John Christopher

When I was an impressionable young child I had the luck to catch the first ever episode of The Tripods on television.

For one reason or another – probably because I really was very young at the time – I didn't get to watch any more of the series. I didn't even remember what it was called. But something about that television show left me wanting to know more.

Years later, as a teenager, I happened across a copy of The Tripods trilogy while in the school library. Immediately recognising the cover photo as being from the television programme I'd often wondered about, I checked it out and devoured the stories in a matter of days. And that was that.

The books were great, very enjoyable and with a plot that helped further push me on my way to being a fan of science fiction, but as an easily distracted teenager it didn't occur to me there might be other books by the same author – there certainly hadn't been others in the school library.

Then I fell in love with bookshops and, as has a way of happening, my eyes were opened to new possibilities. The Death of Grass (an adult book) fell into my hands and I devoured it with the same greed as I'd read The Tripods. Given the dark subject matter it's not what I'd call an easy read, but it was certainly a page-turner that gave me a lot to think about.

Years later I still hold The Death of Grass up as a comparison title when reading other post-apocalyptic fiction – in particular fiction that focuses on the actions and reactions of people*.

Not that any of this has helped me to find other titles by the same author. Of course, it doesn't help John Christopher has countless pen names.

Then I heard about The Syle Press and I was 'reunited' with the author's works. Most of their books are sold online, so I can't do more than tell you how pleased I am to know of their existence and post a link to their website – I'm horribly torn between wanting you to read all of John Christopher's writings and wanting to encourage you to stick to real-world bookshops – but if there are any bookshops reading this who are looking for something "new" I urge you to take a chance.

The publishers, who are gradually bringing out a range of John Christopher's books and encouraging people to return to this fascinating author, sent me a copy of Cloud on Silver. I was unable to put it down.

I have a policy of wherever possible not reading the back of a book, so I had no idea what this one was about. I simply trusted in the name of the author and set about reading. I want to encourage you to do the same.

Which is why I'm not going to write any comparisons to the other books this reminded me of or even give away too much of the plot. I'll limit myself to this: a bunch of disparate adults are brought together by a bored rich man, who takes them far away from their comfort zone. How they act towards the situation and each other is fascinating, beautiful, horrendous and engrossing.

Please trust me when I tell you it's worth a read. If you can find it in a bookshop.

If, like me, you refuse to buy books online, your chances of finding this particular title are currently pretty slim. However, I do occasionally stumble across John Christopher gems in secondhand bookshops. His paperbacks are always slim and randomly pop up under general fiction, science fiction and young adult. They usually sell for under £2 so you really can't go wrong giving him a try.

The rest of the John Christopher books currently in my collection

*If you're a fan of John Wyndham you're sure to love John Christopher's works too.

Posted: September 2016

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