Manny's Reviews > The White Mountains

The White Mountains by John Christopher
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May 08, 2011

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bookshelves: children, science-fiction
Read in January, 1968

I read this book when I was about 10, but there's a moment near the beginning that's really stayed with me. It's one of those stories where Earth has been enslaved by alien overlords. There are, however, a few bright points in their miserable existences, and one of these is the annual games, where young athletes compete in a kind of Olympics to pick out the fastest and strongest.

The hero and his best friend are competing. They're both top jocks. They're pretty much certain that they'll win and be granted the mystical journey to the aliens's city that is the victors' privilege. The hero duly delivers. But his friend, who's a long jumper, screws up: he puts a foot wrong during his run-up and is disqualified. He and the hero look at the judges in stunned disbelief, but there's nothing they can do. One of them is going, and the other, poor guy, will have to suffer the bitter humiliation of being left behind.

It turns out there's a reason why the aliens want to find the strongest humans. They're from a planet with stronger gravity, and their cities use gravity generators which reproduce the conditions on the home world. The winners in the games will become their servants. But not for long, since daily exposure to high gravity does bad things to your heart and joints. The hero realises that his victory has bought him a death sentence. His friend has been granted a miraculous reprieve.

I was quite good at taking exams, but it occurred to me to wonder if they were as important as people made out.
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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Manny Thanks Ko! I had forgotten about it too until a friend put it on her read list yesterday. The series isn't at all bad, is it?


Nick Black you're talking about book #2, the city of gold and lead. no competitions in this one.


Manny You know, my first thought was indeed that this stuff happened in City of Gold and Lead. But then I saw it was #2 in the trilogy, and I figured that I must have misremembered somehow.

It looks like I accidentally started the series in the middle and have only discovered my mistake 42 years late. Did I miss anything good?


Nick Black nope! the latter two books are both far superior to, and stand independent of, the first one. there is a prequel, "when the tripods came", which is worth reading (or was when i was 9, anyway).


Manny Phew! That's a relief. Looks like the teacher who managed our school library knew what she was doing.


message 6: by j (new) - rated it 3 stars

j i just re-read this one last year and i briefly thought my memory was even worse than it is.


Manny I guess it's an allegory of British colonialism or something. There were a lot of those around when I was a kid. After a while, I noticed that we had a collective bad conscience about something.


message 8: by Vinaya (new)

Vinaya Does it have a happy ending? I'm always disturbed by children's books that don't have a happy ending!

And speaking of collective bad consciences, it's something I've always wanted to know about German literature. I had a bunch of German students in my Human Rights classes who admitted that WWII and the Holocaust were still a sort of collective moral stain, so to speak, on the honor of their nation, and I've always wondered if German literature reflected it, but it's hard to get hold of translations over here!


Manny I'm pretty sure it has a happy ending. The British Empire, I mean the humans, revolt and send all those Brits, I mean Tripods, packing home again. Then they beat them at cricket too for good measure.

I'm not quite sure about the last bit, I read it a long time ago...


message 10: by Erin (new)

Erin Berndt Thank you.


Manny You're very welcome, Erin!


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