. As Will travels, a tiny glimpse is given to the show how the rest of the world is cooping. ( )
  Swyatt4 | Oct 23, 2017 |
This story has been read by me since middleschool, so I've got very fond memories of it, and so I judge it ever so lightly.

It is for kids and young adults. Readable by adults, but not to be enjoyed as much.

If The War of the Worlds had not gone our way, this story is what would have come of it... ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
This is a boy's adventure story that was first published nearly 50 years ago in 1967. It is part of a trilogy from 1967-8 that was very popular in England apparently. I had heard of it and wanted to read this and was pleased to come upon a copy recently. The story is set in a future England and France, perhaps a hundred years in the future, after machines called Tripods took over and now rule the earth and mankind. We do not know if the machines were created by man and given artificial intelligence perhaps as part of a war, or not. Or, perhaps more likely they came from an invasion from the stars. Are the machines alive or are they guided by someone or something else? At a young age children are 'capped', roughly at puberty, and a thought control device is implanted onto their heads to subject them to thought control by the Tripods.

This story is about young Will who lives in a small village near Winchester who doesn't want this and runs away with a cousin after his best friend is "capped" and altered. He has been told by a wanderer that to the south in white mountains there are free uncapped humans who live where the Tripods cannot or do not wish to go. This is his journey. There is more to the story of course, and I think I was expecting something better, but this was still entertaining. This is a self contained story but there are a lot of unanswered questions and things we want to know and I look forward to reading the other books in this short series. ( )
1 vote RBeffa | Sep 20, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Christopherprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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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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