09 October 2016

Books: The Tripods: The City of Gold and Lead by John Christopher (1967)

“After a year in the White Mountains of hard training, the resistance charges Will, Beanpole, and a German boy named Fritz, to infiltrate a Tripod City by competing in a regional sporting exhibition. Will, a boxer, and Fritz, a runner, win their respective contests, while Beanpole fails to win in the jumping events. The winners are taken to the Tripod city in a pressurized dome astride a river. Inside the city, the boys discover the Tripods' operators, whom they refer to as the "Masters". Human males are slaves inside the cities, while beautiful females are killed and preserved for the Masters to admire. Slaves are furnished with breathing masks to survive the aliens' atmosphere, but are rapidly exhausted by the stronger artificial gravity and must therefore be periodically replaced. Although Fritz is abused by his Master, Will is treated as a privileged pet by his. Eventually, Will's Master reveals a plan to replace the Earth's atmosphere with the Masters' toxic air to enable full control of the Earth.”

The City of Gold and Lead is a tense, lean tale and is much creepier than the first book in the series. What worked was the whole concept of the Masters and their bizarre city of gold. Christopher comes up with intriguing ideas, even if he spends little time trying to fully explain them. The book still has issues with women, and while I don’t want to make apologies for the authors treatment of them, I’m still tend to accept that book was written at time when the world still saw women as the happy homemaker, concerned only with trivial things. They were not seen then as true individuals. Plus, again, this series was directed at males so it can be expected a bit to believe young boy readers would not like to see heroic women. There is also a suggestion that the boys are not only verbally and psychically abused by the Masters, but they are also molested by them. We also get a glimpse at how the Tripods overtook the world, but once again, the details are slim. Maybe something more is forthcoming in book 3?

A lot of this stuff was dropped in the 1985 12 episode TV adaptation, with a bunch of new subplots and characters (females!!!) being added to offset some of the more homoerotic and, let’s face it, weirder and kinkier aspects that would’ve been hard to conceive on a TV budget back then. Which leads to the fact that Disney has held the rights to this trilogy since 1997 and it would be interesting to see how close a version of the book(s) they could do now. I still think they would need to add a few new subplots and expand other set pieces like the TV version did and they would probably change the gender of either Henry or Beanpole (and why not Will as well?) to a women to entice the female audience. And it’s obvious the technology of visual effects has greatly advanced in the 30 years since this series aired, so that would be keen. There even had been a suggestion that a film adaptation was coming in 2012, but that may have been about the time of the authors passing and it was just hopeful thinking. 

Now onto the concluding book…

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