From the opening quote onward, this book, with its tiny humans and giant, inscrutable aliens, is begging for comparison to Gulliver's Travels
, and it stands within a proud tradition of fantastical post-apocalypse SF, such as Hothouse
and Riddley Walker
. All these stories use SF to examine Man by putting him in a new context, by making him small and savage and a stranger in a strange land.
Don't worry that this review is starting to read like an essay in comparative literature: This is an exciting afternoon's escapism, where men live like mice in the buildings of giant alien invaders, who regard humans as vermin. As seems inevitable in the eyes of SF writers, post-apocalyptic humanity has reverted to tribal barbarism and superstition; the story concerns a plucky young lad called Eric, who must find his way in this confusing world. It's terribly good fun and the sense of adventure and jeopardy kept me rolling through the pages: much like the Aldisses I mentioned, this is fiction first and speculation later.
As for the title, it's less a nod to Steinbeck
, than to the Robert Burns
ode. Ultimately, Tenn's humane view is that we are feeble, back-biting little parasites by nature, and the best we can do is embrace it, since our best laid plains gang SO aft agley.