Book Review: The Guardians by John Christopher

John Christopher, whose real name is Samuel Youd, is a master of using futuristic adventure stories as a vehicle for deep social and philosophical subjects. Most famous for writing The Tripod Series, he is the author of many books for teens and adults on the subject of class, freedom, and survival.

The Guardians is a fictional story set in 2050 and was published in 1970. Recommended for ages 9-13, but I enjoyed it as an adult. His books are exciting, but also thought-provoking.

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As in most of his other books, the main characters are teenage boys. I assume that is due to the era in which he was writing and simply his field of expertise. Born in 1922, Youd’s ideas about gender roles and character descriptions are a little outdated to some. This book was no different in that there are no female heroes.

The Guardians main character, Rob, is similar to the main character in The Tripod Series. He is resourceful and brave, but somewhat immature and lives in a futuristic England in which there are two vastly different classes of people, city masses and country gentry, that are literally kept separate by a fence.

The Conurbs have all the latest technology including “electrocars” and “holovision” and live in a very communal, chaotic society in which games and festivals play a major role.

The County people live a life of horses and carriages, fox hunts, and servants. They know about modern technology, but don’t use it .

Rob is a city boy, or Conurban , who becomes an an orphan and after being sent to a rough boys school, he decides to escape to the other class of people. He has to rely on his wits until he meets a boy name Mike from the country , or County , who takes him under his wing.

Rob works hard to learn the County ways , and gradually becomes accustomed to the gentry lifestyle. But then his friend Mike starts talking about freedom and rebellion against the system that he says must be changed. Rob argues that things are good the way they are and doesn’t understand why Mike wants to upset the apple cart.

Eventually things come to a crisis point and new facts are revealed about how the divided society is actually controlled and maintained. Then Rob must make a decision about what is right and wrong and what to do next.

I think this a great book for any age, but very appropriate for adolescents who are beginning to deal with difficult questions.

Please check out my other John Christopher reviews.

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