The books were thrust into my hands with a simple command, "Read these." I held the three thin young-adult readers wondering if I was subtly being insulted. After being assured that that wasn't the case I thought: if these mean something to someone who means something to me... I guess I have to. With this thought I set off on this brisk coming of age tale.
The world has been conquered by an alien race and their massive tripods. Earth's human population is kept docile and obedient through their caps, bio-mechanical head pieces that are grafted to the scalp as they enter their teen years. It's the kids, the uncapped, that hold the keys of freedom for mankind. Will is a normal boy who's capping day is quickly approaching. His peaceful little village life is shattered by the arrival of an uncapped stranger, Ozymandias. He tells of a place high in the rough and frigid terrain of the White Mountains where a group of free people live outside the reach of the tripods. Ozymandias is one who is tasked with searching out and recruiting the uncapped youth to join the free people. After learning some truth about the alien masters who have enslaved the world, Will is given a choice: join the ranks of mindless livestock oppressed by these alien conquerors, or chase the freedom and self-determination all men crave. "... I could not stay, any more than a sheep could walk through a slaughterhouse door, once it knew what lay beyond." With those words Wills adventure and the Tripod Trilogy is launched.
Will is joined on his journey by his cousin Henry and a French boy they meet along the way, Jean-Paul. Through pitfall and peril friendships are forged and the three finally arrive at the famed White Mountains. Once there, battle plans are made, a war is launched, and friends become brothers. "One enjoys friendship most when times are good, when sun shines and the world is kind. But it is the sharing of adversity that knits men together."
Alright, let's get this out from the jump: when I said brisk, I meant short. The whole trilogy comes in just past the six hundred page mark. You could hammer this out in a weekend if you wanted to. And you should, it's pretty good. Telling a three part "save the world" story in so few pages probably has you thinking about all the plot and pacing issues within the books. Those concerns would be absolutely justified... if the story was written for adults. Fact is, the quick pace and concise plot are perfectly targeted and expertly crafted to capture the imagination of a young man. It's that quality that made these books so enjoyable.
It was difficult to read this story without imposing a younger version of myself into my own mind. How would I have read this as a younger man? Would the struggle for independence have resonated with me? What would I have imagined the oppressive alien masters to represent? My parents? School? My impending entry into the workforce? These questions made these books for me, and they will for you too. Never-mind the truncated plot and lack of details, let the thoughts of a younger version of yourself fill out those spaces.
For more story details (read, spoilers) the Tripod Trilogy wiki is excellent.
For more work by John Christopher visit his section of publisher Simon & Schuster's website.