"Once a year the clockman came from Winchester, on an old jogging pack horse, to clean and oil (the clock) and put it right. Afterward he would drink camomile tea with my mother and tell her the news of the city and what he had heard in the villages through which he had passed." Reluctantly you come to realize that this is the alarming future not the quaint past, and without any explicit descriptions you know just what it's like to live in this pastoral, non-industrialized world controlled by the barely-understood, huge, mechanized, steel Tripods. Coming of age is recognized with the Capping ceremony--in which a Tripod fastens a permanent, metal, mind-controlling framework over the head. Will Parker, who tells the story, opts for escape and with two friends heads across Europe for the White Mountains where men can live primitively but free. It's a difficult journey to make, with physical dangers (Tripod hordes in hot pursuit) and more tantalizing distractions (an idyllic medieval castle and a beautiful princess make capping seem appealing). The trip covers a continent with a varying landscape but you always see the world with Will in his vividly conveyed milieu. The author has successfully transferred his special talents from the adult to the juvenile form in a classic plot made vital again.