John Christopher, the Tripods and other stories. November 6, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
I’ve been rereading the Tripod quadrilogy – that is the original three books and a later and lesser addition that functions as a prequel. In my childhood it was a favourite text – as were a range of John Christopher’s other books, the Lotus Caves, The Guardians amongst them. The latter I liked a lot, its vision of a class based society riven between rural and urban was kind of chilling. WIld Jack, a later novel had a not dissimilar theme.
John Christopher, of course, whose actual name was Sam You’d, had a major career as an author of adult dystopian science fiction – I’ve mentioned it before, he was a purveyor in books like The Death of Grass and The World in Winter of not so cosy catastrophes. The Death of Grass in particular is hugely depressing, in a way kind of reactionary and paints an uncomfortable picture of human behaviours in extremis.
But I think his children’s books have much more heart – though they could be pretty gloomy too. Flawed narrators abound but somehow they get through despite those flaws. And there’s the possibility for growth. At this remove he’s actually slightly less bad (faint praise) than other writers during the period for female characters.
And it’s odd rereading the prequel Tripods book in a time of Brexit and more because at its heart is an examination of xenophobia and how that can be used to constrain freedom and both conceptually and practically limit horizons. The Tripods use it to push humanity back as a technological species to a sort of 19th century level and stop people from travelling. And those opposed are explicitly internationalist in their approach.