Thursday, March 22, 2012

17. The Lotus Caves by John Christopher

The John Christopher Young Adult review of 2012 rolls on!  I had thought that the Tripods trilogy was my introduction to Christopher as a grade 6er, but as soon as I saw this cover for the Lotus Caves, I realized that this was in fact the first of his books that I read.  I even have a vague memory of Glen Dumont of all people telling me that it was really good.  It definitely made the rounds among our sixth grade class.

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.


Anonymous said...

I am 50 years old and read this book in 6th grade. It made such an impression on me that I have never forgotten it, or the imagery it created in my mind.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Thanks for the comment! I really am curious if it will have the same power in today's overstimulating environment. I've got a nephew who is still a bit young, but I'm definitely going to give this to him when he hits the right age.

Anonymous said...

I also read this book in highschool and never forgot the story, and have been trying to find it for years!

Anonymous said...

I loved this book as a kid and just found out it was made into a movie that was on TV tonight. The movie stunk and only used about 1% of the story. 99% of the plot had nothing at all to do with the book. So Sad. Maybe someday we will get a better film version. The one in my head is still safe : )