Anyway, my answer was, “well, pretty much all of them.” (When I like something, I like it a lot.) But, forced to choose, I narrowed it down to… a few.
So… when We Were Very Young… I was a reader (big surprise to anyone who knows me). And one day in grade five --- yes, Virginia, I really was that young once upon a time --- I recall a friend regaling me on the way home from school about a book his teacher was reading to the class. It was a science fiction tale, and what he revealed about it made me go out and… well, it’s a longish time ago, but I know I didn’t buy it, at least immediately; my allowance in those long-ago times was about 25 cents a week, as I recall --- enough for a comic book and some chocolate to eat while I read it, but not much more --- so I must have hied myself over to a library, either school or public, and read it that way. (I do recall, quite vividly, attempting to wholesale reproduce the book at one point--- in cursive handwriting, if you please ---so I could have my own copy. Ah, the unbridled passion of youthful innocence. I think I got the first 12 pages or so written before even my patience gave out and I gave up.)
The book in question was The White Mountains, by John Christopher, first book in what I today would regard as a pretty short trilogy. (Note the price tag on the photo above of the cover, fellow bibliophiles!) It was dystopian YA, long before anyone labelled books as either. (Librarians just ghettoized precocious literate types like yours truly into the Children’s Section. Oh, the humanity.) I just knew it was a great tale because I could tick all the boxes: it was science fiction (check!), its male hero was about the same age as me (check!), and being a trilogy, it was a good, long length (check!)… at least to an elementary kid. (I’d estimate its length at something like 57,000 words or so, and now I find myself wondering, as my current WIP sits at around 140,000 words with likely another 45,000 to go, how Mr. Christopher wrote an entire trilogy for less than that. Hmm.)
And man, did I want to see the tale made into a film. But it never was. (Wikipedia told me just now the BBC actually did make a TV series of it in the 1980s, but it certainly never made it over to this side of the pond, so I’m sticking with my original premise. Besides… if they did it anything like as clumsily as they did some of the early Dr. Who episodes… well, let’s just say it’s best to pretend their White Mountains series never happened. Sorry, Dr. Who fans. I calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.)
But with The White Mountains, I mean, after all, what’s not to like? A future world, taken over by enormous, towering three-legged machines --- the Tripods --- who suppress technology and regulate human civilization’s existence at a 19th century level. Control of the populace is guaranteed by the fitting of Caps, sophisticated electronic devices implanted on children’s heads at 14. And our protagonist, Will Parker, is due to be capped within the year.
Egged on by a man calling himself Ozymandias --- a man pretending to be a Vagrant, a person for whom Capping has not worked and driven the wearer insane, but who is in reality a completely sane representative of a secret resistance group --- Will runs away from home in England with the intention of traveling to the group’s base in the mountains of what we know today as Switzerland. (National boundaries have pretty much been eliminated by the Tripods.) Along the way, he picks up a couple of companions: his cousin Henry, whom he initially loathes, and a French boy they meet named Jean-Paul (but whom they call Beanpole because first, he’s tall and thin, and second, they mangle the French pronunciation) who helps them out of a tight spot after they cross the English Channel. They travel through the ruins of Paris and have numerous adventures, including staying at an actual castle (where Will is sorely tempted by the owner’s daughter to stay, but doesn’t), and finally making it to the refuge of free humans in the White Mountains. The first book concludes with the promise of fighting for truth, justice and the Ameri--- uh, that is, life, liberty, and… freedom from the Tripods’ tyrannical rule.
The writing style was pretty spare, not a great deal of description, and the protagonist was certainly never given to any Hamlet-style/length philosophical or existential reflections or monologues, but maybe that’s not a bad thing, particularly for a target audience generally not into Tolkien-ish discussions or background descriptions that can meander along for several pages --- a problem even worse nowadays, with the steady and lamentable erosion/deterioration of literacy among younger (and older, come to that) readers over the last several decades. (Hey, back off, man… I was a secondary school teacher for 35 years, and Know Whereof I Speak, he said sternly.)
But it was a good tale, moved along at a fair rollicking pace, and I enjoyed it enough that it’s still in my personal library to this day. I think a literary work needs little further recommendation than that. And in terms of it being made into a film or TV series… well, digital effects were non-existent back in the Dark Ages when I was a kid, and with all due respect to Ray Harryhausen, I don’t think practical effects like clunky stop-motion technology would have served it very well, either. (Although, yeah, I still remember the thrill in watching the fight in Jason and the Argonauts between the protagonist and the skeletons.) So perhaps it’s just as well we never did get a White Mountains film or series in the halcyon days of my youth.
But I know they could do a bang-up job of it now. Anyone listening?