When the Tripods Came
When the tripods came
Author John Cristopher
Publication date 1988
Publication Order
Preceded by
The Pool of Fire
Followed by

When the Tripods Came is a prequel to the original The Tripods trilogy, published in 1988 after the cancellation of the TV Series. The story of the novel expands on the story told to Will by his Master in The City of Gold and Lead, about how the Masters managed to invade and conquer Earth by using mind control and television.


A young English teen named Laurence, aka Laurie, and his friend Andy are awakened by the arrival of a Tripod while on a camping trip. The machine abducts a man who came out to look at it, and destroys the farmhouse he came out of. A tank shows up and tries to greet the Tripod with classical music, only to be picked up and crumpled. This prompts a burst of bombs by RAF fighters, and the Tripod is destroyed.

Later, Laurie learns that two other Tripods landed at the same time, one in the United States of America and one in the Soviet Union. The Soviets destroyed their Tripod with a missile strike, while the Americans just surrounded theirs and waited for a reaction. The Tripod attack is made light of by the media, although Laurie and Andy get a lot of questions about their experience. Life returns to normal, and soon, The Trippy Show begins airing on television. It's a mixture of live action and animation and starts out lampooning the Tripod, but then airs a skit depicting the Tripod as a hero, rescuing a knight and his princess from a dragon. While some are enamored by it, others aren't impressed. Laurie's sister, Angela, becomes crazed about the show, becoming violent when Laurie botches recording an episode for her. The family turns to a doctor friend, Geoffrey Monmouth, to dehypnotize her, and the gamble works. While she was under,though, Angela reveals that the show told her to obey the Tripod and do what it commanded. The media dubs the obsessive fans of the show 'Trippies', and there is more and more discord and unrest caused by them. Some are disappearing to live in Trippy communes, and when a second wave of Tripods lands, the Trippies begin obsessively following them. People disappear from Laurie's school and even some of the teachers are revealed to be Trippies. Laurie's family notices friends being sucked in as well.

One day, school is dismissed early because one of the nearby Tripods is moving. On the way home, Laurie and his schoolmate see the Tripod walking along with its followers clinging to it. One girl falls and dies, still praising the Tripod despite her severe injuries. Laurie's family is visited later by a rich uncle, bringing a briefcase of Caps and trying to force them on the family. Laurie's mom chases them off with a heavy statue, but the family realizes it's not safe. They have been told to stay put, but they fear becoming sitting ducks if they don't flee.

They take their boat, the Eidelweiss, and head to their cottage on the island of Guernsey. However, the Capped have already reached the island. The family hears news on the radio of a veritable civil war between Capped and uncapped, and they see a battle between groups of planes overhead. Realizing it's not safe, the family leaves Guernsey, with Laurie's father hijacking a plane and forcing the pilot to Switzerland, where the family of Elsa, Laurie's stepmother, lives. The Swiss aren't happy about the English as they question them about the hijack and a subsequent scuffle on the plane, but they send them on toward their destination while they decide what to do, warning them to stay out of trouble or risk deportation immediately.

For a time, it's safe in the village where Laurie's grandparents, dubbed the 'Swigram' and 'Swigramp' live, but then Switzerland is invaded by Capped Germans and French, and although most of the family still appears to have their false Caps, Laurie does not, and the soldiers insist he be Capped the next day. The family must leave, and just after they do, the house is destroyed. The Swigramp dies just before the family leaves, and shortly after, the Swigram also dies. The family takes up hiding in the mountains, in an isolated area where they can hide from the Tripods, at least for a while. They recruit more children as they go, knowing they must fight back and the only ones who can do so are the children who are not yet Capped, those under 14. As the novel ends, Laurie and his parents spot a Tripod replacing its followers' temporary Caps with the permanent Caps seen in the three books of the trilogy. The small band of resisters they have formed will be the basis for outpost of the free humans to which Will, Beanpole, Henry will be directed to by Ozymandius in the first book.


  • Geoffrey Monmouth is likely named after the medieval British writer Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose "History of the Kings of Britain" gave us many of the modern versions of the Arthurian Legends.
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