|The White Mountains (book)|
The City of Gold and Lead
The White Mountains is the first book of The Tripods trilogy, published 1967.
William is a 13-year-old English boy from the village of Wherton, a small farming area. He witnesses the Capping Ceremony of his cousin, Jack, and begins to think a lot about when he will be Capped, next year. He notices the changes in Jack and has a lot of questions that neither Jack nor anyone else will answer. Will's unease is seized on by a man named Ozymandias, who appears to be a Vagrant, a man whose Capping failed. He explains that he is really a free man, and the Cap he wears is false, He tells Will about the Tripods' conquering of Earth and that there is an enclave of free men in the White Mountains, in Switzerland, fighting back against the Tripods.
Will and his cousin Henry run away and are arranged passage on a ship by Ozymandias, although Ozymandias himself stays behind to continue recruiting a while longer before he, too, returns. The boys are nearly kidnapped by another ship's captain, but the captain of the Orion intervenes to save them.
They arrive on the European mainland, in France, and begin their trek over land. They encounter a French boy, named Zhan-pole (which Will later learns is actually "Jean-Paul"), who saves them from a group intending to hand them over for Capping. He is intelligent and has a knack for invention as shown by the crude eye glasses he made for himself. He also helped engineer a 'shmand-fair', a primitive railroad on the old tracks, with a combination of steam and horse propulsion. Henry dubs the boy 'Beanpole' because he is tall and lanky, and the nickname sticks. The group passes through a 'great-city', their name for one of the ruined cities large numbers of people once lived in, shown to be Paris,France in the TV series. They are awed by things like cars, a telephone, jewelry, canned food and weapons. They easily figure out the 'metal eggs', or hand grenades, but aren't able to determine how to use the guns or how a car works. They also notice the railroad in the city. They know they can't stay long, though, between the dangers of vagrants and the Tripods themselves, and they continue on their way.
However, as they leave the city, Will becomes ill. The trio must stop and rest in a town whose inhabitants find and nurse the sick Will. The town is the home of wealthy people, namely the Comptess, the Compt (French equivalents of Count and Countess) and their daughter, Eloise. Will believes she is not yet Capped,due to her personality and spunk, but when he pulls off the turban she wears, he sees she is Capped. He begins to ponder staying here, even as Henry and Beanpole leave, as life does not seem all that bad, with its fine clothes, rich food and medieval-style games. The Compt and Comptess even offer to get Will a place among the nobility of the town. But he learns that they are still slaves to the Tripods, as Eloise tells him of how she will be queen of a local tournament and then be taken to serve the Masters in their city. Jolted back to the reality of life under the Tripods, Will finally follows after Henry and Beanpole.
As Will rushes to catch up to the others, he has a run in with a Tripod, but it strangely does not Cap him. He discovers after reuniting with his companions that it left a tracking beacon on his arm. Henry and Beanpole are distrustful for a bit, and Will must convince them that he is not an agent of the Tripods. The two boys manage to remove the beacon from Will's arm, but the process is difficult and painful. The boys see a Tripod that has been following the beacon and attack it with the hand grenades, destroying it. However, its death brings more Tripods, and the boys are forced to hide as the Tripods search the area for the culprits. When it finally appears safe to leave, they are nearly crushed by two more Tripods, but they are not part of the group searching for the boys. Instead, they appear to be playing a form of a game. Finally, the three boys manage to make it to the rebel outpost as the first book ends.