Monday, February 20, 2012

8. Fireball by John Christopher

I'm less enthusiastic about John Christopher's young adult stuff.  It's not that it's not good (the opposite in fact, it ranks among the classics), but it lacks the underlying anxiety that I enjoy so much about his earlier, adult fiction.  The YA books are also quicker reads, with simpler, condensed narratives.  They are not totally fulfilling for me as a reader.  As a collector, though, I have decided with the conclusion of Fireball that I will definitely be keeping an eye out for his YA fiction to add to my bookshelf.  When I finished Fireball, I thought it was a one-off (like Wild Jack) but it turns out to be a part of a trilogy as well, though one, I suspect, that wasn`t originally planned, as the three books are so far apart and the stories so different.

The basic premise is two cousins, one American the other British are spending the summer in the english countryside when they see a fireball floating in the air.  They go to it and the next thing they know (after some discovery) they are in an alternate earth where the Roman Empire never declined.  They become involved in a Christian revolution and when that turns sour, they head with some new allies to the New World.  I kind of got into it, especially the exploration of the world.  The coda is their voyage to the new world and that is the part that really intrigued me (thus my interest in picking up the sequel, New Found Land).  There was also some stuff at the beginning that suggested that their world was not in a great state ("the television news had been on, showing yet another scene of mob violence somewhere").  I'm curious to see if they get back to their world and any of those hints are played out.

Christopher's adolescent protagonists are often kind of whiny pills.  The American cousin, Brad, is superior to the British kid, Simon, in the ways that matter to teenage boys.  He is also more idealistic and moral.  At times, though you are in the thoughts of Simon, one finds him a bit of a pill.  There isn't a whole lot of arc for him either, at least in the first book.  He just kind of ends up following Brad's lead, after initial resistance, because Brad is usually right.  British inferiority complex on the part of Christopher or a sucesful technique to appeal to the minds of his readers?  It's hard to say, but it is noticeable.  I'm also interested in seeing if this dynamic develops in the later books.


Kate M. said...

John Christopher (his real name was Samuel Youd) died a few weeks ago. I've only read one of his books, but he wrote a number of "cosy catastrophe" books that are probably much easier to find in England than here.

OlmanFeelyus said...

I can't believe I missed the notice of his passing. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I'm going to do a belated post about him. I take significant issue with the term "cosy catastrophe" and especially with attaching him to that sub-genre. His books are far from cozy.

Kate M. said...

OK, sorry. I'd read Jo Walton's obit and she calls him a cosy catarophist, which may not be fair.

OlmanFeelyus said...

No need to apologize. It's an accepted idea that seems to have made its way into several obits. I really appreciate you calling my attention to his passing.

That essay by Jo Walton that she links to in the obit is so off the mark it's kind of astounding.