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John Christopher [1922-2012]
February 6, 2012 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Samuel Youd, who wrote under the name John Christopher, has passed away.

Youd, who published under a number of pseudonyms, wrote the influential disaster novel No Blade of Grass, and the popular YA Tripod novels. A rather interesting interview from 2009 is here.

RIP.
posted by Chrysostom (53 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I loved the Tripod books when I was like 7. I had to double-check, but it was indeed alcohol that was the downfall of the aliens. What fun!
posted by cjorgensen at 9:34 AM on February 6, 2012


I loved the Tripod books when I was a kid, and recently gave them to my own kids. A brilliant author.
posted by milkwood at 9:36 AM on February 6, 2012


Loved the Tripod books. I was introduced to them through Boys' Life, naturally.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:37 AM on February 6, 2012 [6 favorites]


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The White Mountains was one of the first books I ever read. I re-read it a few years ago and was not disappointed. My husband had never read the books, so I got him hooked as well. Just the other day I was thinking that I should write Mr. Youd and thank him.
posted by mogget at 9:39 AM on February 6, 2012


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Loved the Tripod books; as a kid rummaging through the school library and already an avid reader of science fiction, mainly in Dutch but also in English, these books were naturally the ones I gravitated towards. Loved them to bits and a bit wary of ever rereading them as an adult for fear the suck fairy may have visited them.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:54 AM on February 6, 2012


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Oddly, he just came up on last week's Proopcast, and I found myself thinking, "Wow, is he still alive? Must be in his nineties."
posted by Etrigan at 9:56 AM on February 6, 2012


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Man, the Tripod series was pretty cool, even (especially?) if you'd read WOTW.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:57 AM on February 6, 2012


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The Tripods, I read the books due the comic series in Boys Life and got all the other boys in my fifth grade class into it as well.
posted by smoothvirus at 9:58 AM on February 6, 2012


Nice Jo Walton column about him.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:59 AM on February 6, 2012


I loved living in small towns as a kid, except for the stupid tiny libraries. I never heard about these books and would definitely have loved them if I had. At least I can get them for my kids. Thanks for the tip.
posted by DU at 10:01 AM on February 6, 2012


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posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:05 AM on February 6, 2012


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posted by Not The Stig at 10:06 AM on February 6, 2012


I read the heck out of those books when I was introduced to the Children's Section at my local public library. On the other hand, I also checked out encyclopedia volumes....

On review, no "on the other hand." Those books were great to my early grade-school self.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:14 AM on February 6, 2012


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I loved his Tripod series and Empty World. I read through the Tripod series again a few years back and it still holds up remarkably well. Empty World is incredibly hard to find around here however.
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:14 AM on February 6, 2012


I still remember being utterly terrified by the Tripods. Loved the books, even though I'm not much of a science fiction fan.

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posted by bardophile at 10:15 AM on February 6, 2012


Dom and Va was a book that both surprised me and got me thinking.

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posted by Quonab at 10:19 AM on February 6, 2012


Oh shit, I loved the tripod books! :(
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:21 AM on February 6, 2012


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One of my early favorites. I just found my old copies a few days ago.
posted by Horatius at 10:31 AM on February 6, 2012


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I've read nearly everything he wrote. A good life and a good output...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:49 AM on February 6, 2012


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Christopher was a part of what got me hooked on SF&F. His dystopias were a bit of an antidote to the more good-over-evil, hero gets the girl, heroine finds romance, themes of SF&F that found their way into the YA/Children's section.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:58 AM on February 6, 2012


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posted by Smart Dalek at 11:00 AM on February 6, 2012


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posted by jhandey at 11:00 AM on February 6, 2012


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I can assure you that the suck fairy has gone nowhere near the Tripod series. Reread freely. The ending of that series -- wow, it still gets me.
posted by feckless at 11:04 AM on February 6, 2012


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Hail the Tripod! (It's what John Christopher would have wanted).
posted by Mr. Excellent at 11:07 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The White Mountains was the first science fiction novel I ever read. I didn't find out it was part of a trilogy until I was an adult because our small public library only had the first book.
posted by interplanetjanet at 11:12 AM on February 6, 2012


Chrysostom, thanks for that Jo Walton link. I love the term "cosy catastrophe". Never heard it before but I think it's a genre I'd like.
posted by pointystick at 11:18 AM on February 6, 2012


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Here are the Boys' life comic adaptations: The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and The Pool of Fire.

I remember being very excited when Mr. Youd appeared on rec.arts.sf.written in the late 90's, but he only stayed for a few posts.
posted by The Tensor at 11:19 AM on February 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, man. Loved his books as a kid. Now that you've reassured me, they're on the re-read list for sure.

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posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 11:31 AM on February 6, 2012


Dang. I sure did love those books. I was just thinking about the climactic scene in the Pool Of Fire last Friday, actually. I was on the bus at the time, and started tearing up.

Also, when I first heard about Teletubbies, the first thing I thought of was The Trippy Show, from the prequel. I was convinced it was all about to begin!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:43 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by destro at 11:49 AM on February 6, 2012


Oh, gosh, that Tripod series was a powerful and exciting thing. There was a BBC adaptation too in the 1980s, great.
posted by alasdair at 11:58 AM on February 6, 2012


His books were the quitessential 1970s SF books. Grim, pessimistic about the future of humanity, with flawed characters, yet with a thread of hope in them. It's interesting how things have come around so that YA books are once again willing to explore the same areas Christopher covered decades ago.
posted by happyroach at 11:59 AM on February 6, 2012


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posted by drezdn at 12:01 PM on February 6, 2012


I read Boy's Life for the model railroading column, the back page of corny jokes (Why did the Tenderfoot throw his clock out the window?...) and for the Tripod comic adaptations.

Bought the box set a few years back because I'd forgotten enough of the story that I wanted to remember. As others have said, it still holds up.
posted by Spatch at 12:08 PM on February 6, 2012


I am very sad to hear this. I once wrote to John Christopher in... sixth grade, I think it was, as part of a class assignment where you had to write a famous author. I was hooked on the aforementioned Boy's Life adaptations and devoured the actual novels.

I don't believe that I have the letter anymore, but he responded back with a personal reply that was very kind.

The Tripod novels also came up recently during an episode of Greg Proops's "Smartest Man in the World" podcast. I have a set of them upstairs somewhere, between that and the news of his passing, it's time to reread about Will and the Tripods and the city of gold and lead.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:21 PM on February 6, 2012


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I read the Tripod trilogy as a kid as well, and again years later and they do hold up. I was even more enthralled with The Lotus Caves.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 12:22 PM on February 6, 2012


I was buying a Barbie doll for my daughter last year at Christmas, and seeing all the dolls arranged by hair color in the store gave me a flashback to a particular scene from The City of Gold and Lead.
posted by mogget at 12:27 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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posted by Aquaman at 12:44 PM on February 6, 2012


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Somehow, that seems strangely inadequate. I still read his books. In fact, my gf gave me some for my birthday just last week…

So, again:

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posted by Pinback at 1:43 PM on February 6, 2012


I read the Tripod trilogy as a kid as well, and again years later and they do hold up. I was even more enthralled with The Lotus Caves.

Thanks, one of the random ideas that pops into my head once every few months has been, "what was that book about the boys, the moon buggy, and the alien in the cave?" And now, I know.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:54 PM on February 6, 2012


Yeah, The Tripods; and don't miss his prequel, published many years later (and not so good to read first, IMO): When The Tripods Came. These all wind up in the library's Young Adult or Juvenile sections, which was fine for me, because that was my level when The White Mountains came out... but later, I discovered his apocalyptic fiction for grown-ups, also worthwhile. Maybe the best of those was his Ragged Edge even though now it's mixed up with Niven and Pournelle's Lucifer's Hammer in my memory.
posted by Rash at 1:56 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh wow! I read The Lotus Caves and totally forgot about it until just now. I was a big fan of the Tripods novels, and hearing about his death made me sad.

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posted by vibrotronica at 2:13 PM on February 6, 2012


A big shout out to The Tensor for posting the links to the Boy's Life comics. Thanks!!!!
posted by TDavis at 2:26 PM on February 6, 2012


I read all four Tripod books at bedtime with my then 8-year old son. It took us about a year. Wow, what a great experience for both of us; I'd highly recommend it to anyone. The claustrophobic and horror-tinged description of the boys' servitude in the alien city is the part we both remember the best. The creepy alien take-over in the prequel is also superb.

Last month I read The Death of Grass, which was surprisingly grim. I thought it would be far a more cosy catastrophe than what I found, considering it was written in the 1950s. The World in Winter and Empty World are also amazing reads.

Samuel Youd has indeed left an impressive oeuvre behind.

On a lighter note, do you know of any other author who has killed off so many people across all his books?
posted by Triplanetary at 2:56 PM on February 6, 2012


On a lighter note, do you know of any other author who has killed off so many people across all his books?

Why, the soon-to-be-released-as-a-movie young adult trilogy, The Hunger Games. Maybe some interesting parallels there.

John Christopher had such a great sense of pace to his novels. Right from the first sentence of The White Mountains you get right into his world, such a great writer.

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posted by lubujackson at 3:38 PM on February 6, 2012


On a lighter note, do you know of any other author who has killed off so many people across all his books?
posted by Triplanetary at 2:56 PM on February 6 [+] [!]


Eponysterical.
posted by The Tensor at 3:50 PM on February 6, 2012


Looking for The Death of Grass a.k.a. No Blade of Grass has been my primary used book store "easter egg" hunt for several years as it has been out-of-print in the U.S. for quite some time. I know I could order a modern Penguin U.K. edition but don't want to spend much money for an import plus I'm hoping to come across it in my travels. (I try to visit any decent used book stores wherever I go.)

I re-read the tripod books a few years ago as an adult and think they really hold up well as good sci-fi. I've even tracked down used copies of my favorite edition (both for the covers and interior page design; late-1960s or early-1970s, I believe) to send to my girlfriend's nephews, who are avid readers.
posted by D.C. at 4:44 PM on February 6, 2012


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Is it me, or have we been losing the giants of fiction in one long rush lately? *sigh*
posted by ninazer0 at 5:17 PM on February 6, 2012


Yeah, John Christopher and William Sleator in a single year, that's hard. Perhaps not the time for opening a discussion on this, but I always thought it odd as a kid that there was so much famous YA (or YA-compatible) fantasy during this period, but much less YA SF -- where Christopher and Sleator (and L'Engle) were the major exceptions in my mind.
posted by chortly at 6:41 PM on February 6, 2012


Aw, man.

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posted by teferi at 6:51 PM on February 6, 2012


When I read the books as a kid, I assumed the author was, like Tolkein, already long dead.

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posted by Pope Guilty at 10:38 PM on February 6, 2012


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In sixth grade I did a book report on the White Mountains, having already finished the series it was an easy A. In giving the actual report I started giving a basic synopsis of the plot, going on for a few minutes before winding it down. The thing was though, that the teacher and several of the students would not allow me to stop. They were hooked and demanded that I basically tell the entire tale. The teacher said she was very interested in teaching the book, never followed up to see if she ever did.
posted by Locobot at 11:21 PM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember discovering the white mountains book when I was a kid, and just falling into it.

RIP

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posted by rmd1023 at 5:29 AM on February 9, 2012


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