One of my favourite authors, John Christopher (real name Samuel Youd), died on 3 February, aged 89. I discovered him in the late 1980s, when I happened to borrow The White Mountains from my high school library. To my surprise and delight, I soon realised that I was reading the novel which had been adapted as the television series The Tripods a few years earlier – a series that had such an impact on me that I used to have dreams about it. Christopher’s Tripods saga is comprised of four short novels, which became lifelong favourites of mine, and are given pride of place on my bookshelf as the most read novels.
Christopher is also the author of a fabulous post-apocalyptic disaster novel, The Death of Grass, as well as many other science fiction books for teens and adults. Whichever age group a particular novel was intended for, he always injected his stories with an unapologetic sense of realism about life. A recurring theme in his work was the fight for individualism against mind control. And this perhaps explains my unending fascination with his work. He told an interviewer in 1984:
The apple which tempts my characters is the one that will remove the knowledge of good and evil. I suppose it’s something of a reversal of the conventional Eden story: Freedom of thought is perhaps the greatest good, and needs to be fought for and sacrificed for.
It was my pleasure to correspond briefly with John Christopher a few years ago via email. I had developed an idea for a Tripods spin-off entitled The Freedom Triangle, and was curious about the legal issues involved in publishing it. To my delight, he told me that my idea was highly original. Sadly, though, Disney owned the rights to The Tripods, as a movie adaptation was being planned.
I hope John Christopher’s work will live on, for future generations to enjoy. Check out my reviews of his books.
2 thoughts on “One of my favourite authors dies: John Christopher”
Sad news indeed.
I first discovered John Christopher after the first series of The Tripods aired on BBC 1. I devoured the two sequels pretty quickly and soon hunted down the rest of his back catalogue. The Guardians and The Sword of the Spirits trilogy remain my personal favorites. In retrospect much of his work appears to be derivative of the likes of John Wyndham and Walter M. Miller Jr (particularly A Canticle for Leibowitz), but he did bring a few new ideas and concepts to the table and, in later years, brough a “boy’s own adventure” attitude to what Brian Aldiss would otherwise derisively describe as “cosy catastrophe” fiction.
Hi, Mark. Good to hear from you. If you’ve never read “The Death of Grass,” I thoroughly recommend it.