Thursday, March 22, 2012
17. The Lotus Caves by John Christopher
After rereading it, I feel that it has jumped ahead of the other of his YA books that I've recently read (excluding the Tripod trilogy). It's tighter, with a strong focus. The relationship between the boys is a bit more subtle as well. Christopher has a tendency to pit the protagonist against a superior boy and having the protagonist always being resentful, which starts to get tiresome. Here there is some of that, but it is much more complex and evolves nicely.
It takes place in the year 2068 on a moon colony. Because of the high-cost of resources and transport, life is very limited here. Everybody lives under a single bubble and there really isn't that much to do. The protagonist Marty suffers because his best friend gets sent back down to earth. This is generally a one-way trip. He soon makes friends with another boy, who is a bit of a loner and more daring. After getting into trouble for one prank, they are barred from the local community center. Boredom and their own restless spirits find them taking the lunar vehicles outside of the dome. These things have regulators that only let them go a safe distance, but one day they find one with the key to unlock the regulator carelessly left in the vehicle. So they decide to take the vehicle far out and do some exploring.
Their goal is the abandoned first station, where the first settlers stayed. There they find a clue that leads them on to a fantastic discovery, a cave under the surface of the moon filled with fantastic plant life. The only problem is that it really doesn't want them to leave. It's a study in willpower, freedom versus comfort and responsibility, with some really cool concepts along the way.
I wonder if The Lotus Caves got edited by the same woman who helped him with the Tripod trilogy. It's very well constructed, probably the perfect length for a twelve-year old. The first half is about Marty's challenges of adolescent life on the moon. The second is all about the lotus cave and the boys trying (or not trying as the seductive nature of the plant takes over their spirit) to escape. Both sections are compelling and keep you wanting to read more, especially the second half. The visuals are also really stimulating, with the cave taking form in my mind as I read it. Good stuff. You can see why it was so popular. I wonder if it is still on the curriculum today. It should be.