Of Men and Monsters ([Gollancz SF]) Hardcover – 27 Oct 1977
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'One of the genre's very few genuinely comic, genuinely incisive writers' THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
William Tenn (1920-2010) was the pseudonym of Philip Klass. Although he was born in London, he spent most of his life in America, teaching writing and SF at Pennsylvania State College from 1966. He began writing after serving in the Second World War and published his first story, 'Alexander the Bait' in ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION in 1946. Stories like 'Down Among the Dead Men', 'The Liberation of Earth' and 'The Custodian' quickly established him as a fine, funny and thoughtful satirist. In 1999 William Tenn was selected the Science Fiction Writers of America's Author Emeritus. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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!
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.
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.
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.
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" (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Asimov-Al-Eds-Monsters-Signet/dp/0451154118/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1416671153&sr=8-8&keywords=monsters+asimov%27s). 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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