The City of Gold (The Tripods)

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File:The City of Gold and Lead (book cover).jpg
The City of Gold, as shown on a book cover.

The City of Gold is the name given to the dwelling places of the Masters in the novel The City of Gold and Lead (1967), the second book of John Christopher's trilogy, The Tripods.

There are three such cities from which the Earth is ruled and from which humanity is kept docile and obedient. There is a European city near the ruins of Berlin (hinted in the book as being on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain), an Asian city in China and an American city that straddles the Panama Canal.

Description of the city[edit]

General[edit]

Conditions within the city are oppressive and harsh. The gravity is over two times that of Earth's and the temperature is extremely high. (This high gravity explains the book's title, The City of Gold and Lead.) As well as this, the Masters breathe a different atmosphere to humans, so within the city all human slaves must wear masks with filters.

Each city seems to follow the same basic design. There is a circular golden wall bounding the city that is approximately 150 to 300 feet high (only estimates are given throughout the book). Above this wall is an emerald-green dome of crystal that separates the atmosphere of the Earth and that of the city. The golden wall is described as being smooth, seamless and featureless.

Although most artwork shows the contents of the city reasonably clearly the books imply that the structures inside are quite invisible, at least from the viewpoint of the ground. When flying over the American city in a balloon in The Pool of Fire the narrator describes being able to see the tops of the structures, albeit very dimly.

The main opening into the city is through a triangular door, slightly higher than a Tripod. This leads to a vast garage (described by the narrator as a stable) where the Tripods are stored and the slaves unloaded. In the book The Pool of Fire it is described that the Tripods have airlocks allowing them to dock with chutes in the walls of this garage, allowing the Masters to leave them and enter the City proper without having to venture into the oxygen atmosphere of the garage.

From the garage is a small changing area where new slaves are given clothing and equipment suitable for life in the city. This leads on to an airlock-lift that takes the new slaves to the city's "Choosing Place" and into the poisonous green atmosphere of the city interior.

Structures within the city are built upon the general form of the pyramid, though less regular than any earthly pyramid. One is described as being five-sided, but with three of the sides forming one almost flat, vertical face. None of the streets in the city are straight and few of them are level. There are also mentions of unused areas that will be built into as the city's population grows.

The standard residential pyramid is the Masters' equivalent of a low-rise block of flats. The centre of the structure is a pyramid of the same proportions as the whole building, but smaller, to form an internal store room. The space between this room and the outer wall is formed into residences. The most senior Master lives in a pyramid-shaped apartment at the top of the structure, and Masters of progressively lower rank live further and further down. Each residential pyramid has a communal room. This room has an oxygen atmosphere and is a place where off-duty slaves can meet if they so wish.

A typical residence[edit]

A typical apartment consists of a single corridor that leads off from a central lift-shaft. This corridor leads to the other rooms of the home. The Window Room is the largest of these. It is a large triangular sitting room with (as its name would suggest) a window looking out to the city. Its most prominent feature, apart from the window, is a small pool in which the residing Master can submerge himself to relax.

The bedroom is the second room, it consists of a simple upright sleeping chamber that is filled with a mossy substance.

Next to the bedroom is the Master's private bath. This is a much larger pool into which the master may submerge entirely. Oils and powders may be poured into the water of this bath and the water itself is far hotter than that of the window room pool.

Finally there is the slave's refuge. This is a simple, oxygen atmosphered, room with a table, a chair, and a bed of sorts. There is a small toilet section that produces lukewarm water for washing, drinking and cooking purposes.

Other structures[edit]

The city has several recreational areas each of which has a communal room for slaves. Of the ones described there are what appear to be dance stages, communal baths that double as music theatres (if it can be called music), museums of astronomy and the Pyramid of Beauty.

The Pyramid of Beauty is presumably standard in every city sent to every planet for every conquest. It is where specimens of the conquered planet are killed, immobilised and put on display for Masters to enjoy. This is where all women who enter the city end up, being killed and placed in transparent caskets for curious Masters to admire. This is one of many references to the Masters perverse view of civilisation, claiming to do this because "[the Masters] appreciate beauty".

One recreation (whose implied popularity possibly alludes to the widespread popularity of Association Football) is the Sphere Arena. Here Masters of great skill drive half-sized Tripods around a triangular court. The game played, The Sphere Chase, is deliberately described in a confusing and elusive manner. It involves the small Tripods using their steel tentacles to fling a golden globe of energy around or into one of seven baskets.

Within the City are two areas built specifically for slaves. One of these is the Slaves Hospital. The conditions of the city are so extreme that the average life expectancy of a slave is only two years or so. Several slaves are proud of the fact that they have managed four or five years, but these are anomalies. The slaves' hospital exists so that slaves who can still work needn't be disposed of quite as readily as they may have been.

The second area is a building known as the "Place of Happy Release". It is a dome that a slave, once they know their useful life to be over, goes and stands underneath. Through some unknown means the slave is killed. A conveyor then takes the body to a white hot furnace where it is burned.

Pool of Fire[edit]

The heart of the city is the Pool of Fire, first described in the book of the same name. It is what provides the power for the city, the gravity, the electricity, the water pumps and the atmosphere generators. It is described as a pit in which fire seems to flow and pool, like a liquid. Whether this is intended to be some kind of fission or fusion, or whether Christopher was simply trying to come up with something alien is unknown.

The power that the Pool produces does not seem to be directly electrical in nature. One of the Freemen infiltrating the city in the book The Pool of Fire dies when he touches the lever that controls the fire; flames spreading up his body and consuming him.

See also[edit]

  • The White Mountains (1967)
  • The Pool of Fire (1968)


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