The Pool of Fire by John Christopher
The Pool of Fire is the third book in John Christopher’s TRIPODS dystopian series for children. If you haven’t yet read The White Mountains and The City of Gold and Lead, you need to go back and read those first. (And expect mild spoilers for those previous books in this review.)
At the end of The City of Gold and Lead, Will had escaped from the Masters and was heading back to the rebels in the White Mountains with the important knowledge he gained while he was a slave. In The Pool of Fire, the rebels are using Will’s intelligence to plan a way to defeat the Masters. The scientists and engineers, who are starting to re-learn some of the “ancient” science and technology that has been lost, are planning the attacks. Will’s new job is to travel around the world recruiting other boys (not girls, apparently) to the resistance movement, but he will also get to participate when it’s time to start attacking the aliens. If the rebels are to be victorious, it will not be without some heartbreaking sacrifices.
All of the TRIPOD books have been short and fast-paced, but this one suffers a bit for it. The story is exciting, but so much transpires so rapidly that we must be told quite a bit of it instead of experiencing it. Details are skimmed over quickly and we hardly have time for reflection. I hardly ever say this, but the TRIPOD trilogy needed to be longer.
I thought Will’s characterization was inconsistent in this book. Suddenly he is impatient, moody, and a bit vengeful. He has trouble accepting feedback from superiors, and dealing with the weaknesses of his personality. It feels as if John Christopher decided to include a few morality lessons in this volume, so he changed Will’s character to make it fit the lesson. Besides learning to deal with criticism, Will also learns lessons about alcoholism, the importance of being a good listener, and that sometimes luck is required for success. (He doesn’t learn anything about girls since there aren’t any around.)
Or perhaps Christopher suddenly endowed Will with these obvious shortcomings to make the point that humans will never be able to live together in perfect unity because of these character flaws. In Will’s world, humans who were “capped” by the aliens actually did live peacefully and happily. But is peace and happiness worth giving up our individuality and free will for? This is probably a deep thought for John Christopher’s target audience, and it’s a good one.
The Pool of Fire wraps the story up nicely, but fans will want to know that a fourth book, When the Tripods Came, is a prequel story that explains how the Tripods took over Earth.
William Gaminara, gives another great performance in the audio version of The Pool of Fire. It’s almost 5 hours long.