Sunday, August 10, 2008

30. The Little People by John Christopher

The Little People pictureI found two more John Christopher books at Pulp Fiction when I was in Vancouver, both first edition hardbacks for $7.95. Now that I think about it, that's actually a pretty good deal, when standard used paperbacks are going for $4.95 these days.

The Little People is from 196?, still part of Christopher's working period as an author but later into it. Though there is a slight deviation from form, it quite quickly assembles itself into a structure very similar to The Possessors, Sweeney's Island and the other books from this period. A group of flawed people (though in this case, there is only one englishmen; the rest are european, scottish and american) assemble together in a remote location and encounter weirdness. In this case, it is a remote Scottish castle, that a young, competent woman inherits. She decides to try and run it as an inn, emphasizing the remoteness.

The first half of the book describes the interesting collection of guests, the bitter and fighting american couple, their silent daughter, the guilt-ridden german husband and his jewish wife, the innkeeper's english fiancee who thinks her decision to run the inn is mad, the scottish hyper-catholic young lawyer who has a crush on the innkeeper. Christopher slowly lays out their back stories, while revealing small hints of weirdness in the lodge. Strange small things are sighted moving in the bog. Useful household items get stolen. The distant uncle who left her the place had spent most of his time locked in the now closed tower, where there was a collection of well-made dollhouses and small cages.

In the second half of the book, the little people are actually discovered, as is their history. I was a bit disappointed at first, because it all was revealed a bit quick. But I should have had some confidence in Christopher's ability to keep the reader guessing, as things get weird fast and suddenly it is very unclear who are the victims. As I've said, all of these psychological thrillers of John Christopher's have a similar setup. Where they differ is which aspect they fall on. Whereas in the Possessors, the fight for survival took primacy (the "thriller" aspect), here it is the effect the situation has on the people and their relationships that is emphasized (the "psychological" aspect).

The cover above is the hardback I found. Quite elegant and probably better catches the actual mood of the book. But check out the wacky cover below. I saw it in this blog here and though it really does not represent the story, it is truly awesome.

The Little People picture


meezly said...

are diabolical elves responsible for some of that weirdness?

Buzby said...

I love the second cover! Is this a young adult book?

Jason L said...


Delving deep into the JC oeuvre. Great review.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Definitely not young adult. This was written in '66 and is very much adult (mostly in the sense that it's psychological and teens would find it frickin' boring).

He started his young adult career with the White Mountains in 67. It was quite succesful so he stuck with that and dropped a lot of the other lines he was doing.