Set in a vague idea of the future (or rather as the future may have looked to a writer in 1969) The Weathermonger opens with Geoffrey and Sally, two siblings left adrift on a rock in the sea by their community. Confused by a knock on the head, Geoffrey is informed by Sally that their uncle has been killed after being found working on a motorboat, and that the two of them have been left to be drowned when the tide comes in.
After “The Changes,” England has regressed back into primitive times, in which any machine or piece of technology is met with fear and loathing. Those unaffected by this bizarre state of mind have escaped to France, and that’s where Geoffrey and Sally manage to escape — only to be sent back by the French authorities on a mission to discover where exactly the machine phobia stems from. The majority of the story concerns Geoffrey and Sally’s dangerous cross-country journey across hostile territory to its surprising source, and Dickinson keeps tension high as they come across various friends and foes on the way.
Geoffrey and his sister are pleasant enough kids, but they don’t really seem to come alive as characters. I’m not sure why Geoffrey is given amnesia at the beginning, as it makes it difficult to get to know a character who doesn’t really know himself (and we’re never entirely clear as to whether he regains his memories). Perhaps it was a way to get the exposition of the situation across to the reader, as Geoffrey has to have much explained to him.
Dickinson writes in smooth clear prose and the story charges along at a very brisk pace. The Weathermonger is a reasonably slender volume and most readers will have it done in one sitting. The book’s most memorable feature is its moral ambiguity — there are no black-or-white characters or motivations here, and Dickinson’s best character, Cyril Camperdown (not his real name!), is a perfect example of this.
Altogether, The Weathermonger is a quick, interesting read and the irony of the last line brought a smile to my face.
The Changes — (1968-1970) Young adult. Publisher: This is the time of The Changes — a time when people, especially adults, have grown to hate machines and returned to a more primitive lifestyle. It is a time of hardship and fear! When 16-year-old Geoffrey, a “weathermonger” starts to repair his uncle’s motorboat, he and his sister Sally are condemned as witches. Fleeing for their lives, they travel to France — where they discover that everything is normal. Returning to England, they set out to discover why the country is under this mysterious spell. Only discovering the origin of the deadly magic will allow them to set the people free of its destructive influence. Peter Dickinson began writing the books after he’d had a nightmare. The trilogy is not sequential; rather, each book explores a different aspect of England during the time that simply became known as The Changes.