When the Tripods Came by John Christopher
When the Tripods Came is the fourth book in John Christopher’s TRIPODS science fiction series for children, but it’s actually a prequel, so you could read it first if you like. When the Tripods Came was published in 1988, 20 years after the original trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire), and after the airing in the UK of a BBC series based on the TRIPOD books.
Young readers of the TRIPODS trilogy may have been wondering how humans had been so stupid as to let the aliens subdue them by “capping” them with metal headgear that controls their thoughts. I was definitely wondering that. Well, read When the Tripods Came, and you’ll find out. This is the story of what happened with the alien Masters arrived on Earth, how they brainwashed almost all of the humans, why the humans happily went along with it, and how one family remained free to begin the resistance movement we learned about in The White Mountains.
When the Tripods Came explores more deeply the fundamental question that the TRIPOD books address: If you had to choose between being content / happy / ignorant or being free / self-determining / knowledgeable, which would you choose? (We might insist that we’d choose the latter, but if we examine ourselves, we may discover that we sometimes choose the former.) It also has something important to say about the seductive power of television, and the dangers of nationalism and xenophobia.
When the Tripods Came is very short — less than four hours in the audio version (Audible Studios) I listened to. It’s read by Walter Gaminara, the same reader who did such a great job narrating the trilogy. I didn’t like the plot of When the Tripods Came quite as much as I liked the trilogy, but I am glad I learned the backstory and think fans will find the knowledge worth the small time investment.
In my first paragraph above I said it doesn’t matter if you read When the Tripods Came first or last, but I think that when I read The White Mountains, I enjoyed the suspense of not knowing how the aliens became Earth’s Masters. For this reason, I’d advise reading When the Tripods Came after the original trilogy. But again, it doesn’t really matter.
I didn’t even know about this one!