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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2013
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,Non-Stop 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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Of Men and Monsters" is another novel that belongs in the classic category. It's not very difficult to see that William Tenn likes to turn things upside down. He is considered one of the foremost satirists of his generation and he is very good at making me think about mankind in a different way. Like all good satires, the ending is bizarre but at the same time believable, given the circumstances described. I've seen that others have found the book hilarious, but I can't say that I did. To me, "Of Men and Monsters" was more thoughtfully funny.

I couldn't help thinking of Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" (one of the most beautifully written books I've read) when I read the title. "Of Men and Monsters" is Tenn's only full-length novel. I read it one reading, not wanting to put it down. These old-timers were excellent writers.

In "Of Men and Monsters" the earth has been conquered by gigantic aliens (monsters). Humans have become vermin, living in the walls of the houses of these monsters living like mice, rats and cockroaches off the spoils of the monsters. One of the tribes of men calls itself Mankind. In Mankind lives a boy (soon to be man) called Eric the Only (single child). As part of his initiation as a man, Eric needs to go out into the Monster territory. As his journey progresses he finds betrayal, adventure and love.

People are treated pretty much as we treat our own lab animals. Experiment on them or kill them. Tenn also makes fun of the way people behave when their beliefs self-images are challenged. We pretty much see people behaving as people would, and there really is nothing funnier than that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2013
This is a nice little book, a future primitive tale that is actually a satire on humanity and our inflated view of ourselves. Sounds boring? It's not.

After being invaded by an alien species, what's left of humanity lives by becoming scavengers, literally rats in the walls. Despite this, they still dream of striking back and becoming the rulers of Earth once more.

The book explores the alien Earth through the eyes of Eric the Only, a newly-initiated male in the tribe of Mankind (all 128 of them). As well as living under the alien's dominion, he has to survive political and religious conflict among what's left of humanity.

It's not a large book, but it didn't need to be to tell its story. Unlike some, I don't a sequel was necessary, there was no doubt of what humanity's destiny would be.

I'm glad this one has been resurrected by the SF Masterworks imprint; it deserves to be read again and remembered.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2014
As most of the other reviewers so far have written, it is a nice book.

I had read years ago Part I of the story, which appeared with the title "The Men In The Walls" in "Monsters - Isaac Asimov's Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction - 8" ( It had a hanging ending, and left me wanting to read me from William Tenn.

When I realized a few weeks ago that the story was in fact longer, I ordered "Of Men and Monsters".

Part II is longer than Part I, but not so interesting. The plot is slightly weaker, and the end, as another reviewer pointed out, is a bit disappointing, and again a bit of a hanging ending.

Nevertheless, "Of Men and Monsters" is a quite enjoyable book, and I agree with the reviewer who called it a classic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 16 December 2012
What if hundreds of years from now Earth had been colonised by monstrous alien beings and mankind had been annihilated almost to the point of extinction? This is the premise of William Tenn's novel as the remnants of mankind eke out an existence living in burrows doing their best to survive on stolen alien goods. In amongst these is Eric The Only, a youth on the verge of manhood who after a conversation with his uncle begins to question the status quo and where mankind is indeed heading and becomes caught up in a futuristic clash of idealogies.
Action and intrigue abound in writing which moves at a brisk pace leaving the reader plenty to ponder as mankind edges towards total extinction through new alien technology and Eric's race to find a mysterious people who may offer salvation. All in all a great read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 December 2012
I had never read any William Tenn before that I remember, although short fiction often flies by without the authors name being registered, but I have now added this name to my favourite authors list on the strength of this one w Orkney. I absolutely loved this. Some works just seem to hit a perfect note as this did with me. I am going to tell you nothing about it so don't look here for a plot review. If I could forget having read a book and get to read it again I would choose this one. So until I find another to please me more, and believe me I read a lot of SF, this is my current favourite.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 April 2014
This is an fantastic old school sci-fi book, overlooked by history. The narrative has the earth having been colonised centuries earlier by monstrous giant aliens, who came to earth and because of their technology and sheer size brushed humanity aside. Humans now live in the walls of their homes as vermin, stealing from their larders and being no more than a nuisance.

It follows humanity's petty struggles and its pathetic attempts to hit back at 'the monsters' in a very unusual but engaging way, and hit has a wonderfully twisted but satisfying conclusion. Would recommend!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This has one of the more memorable opening lines in Science Fiction ...

"Mankind consisted of 128 people."

Earth has been conquered by giant alien invaders who have almost exterminated humankind. The few survivors live primitive, barbaric lives in burrows, or hiding in the walls of the alien's dwellings. They live in fear of the new lords of the earth.

The author, William Tenn, wrote several short story collections but this is his only novel, and it deserves more recognition than it received.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2012
An entertaining book with thought provoking subject matter well worth a read for any SF fan . Personally id like to see a film made but that's just me
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2010
The clue, of course, is in the title, a steal from Steinbeck's `Of Mice and Men' and relevant in the sense that the place of the mice in the original title has been taken by men.
In this novel, following a sudden and devastating attack and invasion by `monsters', men are now in the place of mice, reduced to the status of parasitical vermin, living in the air pockets of the insulating material of monsters' houses.
The monsters are enormous brontosaurian creatures with a ring of prehensile tentacles around their necks which serves them as fingers.
The central figure is Eric, known as Eric the Only as he was born a singleton, rather than part of a larger litter. Eric is about to go on a rite of passage ritual to steal from the monsters, after which he becomes a man.
However, Eric soon finds himself caught up in a war of ideologies. His tribe believe that that they should be trying to recreate Ancestor Science in order to defeat the invaders while others (Eric's Uncle being one of them) believe that Man should be using Alien Science to fight the creatures.
Unbeknown to Eric on his quest, the chief has discovered his uncle's heresy and has called in reinforcements from neighbouring tribes to put down the rebels.
Eric is captured on his return but manages to escape and returns to the burrows of the Strangers. eventually he is captured by monsters who are experimenting with methods of extermination. Eric has heard tales of the Aaron people, a tribe far more advanced than his own `front-burrow' tribe. He is imprisoned with Aaron female and Ray the Runner from his old tribe. With her help they escape and manage to return to the Aaron people, and Eric is let in on the Aaaron People's secret plan.
It's a refreshing and welcome change to see humans reduced to existing as an inferior species, but nevertheless finding a means to adapt and survive. There's also a nod to the concept of sexual equality with Eric's feisty Aaron Lady preaching a form of feminism which doesn't go as far as it might have sadly, but is surely better than the simpering heroines of yesteryear.
It's a deceptively simple book which manages to illustrate the dangers of organised religion with its tendency toward fundamentalism, rigid dogma and inflexible rules, as well as overturning our arrogant notion of Humanity as masters of the universe. It is very likely, as Tenn suggests, that we are very very far from being anything of the sort.
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