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on September 11, 2013
I'm sure I'm not the only grown-up reviewer who discovered John Christopher's books through the comic-strip adaptation of "The White Mountains" (and its sequels) in Boys' Life magazine in the early 1980s. My subscription to Boys' Life started in late 1981 when I was eight years old and they were already seven months into the story (each month was considered a "chapter," not necessarily matching up with the actual books' chapters), so I went to a local library to track down the earlier issues. Finally sometime in 1982 or 1983 I read the actual books. I've always remembered them because the story sticks with you for so many reasons. I occasionally pull them off the shelf for a re-read from time to time even 30+ years later.

I was unaware of this prequel until several years after it was published, and I never got around to reading it until it became available for the Kindle in September 2013. I received an Amazon promotional e-mail mentioning the upcoming release and promptly pre-ordered it, downloaded it on the day of its release, and read it in the space of a few hours.

My first word is to those who have not read these books. DO NOT START WITH THIS BOOK. READ THE ORIGINAL THREE FIRST. Otherwise you're setting yourself up for spoilers. Even though I hadn't read this book, I knew the general outline of the story from information revealed in "The City of Gold and Lead" (the second book of the original trilogy). If you read this book first, all that is destroyed. It would be kind of like a new movie viewer starting the Star Wars movies with "The Phantom Menace" (Episode I) and watching them in "internal chronological order" instead of in the order they were released. The famous "I am your father" cliffhanger in "Empire Strikes Back" would be utterly non-suspenseful. Part of what makes the original three books such classics is the experience of the characters' discovery, coupled with your seeing the world through their eyes, as you read. If you start with the prequel, you ruin that.

Aside from that, I enjoyed this book and I recommend it to anyone who's read the first three novels, though I also don't deem it essential. It reveals a few little nuggets that explain a couple of aspects of the original trilogy, but not having those details is no big deal. What you get out of it may depend on how you read it. You could read it as the simple story of an alien invasion and you'd probably enjoy the story, but you'd miss the deeper themes that run throughout John Christopher's work if that's all you found.

To me, the most interesting comment I have about this book is that prior to beginning it, I had just finished reading "The Third Kingdom" by Terry Goodkind. Goodkind's book is part of an ongoing "epic fantasy" saga aimed at adult readers, whereas "When the Tripods Came" is supposed to be "young-adult fiction." Yet John Christopher's book was the better of the two. It had a more compelling plot, moved along without plodding filler, and didn't talk down to the reader. Perhaps this is more a case of speaking well of John Christopher than of speaking poorly of Terry Goodkind, and I do think one interesting aspect of Christopher's books is that an adult can probably read them and enjoy them on a very different level than a kid can. I know for me, going back and re-reading "The White Mountains" now that I'm 40 was an interesting experience compared to when I first read it at age 8 because nowadays all the references to places and things in Europe are a lot clearer to me than they were then. I guess it's a credit to an author when a "young-adult" book is a satisfying read for an adult.

I'm only giving four stars because the book leaves a few loose ends unresolved. It's unclear to what extent these characters' (admittedly limited) knowledge of the Tripods and their invasion gets handed down to future generations of free men, and it's unclear how many years pass between this story and the original trilogy. A review that is excerpted on the back cover of my copies of "The City of Gold and Lead" and "The Pool of Fire" says the original trilogy is set "a century hence," meaning around 2070 since the original books came out in the late 1960s. John Christopher's preface to the Kindle edition of "When the Tripods Came," however, refers to Will, Henry, Beanpole, and Fritz fighting against a "centuries-old tyranny." I guess it's really not very important to the storyline, and "When the Tripods Came" helps establish how the Tripods essentially locked mankind into a state of suspended evolution (technology went backwards) such that the ensuing years don't matter much anyway.

My final one point in this book, the protagonist Laurie muses about how mankind's technology has driven inexorably forward and then the Tripods abruptly stopped that. It resonated with me a bit in the sense that we no longer have moon rockets, Concorde has been grounded with no replacement, kids these days don't want to learn to drive because they want to sit at home playing with mobile phones.... Maybe the Tripods aren't needed to stymie progress.
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on April 22, 2013
This is a prequel to John Christopher's excellent Tripod series which I remember being the best science fiction series I could find as a young adolescent. Even as an adult the series stands as well written and certainly worth reading. When I was younger though I always wondered how the Tripods took over the Earth, at the time I did not know about this book (actually it hadn't been written yet). So as an adult when I found the original series and decided to reread them, having the same question I stumbled upon this book.

This book covers that story and the initial beginning of the settlement at the White Mountains. It begins when Laurie's sister becomes obsessed with a TV show and disappears only to reappear later on talking about these aliens and how they are going to bring peace to earth. Later more and more people disappear and reappear and the beginning of the "caps" from the Tripods series start showing up.

This book often lacks the urgency of the initial series, however as a prequel it certainly answers a lot of the questions that would be present after reading the initial books, I would recommend reading them in the order they were written, with this one being the last one read, since I think this is a bit weaker than the main series. But I would highly recommend this series and this book, especially to a child who enjoys science fiction, maybe even as early as 10-12 if the child is a good reader.
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on May 3, 2009
I discovered Christopher's Tripod Trilogy in the early 80s and it moved up the list of my all-time favorite series. As a preteen, it challenged my thinking, entertaining while also stirring abstract ideas. The overwhelming presence of the Tripods was matched only by the ingenuity of the children fighting them for free will and free thought.

Recently, I went back to reread this series (from a much older perspective), and found out a prequel had been written. Intrigued, I ordered a copy and dove in, flying through the story in an hour and a half. This is the same character-rich, yet fast-paced writing that drew me into the original stories. The book opens with the appearance of a Tripod in rural England, and then leads us through the adventures of young Laurence as he unravels the truth behind the failed alien invasion and the follow-up TV show that uses the same Tripods as likable cartoon icons. John Christopher explains in the introduction that he wanted to make clear the mind-control that was central to the Tripods' takeover, and I think he does an admirable job of setting up the rest of the series, with Laurence and family escaping to their grandparents' homeland of Switzerland--and the now famous "White Mountains."

Is this essential to understanding or appreciating the original trilogy? No. The trilogy has stood up well on its own. It is very enjoyable, though, and gives an actual story without feeling like a mere footnote. Long-time fans will appreciate the extra detail, and, in light of new technologies and new readers, "When the Tripods Came" gives new readers a great prequel to a classic series while never losing the tone that made the originals resonate so strongly.
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on August 22, 2014
I was so hopeful! I wanted to know where they came from and why they came but I didn't get answers. It was well written and a quick read. Read in a few hours. I enjoyed the characters and it was interesting how the tripods were able to brainwash people. Clever. However, the story wasn't as intense as the previous books. I didn't cheer for Lowree nor was the escape as intense as White Mountain. It still is worth the read for pure entertainment but not to get answers.
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VINE VOICEon June 20, 2000
This is really a great book. This being said I am not sure that I would have enjoyed this novel quite as much as if I had not read the Tripod trilogy first. For those of you who are not aware, the Tripod trilogy is series of books that take place in the somewhat distant future of the events that take place in this novel.
This novel covers the arrival of the aliens (Tripods) onto Earth and their rapid conquest of Earth by means of an ingenious method of mind control. A terrifying novel even if it is written for a juvenile audience.
The real point to this book is not so much to tell an independent story but to give us a prequel history to the events in the Tripod Trilogy. As a prequel this book is very good. This book is not nearly as action packed or triumphant as the Tripod series but as a companion it is great. I recommend reading after the Tripod series.
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VINE VOICEon January 10, 2001
First of all, I hate the reprint covers. The covers themselves are silly looking, and the numbers on the side are misleading. I would not read When the Tripods Came until after you've read the entire series (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire). When the Tripods Came is a PREQUAL, and if you read it before the other books, you lose the sense of "what happened to our world" that you want to have when you read the series. So, if you even want to read this book (it's not really needed with the rest of the series; the characters are not the same anyway and the story is only interesting if you want to know what happened to the world, but it is pretty much explained in the other books anyway), go ahead and read it, but you don't lose much by not reading it. (But, as a message to all, don't read this book first! It is not the first book!)
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on February 23, 2016
The tripod trilogy were a childhood favorite of mine. Occasionally I return to them for trip down memory lane. Love them - and also surprised that they have not been turned into a mini series.
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on July 18, 2017
OK but too long
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on August 6, 2015
This book was awesome. I liked it a lot. The book club that I'm in liked it a lot too.
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on December 19, 2012
but worth a read to complete your knowledge of the tripods universe. The universe isn't as detailed as the original trilogy, and the characters aren't as real, 3-D
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