- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 - 9
- Lexile Measure: 0890 (What's this?)
- Series: The Tripods (Book 1)
- Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Simon Pulse (April 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780689856723
- ISBN-13: 978-0689856723
- ASIN: 0689856725
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 192 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,182,125 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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And this has everything a young reader could want. Alien overlords. A dash for freedom. Resistance and rebellion. Lurking and hiding. Friends and foes. Unlikely alliances and companions. And a vaguely dystopian, post-historical setting with references to "ancient technology" that kids will recognize.
The book is crisply paced and directly written, with enough description and character building and scene setting, but also with headlong action, dollops of suspense, and a sort of headlong rush to book two. That said, this book ends, (SPOILER), with the boys just making it to the rebel stronghold. There's no "cliffhanger" as such, but of course there's lots more story to follow in the later books. (By the way, sometimes this book is referred to as "Book Two", but that's just because it got renumbered after the prequel came out.)
So, a bit of a throwback, but it has held up remarkably well, and is a solid, well made, and entertaining choice for a new sci-fi survival/adventure reader.
It's still an excellent book. I found it interesting to read it again as an adult in my 40s compared to as a 10-year-old kid because so many of the references to today's world (things the reader is presumed to understand but that mystify the characters) are a lot clearer to me now than when I was a kid. Nowadays I readily understand all the landmarks, especially Notre-Dame, that I didn't necessarily get as a kid who had never been to Europe. As a kid I understood what the Shmand-Fair was, but I didn't understand why Will thought Beanpole called it that (turns out Beanpole probably said "chemin de fer," "iron road," but at age 10 the extent of my French knowledge was to be able to count to ten).
Prior to reading the book this time around I wondered if I'd find its very short length unsatisfying, even recognizing it's aimed at younger readers. Lately I've been reading 1000+ page books such as George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire," and I knew this book is under 200 pages, so I thought maybe it'd seem superficial or too rushed. Upon re-reading it, however, I didn't feel that way. I'm not really sure the story would have worked well in a longer book because the point of the characters not understanding many things about the Tripods or about how the world used to be are so important to the story but are not things that really lend themselves to greater exploration (potential spoiler: that comes in the sequels).
So I highly recommend this book and its sequels, especially for boys in the age 10 to 13 range. (I cannot comment on the prequel, "When the Tripods Came," because I only learned about it in the 1990s and I've never read it. I wish the publisher would release it for the Kindle. I must caution potential readers, however, not to read the prequel until after you've read the original three books. Even though I haven't read it, I know it has to contain too many spoilers for information that isn't revealed until "The City of Gold and Lead." If you read the prequel first, it will be harder to appreciate the characters' wonder at the "ancient" world when you read "The White Mountains.")
Will is dubious about the procedure because he has just seen his cousin (and best friend) Jack Capped. There is a feast day and celebration for Jack who is now considered an adult. Beforehand Jack admitted his reservations about the Capping to Will. Afterwards Jack is totally changed. He goes to work with the other men and tells Will that everything is fine. That he will understand. Just as soon as he's capped. Then Will meets a "Vagrant" (a person who's Capping was unsuccessful) named Ozymandias who is more than he seems. It turns out that Will may have a chance to avoid being Capped, but it will be a long and dangerous trek to find sanctuary.
I remember the library shelf in Banting Elementary School in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where I picked out this book to read. I think I remember it so vividly because it fascinated me from the beginning, starting with the cover. It's been decades and yes, I realize this is a children's book, but I wanted to read it again. I also wondered if it would stand the test of time (as it was first published in 1967) and memory. The short answer? It certainly does.