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Of Men and Monsters

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Giant, technologically superior aliens have conquered Earth, but humankind survives - even flourishes in a way. Men and women live like mice in burrows in the massive walls of the huge homes of the aliens, scurrying about under their feet, stealing from them. A complex social and religious order has evolved, with women preserving knowledge and working as healers, and men s Giant, technologically superior aliens have conquered Earth, but humankind survives - even flourishes in a way. Men and women live like mice in burrows in the massive walls of the huge homes of the aliens, scurrying about under their feet, stealing from them. A complex social and religious order has evolved, with women preserving knowledge and working as healers, and men serving as warriors and thieves. For the aliens, men and women are just a nuisance, neither civilized nor intelligent, and certainly not a worthy adversary. In fact, they are regarded as vermin, to be exterminated. Which, ironically, may just be humankind's strength and point the way forward.


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Giant, technologically superior aliens have conquered Earth, but humankind survives - even flourishes in a way. Men and women live like mice in burrows in the massive walls of the huge homes of the aliens, scurrying about under their feet, stealing from them. A complex social and religious order has evolved, with women preserving knowledge and working as healers, and men s Giant, technologically superior aliens have conquered Earth, but humankind survives - even flourishes in a way. Men and women live like mice in burrows in the massive walls of the huge homes of the aliens, scurrying about under their feet, stealing from them. A complex social and religious order has evolved, with women preserving knowledge and working as healers, and men serving as warriors and thieves. For the aliens, men and women are just a nuisance, neither civilized nor intelligent, and certainly not a worthy adversary. In fact, they are regarded as vermin, to be exterminated. Which, ironically, may just be humankind's strength and point the way forward.

30 review for Of Men and Monsters

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    I'm sitting here feeling I've almost (not quite, but very nearly) failed some sort of intelligence test with this book. Having completely missed the huge clue in its title, some distance in I was still thinking, 'Well, I like the oddness of this, but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere much' and it looked to be heading for a disappointing two stars. The set-up is this: after an invasion from space by gigantic aliens (called 'Monsters' throughout) what's left of humanity has been reduced to livin I'm sitting here feeling I've almost (not quite, but very nearly) failed some sort of intelligence test with this book. Having completely missed the huge clue in its title, some distance in I was still thinking, 'Well, I like the oddness of this, but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere much' and it looked to be heading for a disappointing two stars. The set-up is this: after an invasion from space by gigantic aliens (called 'Monsters' throughout) what's left of humanity has been reduced to living in a maze of burrows and tunnels - scuttling to and fro behind the wainscotting so to speak - and risking their lives on expeditions out into Monster territory to steal food from the invaders' gigantic larders. The story itself follows raw initiate Eric the Only as he's transformed by his experiences into a resourceful leader; and, although actually published in 1968, it had a pleasantly nostalgic 1950s-or-so feel to it. It's a satire of course (the quote from Gulliver's Travels at the start was another Monster-sized clue I nearly missed). For 'men' read 'mice' and for 'monsters' read 'men' - the Monsters are us in disguise, while we are now the mice, annoying 'vermin' to be exterminated. 'See how you like it' is the theme, see how it feels to be a couple of inches tall and at the mercy of something a hundred times your size. And an alien invasion is a good metaphor for that: appearing as if out of nowhere (which, in evolutionary terms at least, H. sapiens certainly has), armed with incomprehensible weapons, suddenly here and taking over the whole world. The book does satirise other things too (religion for instance) but in essence it's about us humans seen from the terrifying perspective of a house mouse. So, in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as it climbed steadily all the way up to a solid four-star rating. I'm giving myself only one star though; I did get the point of Men and Monsters, did solve the maze and reach the cheese, but only (eek, eek!) by a whisker.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Here’s another in those series of ‘SF authors you should have heard of but probably haven’t’. William Tenn was the pseudonym of Philip Klass (1920-2010) who was famous for his satirical short stories, mainly published in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In 1999 he was selected as the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Author Emeritus. He only published one novel, which this is, in 1968. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of sorts. Aliens -big, technologically proficient aliens, called Monsters here - have take Here’s another in those series of ‘SF authors you should have heard of but probably haven’t’. William Tenn was the pseudonym of Philip Klass (1920-2010) who was famous for his satirical short stories, mainly published in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In 1999 he was selected as the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Author Emeritus. He only published one novel, which this is, in 1968. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of sorts. Aliens -big, technologically proficient aliens, called Monsters here - have taken over the Earth. The human population collectively named ‘Mankind’ – all 128 of them – live like mice, in the walls of the aliens’ houses and scrabble for food scraps when they need them. (We later find out that Mankind is not the only human group still existing, called ‘front-burrow’ groups.) In this human world we have the tale of Eric. Eric, or to give him his full title, Eric the Only, is an initiate into the Brotherhood of the force known as The Male Society. For in this society women are the healers and knowledge-bearers whilst men hunt and fight, as warriors and thieves. Eric has to, in order to be classed as a fully-fledged adult, complete a Theft. The scale of the theft chosen, ranging from First level category (Food) to Third level (a Monster souvenir) determines the respect that will be bestowed upon Eric, renamed Eric the Eye, should he finish his initiative rite. Eric chooses the rarely selected Third level on the advice of his uncle, Thomas the Trap-Smasher, who feels that this would be the best way for Eric to make a name for himself. We follow Eric, led by his uncle, on his quest. We soon discover that the humans are pretty unnoticed by the aliens, or seen as no more than annoying vermin, rather like mice in the human world today. We are in that strange position where roles of homesteader and pest are reversed and we are the pest! Eric meets The Strangers, humans who live outside the tribe but with whom the tribe deals with on occasions. Having completed his quest, Eric returns to find that there has been a revolt and that he and his uncle have been labelled as outlaws and are therefore subject to a lynching and a hanging. Eric uses the magic red substance (a form of explosive) given to him by The Strangers to escape. His uncle dies and Eric is forced to make the journey to Monster territory. There he leads the fight against Ancestor-Science (that which has always been) and in favour of Alien Science, the heretic view that his Uncle believed in, that it was by using such that the future of Mankind lays. The second part of the book is where Eric grows up fast: he realises that there is a world outside the front burrow tribe, is captured but then escapes, finds a partner and begins to uncover Earth’s secret history. By the end, the reader realises that what it is most is a comment on people, society and class structures. The characters within and their behaviour are all recognisable, 40-odd years on. It is a tale of evolution and revolution, in that it is Eric that causes change and deals with the consequences. On reading this book my overall feeling is that William’s book is funny. Not laugh-out-loud, belly-laugh funny, but intelligent funny. I found myself smiling when events occurred, or remembering things after I’d finished reading the novel. (There’s an ongoing joke about ‘the cages of sin’ which made me grin a lot.) Eric is a likeable enough chap, whose naivety means that he blunders into situations but manages somehow to come out of it better. And that’s what this book does. It makes you smile. It makes you appreciate witty writing. It makes you feel that reading this book was worth it. The ending is very clever, and surprisingly positive in a tale basically that tells of world catastrophe. I was repeatedly reminded of Terry Pratchett in tone, perhaps The Wee Free Men or Maurice and his Educated Rodents, though this predated most of Terry’s better known work by at least a decade. This is as good, or dare I say it, allowing for its age, better than Pratchett, though Terry is very good. (Surely it can’t be coincidence that one of Terry’s Discworld novels is indeed titled Eric?) Graham Sleight, in his Introduction to this novel, points out that ‘Satire is angry humour.’ And at that, Tenn/Klass was one of the best. If you like Robert Sheckley or Terry Pratchett, then I can see you liking this one. It’s sharp, it’s funny, it’s angry. It makes its point but doesn’t outstay its welcome. And is totally deserving of your attention.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Monroe

    What baffles me is Of Men and Monsters has very similar themes to what we see in YA. Off the top of my head, The 5th Wave, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and Enclave. Yet this is paraded as a sci-fi masterpiece and YA is dismissed as kiddy books.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rod

    Where it's good, it's really good. Where it's corny, it's...well, embarrassingly corny. Where it's strange, it's intriguingly strange. And where it's profound, it is...I swear it...profound. Tenn's work may be uneven, but he is swiftly moving toward the top of my list of the heroes of golden age science fiction. My top Tenn list, perhaps.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alexander

    This is the first William Tenn book that I've read. I'm not sure if I've read any of his stories before. And now I'll hunt them all down. A dear friend gave me Of Men and Monsters (1968) as a present, and it's a treat. The novel posits a future at some remove - we never learn just when it takes place - after an alien invasion has knocked humanity off its perch as planetary leader. Instead we are vermin, a marginal species literally inhabiting the holes and corners of Monster civilization. Because This is the first William Tenn book that I've read. I'm not sure if I've read any of his stories before. And now I'll hunt them all down. A dear friend gave me Of Men and Monsters (1968) as a present, and it's a treat. The novel posits a future at some remove - we never learn just when it takes place - after an alien invasion has knocked humanity off its perch as planetary leader. Instead we are vermin, a marginal species literally inhabiting the holes and corners of Monster civilization. Because not only are the alien Monsters far more powerful than we, but also much bigger. The story follows the adventures of Eric as he comes of age and explores the world. It begins with his manhood initiation, which goes well, then sideways. Politics, war, flight, more politics, evil science, romance, and possibly good science follow. Of Men and Monsters is pretty close to a young adult novel, in fact, except powerful adults are pretty scarce. We also never leave Eric's perspective. He takes the adult name of Eric the Eye after a hilarious scene involving repurposed televisions, and is thus our point of view. One aspect of Tenn's style that I enjoyed is his satirical bite. He's not a flamboyant humorist, or an intense satirist, like Robert Sheckley. Instead Tenn sets the occasional barb among his prose and plot. The portrayal of humans as vermin isn't done as a tragedy, but as a revelation of our true selves. The book's opening quotation from Gulliver's Travels ("I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth" - and that's before the book gets really dark) sets us up as Yahoos. We act as prehistorical people, clinging lovingly to our burrows. Vermin-humans are creative in their survival, but still clueless. Women treat food not with culinary arts or public health knowledge, but by cryptic rituals, whose dubious efficacy may be responsible for the low population level. A mystical naming ritual involves medication on tv ads. And listen to this litany of scary monsters, a mangled scratch mix of 20th century history and pop culture:the blood-sucking Draculas, the packs of vicious police dogs, the bug-eyed men from Mars, and, worst of all, the oil-seeking wildcats who drilled for all eternity from one burrow to another. (174) Individual characters are instances of parody or abuse. (view spoiler)[One leader is Arthur the Organizer (56), and rather than serving as a salvific hero he fumbles his cause and lapses into catatonia. Eric's uncle begins as a heroic mentor, then become a heretic, and ultimately a power-mad, failed rebel. In contrast the book's second half shows us a Jewish-descended people, although not religiously so and unnamed as such, we can make inferences from their names: the Aaron People, Saul Davidson (159), Rachel Esthersdaughter (176), a leader entitled The Aaron (238). We follow their flight from Egypt (living in Monster burrows) into space (Exodus). It's not clear if this is honestly heroic or still pathetic, as freedom means, in the end, "strange, new burrows." (251) . The Aaron argues that humanity "was designed by nature as a most superior sort of vermin".[O]nly the absence, in his early environment, of a sufficiently wealthy host prevented him from assuming the role of eternal guest and and forced his to live hungrily, and more than a little irritably, by his own wits alone. (246)Humans are at our best, or are our more authentic selves, when we are, if I may misuse Lovecraft, rats in the walls of a superior species. (hide spoiler)] Tenn also writes with lovely turns of phrase. When Eric daydreams about smiling at women (he's forbidden to do so until he passes his manhood rite) other males shock him back to the present, and so "Eric spun around, bits of fantasy still stuck to his lips." Then The group of young men lounging against the wall of his band's burrow were tossing laughter back and forth between them. (13) One character, trapped in a Monster prison, facing a horrible death, dryly observes "The way I see it, there's no real future here for an ambitious young man." (208) Is the book dated? I'm not sure. Some of the portrayed societies are sexist, yet this seems less ascribable to 20th-century unenlightenment and more because Tenn is drawing on anthropology. Otherwise the language is quite accessible. Tenn's satire might be a touch too light to draw blood, but once detected should appeal to a dystopia-happy age. (Thank you very much, Chris!)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Charles

    One of my favorite books from my teenage years. Just great adventure.

  7. 5 out of 5

    daisy

    2.5-3 stars? I guess?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Geneva

    I really really liked this book, but I think what I liked most about it was the sort of gradual realization of what was really going on, so I can't actually tell you what I liked about this without spoiling that gradual revelation. I can tell you, though, that this is excellent classic science fiction that is unlike any other excellent classic science fiction I've read to date.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Noel Coughlan

    Humankind has been reduced to intelligent vermin in an Earth ruled by giant alien monsters. Humans live in small communities in burrows in the walls of the invaders’ homes, living on whatever morsels of food and material they can steal. The Human species, subjected to evolutionary pressure, has fragmented and diverged, sometimes radically. Rituals have kept Eric the Only and his tribe alive but now they are about to reach the end of their usefulness. Eric is forced repeatedly to reevaluate his u Humankind has been reduced to intelligent vermin in an Earth ruled by giant alien monsters. Humans live in small communities in burrows in the walls of the invaders’ homes, living on whatever morsels of food and material they can steal. The Human species, subjected to evolutionary pressure, has fragmented and diverged, sometimes radically. Rituals have kept Eric the Only and his tribe alive but now they are about to reach the end of their usefulness. Eric is forced repeatedly to reevaluate his understanding of his world while he struggles to survive against human and monster alike. In general terms, the concept is reminiscent of the film Fantastic Planet but there’s no attempt at rapprochement between the humans and their persecutors. The monsters are too alien and too dominant for that, the humans reduced to irritating pests that must be subjected to periodic extermination. At the first glance, this novel feels very pulpy, but scratching the surface reveals hidden subtlety. Little details are left unexplained for the reader to ponder. It contains some interesting observations on our knowledge of the world and our blind acceptance of dogma. Often, the novel has its tongue firmly in its cheek, but it can be quite brutal too. I thought the ending of the story was very apt.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Roger Bailey

    I looked at the copyright page and found that it was first published in 1968, but it has the flavor of earlier science fiction. In fact, it reminded me of a story I read in an anthology edited by Isaac Asimov called Before the Golden Age which included Science fiction stories published in the 1930s. The story was Tumathak of the Coridors and I would not be surprised if Of Men and Monsters was based on it. In both stories humanity has been defeated by invading aliens and reduced to living in dark I looked at the copyright page and found that it was first published in 1968, but it has the flavor of earlier science fiction. In fact, it reminded me of a story I read in an anthology edited by Isaac Asimov called Before the Golden Age which included Science fiction stories published in the 1930s. The story was Tumathak of the Coridors and I would not be surprised if Of Men and Monsters was based on it. In both stories humanity has been defeated by invading aliens and reduced to living in dark recesses. In the earlier story it was in coridors that were apparently underground. In Of Men and Monsters it is in burrows the location of which comes as a surprise so I won't give it away here. Humans have taken on a symbiotic relationship with the aliens. They raid the alien larders for food and they live in close proximity with the aliens even though if the aliens had their way they would destroy the humans. In other words, humans have become the aliens' mice. Most humans long for the overthrow of the aliens and a return to their dominence over the Earth, but it is gradually realised that they are actually thriving under alien domination. That leads, in the end, to another solution. It is a solution that does not overthrow the aliens,but for those of you who root for the humans, don't worry. It is a solution that the aliens will not like in the least.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rhys

    William Tenn was one of the best satirical short story writers of the 1950s, but he burned out fairly quickly. In the late 1960s he made a comeback. Several collections of his work were issued simultaneously in 1968 together with this book, his one and only novel. *Of Men and Monsters* relies on a wonderful conceit: gigantic aliens have landed and settled on Earth and human beings are forced to live exactly like mice in the walls of the alien dwellings. Eric the Eye is a young warrior of one of William Tenn was one of the best satirical short story writers of the 1950s, but he burned out fairly quickly. In the late 1960s he made a comeback. Several collections of his work were issued simultaneously in 1968 together with this book, his one and only novel. *Of Men and Monsters* relies on a wonderful conceit: gigantic aliens have landed and settled on Earth and human beings are forced to live exactly like mice in the walls of the alien dwellings. Eric the Eye is a young warrior of one of the more uncivilised tribes that make periodic raids on 'monster territory' for food and useful artifacts and it's his destiny to embark on a journey to fight back against the aliens; but what he eventually learns is that maybe humans aren't supposed to be the dominant species and that nature may well have intended us to be vermin. An excellent novel.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kay Smillie

    I am currently going through a period of reading classic sci-fi. Some I have owned for years and others I have purchased recently, thinking that they look worth checking out. Must admit that I had never heard of this novel and found it a wee bit slow to start off with, but it was well worth sticking with. One of the best sci-fi novels I have read in many an auld lang syne. Loved the humour, particularly when the humans went out and about in the corridors of the monsters. Also loved the ending and I am currently going through a period of reading classic sci-fi. Some I have owned for years and others I have purchased recently, thinking that they look worth checking out. Must admit that I had never heard of this novel and found it a wee bit slow to start off with, but it was well worth sticking with. One of the best sci-fi novels I have read in many an auld lang syne. Loved the humour, particularly when the humans went out and about in the corridors of the monsters. Also loved the ending and was glad that I never put it down in my "Maybe try reading it another time" pile which usually ends up being ignored. Ray Smillie

  13. 5 out of 5

    Veeral

    I was very much curious to know how this novel ended and was pleasantly surprised when I read it eventually. It was the only fitting end Willaim Tenn could have conceived for this very good and infrequent plot. Very good read indeed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    An outstanding sci fi tale where aliens have taken over and we live in the walls like rats.

  15. 4 out of 5

    M Alan Kazlev

    This book has a very intriging central premise. Earth has been invaded and conquered by huge aliens, the monsters of the title. Humans have been reduced to vermin, living in tunnels in the walls of their enormous houses, the equivalent of rats or cockroaches, stealing their food to survive, while the monsters are the equivalent of humans today (hence the title, but other than that, this is a very different book to Steinbeck’s poignant "Of Mice and Men"). In the story, humans have lost all their t This book has a very intriging central premise. Earth has been invaded and conquered by huge aliens, the monsters of the title. Humans have been reduced to vermin, living in tunnels in the walls of their enormous houses, the equivalent of rats or cockroaches, stealing their food to survive, while the monsters are the equivalent of humans today (hence the title, but other than that, this is a very different book to Steinbeck’s poignant "Of Mice and Men"). In the story, humans have lost all their technology, having only spears and loin-cloths, and living in superstition, with only the vague memory (but no understanding) of Ancient Science. The story follows a teenager called Eric the Only, who is looked down upon because he is a single child (women now have litters, again equivalent to rodents). It begins as he is about to be initiated and become a full Warrior of Mankind. The initiation requires he venture into Monster Territory and make a Theft. As the book proceeds, he comes to learn more and more about his world, the status of humanity, and the nature of the monsters. The narrative is fast paced and readable, full of excitement and tension. There are also more than a few "I didn't see that coming" moments as the story unfolds. My main criticism with the book is with Eric, who is only at the start is convincing as a teenager. After that he comes across as a super capable Mary Sue / Gary Stu type of wise full adult character. I can understand this is necessary for the story, but the super capable and super lucky status of Eric, along with every other character being basically just one dimensional, plus some absurdities of the worldbuilding, that makes it hard to appreciate the story as anything other than a satirical and humorous but still very enjoyable comment on the human condition and our relation with the creatures that live under our feet (which anyway is probably the author's main intention). This is the only reason I have given this book 4 rather than 5 stars. While William Tenn is not as well known as classic writers like Heinlein and Asimov, this book (expanded from a short story) shows that in the imagination stakes, he is certainly up there with the best.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Denis

    Of Men and Monsters (1968) by British born American author William Tenn (pen name of Philip Klass) wrote primarily ‘satirical’ short stories and novellas. OM&M is his one and only full length novel based on the much shorter work, “The Men in the Walls”, published in Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1963. This is a little adventure story set in the far future, after giant aliens had inhabited the earth and built large infrastructure. Humans have become tribal and live like at the level of mi Of Men and Monsters (1968) by British born American author William Tenn (pen name of Philip Klass) wrote primarily ‘satirical’ short stories and novellas. OM&M is his one and only full length novel based on the much shorter work, “The Men in the Walls”, published in Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1963. This is a little adventure story set in the far future, after giant aliens had inhabited the earth and built large infrastructure. Humans have become tribal and live like at the level of mice, or even roaches in within the walls of their buildings. The aliens consider humans as mere pests and deal with them as we do the same way we do with our current vermin. Young Eric “the Eye” gets into circumstances that lead him (and crew mates) to set out to defeat these giant invaders. The story is simple and reads like a juvenile, but has a neat and fun Twilight Zone-type twist to it. A quick fun read, and I look forward to reading more by Tenn.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Russell

    I read this book as a young man of maybe 13 - I remember liking it alot and I still think about the plot from time to time. I found this book in a pile of westerns in the back of an abandon barn in a small town in Nevada called Nelson. So small there was nothing to do but read. This book as I remember it switched the roles of Humans and Pests (insects) to the point that we (humans) had become savage animals fighting for a way just to survive

  18. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Boyd

    Very good SiFi story. nice different take making humans the aliens of the story. Recommended

  19. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    This was a crazy book to read. I thought the author did a great job in describing how humanity had devolved into tribes and how humanity existed in the walls of the alien invaders. It was a crazy concept, and I do not know how well I would have pulled it off. Most of the time, I thought the author did a great job describing what it would be like, to live underfoot (view spoiler)[as vermin or pests in the eyes (hide spoiler)] of the aliens. (view spoiler)[As the book says, it is not just that the This was a crazy book to read. I thought the author did a great job in describing how humanity had devolved into tribes and how humanity existed in the walls of the alien invaders. It was a crazy concept, and I do not know how well I would have pulled it off. Most of the time, I thought the author did a great job describing what it would be like, to live underfoot (view spoiler)[as vermin or pests in the eyes (hide spoiler)] of the aliens. (view spoiler)[As the book says, it is not just that the aliens had conquered the Earth, but the aliens were so huge that they made humans tiny, like either mice or cockroaches, in comparison (hide spoiler)] . The character development was kind of spotty, in places, but he did do a great job with the main character, Eric the Eye. Sometimes, one could "feel" the horror of such an existence; other times, not so much. The perspectives of the humans, though - those were well-written. (view spoiler)[I had to keep reminding myself while reading the book that it was truly about 'humans' and not about mice or rats; there were parts of the book that were so well written from a 'rodent's perspective' that it was easy to forget it was about humans. It was one of the 'better' aspects of the book, I felt. I realize a lot of it had to do with the word choices by the author in writing the story, but he was able to create awesome [great] word-pictures with the words he used. (hide spoiler)] The book had humor in it, as well. (view spoiler)[Walter the Weapon-Seeker scares off what could only be a "female" alien a la a the way cartoons [like Dumbo] portray a mouse as being able to scare off an elephant (127-128); I suppose one could say it is similar to women being scared of mice, or how certain people are terrified of insects such as ants or spiders. That was pretty hilarious, because it is such a ludicrous scene. A tiny, insignificant human charging a creature hundreds of times bigger than the human and scaring it off. I was laughing at that one. Eric the Eye, throwing the 'blob of explosives' at his alien captor in hopes that it would kill it or harm it (166-169) like a small blob had done to Stephen the Strong-Armed (91-93) was funny as well. Well, more Eric's comments to himself after he realized what he thought was a weapon was merely food [or an aphrodisiac] to the alien. "How about Eric the Monster-Tickler?...That's a good name." It was equally amusing that the alien did not associate the 'candy' as coming from Eric; where did it think the blob of 'stuff' had come from? That it had fallen from the sky? That it had materialized out of thin air? Not that it really matters; we are never told what the aliens are truly thinking; their thoughts can only be inferred from their actions. I thought it was funny how, after the woman discovers that Eric is not a Wild Man and they get to know each other, she looks at him and says, "You know, you're not all that bad looking" (183). She keeps after him, trying to find out if he has a mate and why not. He slowly comes to the realization that she wants him and wants to know if he wants her. It struck me as funny, especially how forward she is. Eric's response is equally amusing, because he is so slow on the uptake before realizing he does find her attractive, and then they have a rather fast courtship [apparently]. It was equally funny how Eric was a 'rump man' and thought she had one of the most attractive rumps he had ever seen (187). I was laughing at her butt being described as a 'truly first class rump' whereas her breasts and hips were described as 'not outright failures' (187). It was nuts! Good times. The statement 'the Aaron' makes on 246, though! "Man shares certain significant characteristics with the rat and cockroach: he will eat anything. He is fiercely adaptable to a wide variety of conditions. He can survive as an individual but is at his best in swarms. He prefers to live, whenever possible, on what other creatures store or biologically manufacture. The conclusion is inescapable that he was designed by nature as a most superior sort of vermin - and that only the absence, in his early environment, of a sufficiently wealthy host prevented him from assuming the role of eternal guest and forced him to live hungrily, and more than a little irritably, by his own wits alone." I was "What?!?" when I read it. hahahah And then, his comment at the end, how 'the Universe is ours!' once the entire tribe [composed of thousands of people] escaped Earth on board the alien cargo ship. Their goal was to drop off members of the tribe off onto each stop, each Alien world, the cargo ship visited, so that Humanity was spread out amongst the Universe. It was a 'good plan', and yet a crazy plan [because it expected humans to continue to live as vermin, and now humans would be the equivalent of rats on old wooden sailing vessels, spreading out to live amongst the Alien invaders on other planets]. (hide spoiler)] The book also had plenty of irony in it. (view spoiler)[For instance, when Eric is constantly asking Walter questions, Walter tells Eric of a young child's hypothesis/question: what if there were bigger creatures than the Monsters that made the Monsters tiny and as much of a pest as humans were tiny pests compared to the Monsters (134)? Walter laughs it off, dismissing this notion as impossible whereas Eric starts to wonder and expand his thinking further, wanting to know why it would be impossible for such a thing, for there to be Monster Monsters that would dwarf the Monsters that had destroyed Mankind and turned Mankind into vermin living in the Monsters' walls. This thinking eventually allows Eric to conceive the size of the Earth as well as the other planets in the Solar System (190-191) after he meets and marries Rachel, and he learns that there really only did live in a Monster's 'burrow' and that the world was much larger than he realized. The aliens reminded me of giant insects; I am sure the cover of the book had a lot to do with that perception. So it was an interesting transposition - where humans were now being squashed by giant alien insects! The ending is full of irony. As mentioned in my prior spoiler, mankind is now the equivalent of rats infesting ships in order to inhabit other alien worlds. The Aaron People know that humans can live on the same worlds of their alien conquerors, so the goal is to ensure the survival of humanity by spreading it out amongst the stars on other alien worlds. It was such a crazy view of humanity, to see humans as nothing more than advanced vermin, but it worked. It had me shaking my head; it was definitely at odds with other stories where humans either triumph through battle over their alien adversaries or head off into the Great Unknown, a la the pioneers and explorers of old. (hide spoiler)] There was one particular scene in the book that I especially liked. (view spoiler)[Described on pages 134-136, it involved a search party composed of members of a new tribe that adopted Eric the Eye and Roy the Runner into their number. The party had fallen asleep; apparently out 'in the open' and not under furniture. When they awake, they discover a Monster just staring at them for a period of time. The humans are frozen in fear until the alien turns and walks away; this was very unusual behavior for the Monsters, as they either charged the humans or fled. When the group asked Walter the Weapon-Seeker what it mean, he says, "I don't know. I've never seen one of them do a thing like that before." It was a great scene, and kind of eerie, as it was laden with a future promise [of impending doom, was how I took it]. Of course, I also liked chapters 18 and 19, especially 19, as this is when Rachel is introduced into the book, and she and Eric eventually become mates. I loved how smart and strong she was, yet she was willing to teach Eric and to follow his lead. She never gave up her strength or her identity, which was awesome. I thought she was a great character and a great foil for Eric. There are also some great lines in these chapters, as well, so there you go. (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[It was a different kind of humor, but I was chuckling over the increasing number of humans in the book. The cover of the book I read states "Mankind consisted of 128 people...hardly noticed by the super aliens that had taken over the Earth!", so I naturally thought that the population of the Earth had been reduced to 128 people. I wondered how humanity could survive with such a small gene pool. Then I learned that there were other tribes of humanity and that Eric's tribe considered itself 'the only true representatives of Humanity' in relation to the other tribes, and the other tribes considered Eric's tribe a bunch of savages a step above the 'Wild Men' [from the Outside]. The Aaron People, essentially despised by Eric's tribe, was the most technologically advanced amongst the various tribes of humans living in the walls of the Alien's house. Then, I found out there were even more humans living in other Alien houses! These humans were 'radically' different in behavior than the 'Alien Sciencers', the 'Aaron People', and Eric's tribe. It was crazy! I was shocked to learn that the 'Aaron People' [Jews, I would guess] numbered in the thousands (246), and that they had learned a fabulous way to escape the alien invaders and to 'get back at them' and survive. I also learned that it was estimated that more people were alive on Earth at that point in time than in previous history (245), despite having been conquered by giant aliens. I did wonder if other tribes joined with the 'Aaron Tribe' and left the Earth, also, or if everybody else had been 'left behind.' (hide spoiler)] I had read other articles and reviews in which the book is called a satire. I guess I can see that; it would be interesting to know if the author himself called the book a satire. It is one thing for other people to claim a book is a satire; it is entirely different if the author confirms such a thing. Either way, I could see why such claims are made(view spoiler)[, especially when one considers how Humankind sees itself as Lord of Creation, yet this story reduces Humanity's status to that of vermin, fit only to be exterminated (hide spoiler)] . I did 'get' the whole 'play on words' in terms of the story's title; replace "Men" with "Mice" and "Monsters" with "Men" and there you go. Having never read that classic, though, I did find myself wondering if the author was also referencing more from that book than I realized in this one. Either way, it is a fun play on titles. I remember seeing this book in bookstores back in the eighties; the cover always intrigued me, yet I never read it. I wish I had not waited so long to read it, as I thoroughly enjoyed it more than I anticipated I would.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tom Meade

    This is one of those very solid classic sf novels that takes a single, striking concept, wrings everything it can from it, and then wraps up about ten pages before the author starts grasping at straws. The premise is intentionally ridiculous, but everything within the book follows logically from it, highlighting the fundamentally twisted and absurd nature of the social constructs which Tenn is critiquing. Perhaps in direct response to a lot of pre-New Wave sf - which had a tendency to present ei This is one of those very solid classic sf novels that takes a single, striking concept, wrings everything it can from it, and then wraps up about ten pages before the author starts grasping at straws. The premise is intentionally ridiculous, but everything within the book follows logically from it, highlighting the fundamentally twisted and absurd nature of the social constructs which Tenn is critiquing. Perhaps in direct response to a lot of pre-New Wave sf - which had a tendency to present either humanity or a number of individuals within it as exceptional and destined to one day attain the status of lords of creation - this is instead a book in which humanity has been reduced to the status of vermin, and humanity's attempt to rise above this level is itself the subject of vicious satire. Indeed, while it seems for much of the book that this will be a typical rise-of-the-superman hero's narrative on the level of Aldiss' Hot House or an old A. E. Van Vogt novel, it becomes more and more obvious as the story proceeds that "hitting back at the Monsters" is a fundamental absurdity, and that humanity can only really hope for a precarious existence as the unwelcome house guest of hostile gods. There's a lo of good stuff here, though. I particularly liked the character of Roy, who appears manipulative and untrustworthy at first but slowly reveals himself to be nervous, anxious, and governed wholly by the desire for acceptance; and the sections dealing with the socioeconomic arrangements of Mankind, which is simultaneously an excellent examination of religion and of the exploitation of primitive peoples for resources. My only real issue is that, while there are a few good lines scattered throughout, this book is more wry than funny.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kent

    I really enjoyed this sci-fi adventure novel. It puts me in the mind of The martian series from Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is set within the walls of the homes of monsters where the last of mankind is dwelling. It's been a long time since the monsters took over, so most technology is lost and forgotten. Humans live in small tribal bands and make their living by sneaking out and stealing from the Monsters. This book is about one particular human named Eric who is outlawed from his people and forc I really enjoyed this sci-fi adventure novel. It puts me in the mind of The martian series from Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is set within the walls of the homes of monsters where the last of mankind is dwelling. It's been a long time since the monsters took over, so most technology is lost and forgotten. Humans live in small tribal bands and make their living by sneaking out and stealing from the Monsters. This book is about one particular human named Eric who is outlawed from his people and forced to explore the world of the monsters away from the safe area of his burrow. This story hints on more than just a journey, but thinking about the lives of those smaller (or larger) that we may not understand and assume don't have a language or culture. It's a great romp through a world of monsters and strange humans. Worth checking out.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Michael Ritchie

    Interesting concept, often quite difficult to picture. Kept thinking of the humans as Borrowers, when actually they're still the same size as us, meaning the giant aliens are impossible to imagine. Good jaunt.

  23. 4 out of 5

    janetandjohn

    Imagine the whole of earth taken over by giant aliens. Imagine treating humans like vermin. Imagine those vermin trying to live a life out of view and doing the best they can. This is The Borrowers for sci-fi fans and I have to say I found it a good read!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kenneth

    Earth has been conquered by a race of giant aliens. Humans are to them what rats & mice are to us - pests to be controlled & exterminated. A new vision for the future, because humanity may actually be flourishing, strangely enough.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Martin O'

    If your not familiar with William Tenn's work then give yourself a treat! The themes of his books are very familiar but given a fresh perspective and full of originality and extremely well written. The Borrowers was never like this!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ushan

    There is a 1957 French science fiction novel Oms en série by Stefan Wul filmed in 1973 as "La Planète sauvage": giant aliens brought humans to their own planet as pets, but they have escaped and gone feral, becoming pests, until a pet human familiar with alien technology escapes and leads feral humans to freedom. The Tenn novel has a similar plot: giant aliens have colonized Earth, humans live as pests, but eventually they acquire some alien technology and escape to the stars. The problem is tha There is a 1957 French science fiction novel Oms en série by Stefan Wul filmed in 1973 as "La Planète sauvage": giant aliens brought humans to their own planet as pets, but they have escaped and gone feral, becoming pests, until a pet human familiar with alien technology escapes and leads feral humans to freedom. The Tenn novel has a similar plot: giant aliens have colonized Earth, humans live as pests, but eventually they acquire some alien technology and escape to the stars. The problem is that humans are so biologically unsuited to be pests that any science-fictional depiction of humans-as-pests falls flat on its face. Compare the life cycle of mice (puberty at 50 days, gestation of 20 days, litters of about 10 pups several times a year, lifespan of 1 year in the wild and 2-3 years for pets) with that of humans. Also, the writing is really bad.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Wrongleveeeeeeer

    Of Men and Monsters by William Tenn was, if nothing else, a fun read. It's page count is relatively low, and the scope of its story (staying focused only on one character's perspective throughout) is fairly limited, and yet, despite those limits, it does a fantastic job of painting a picture of, and fleshing out, the larger world it takes place in. Of Men and Monsters tells the story of Eric the Only–so named because he is a rarity as the only child of his parents in a hyper-fertile distant futur Of Men and Monsters by William Tenn was, if nothing else, a fun read. It's page count is relatively low, and the scope of its story (staying focused only on one character's perspective throughout) is fairly limited, and yet, despite those limits, it does a fantastic job of painting a picture of, and fleshing out, the larger world it takes place in. Of Men and Monsters tells the story of Eric the Only–so named because he is a rarity as the only child of his parents in a hyper-fertile distant future–and his transition from boyhood to manhood. By the time the story begins, humanity is living as primitive rats in the walls of the giant homes of the aliens who have long ago conquered Earth. The religion of the few remaining people that we are exposed to holds that "Ancestor Science" must be used to reclaim the planet from the aliens, and that use of "Alien Science" to do so is strictly forbidden. Eric's tribe of 128 people, who call themselves "Mankind," adhere to this religion, but after a power struggle over the proper use of the sciences occurs in Act I, Eric is left not knowing what to believe. Left to figure out his place in the world on his own, he finds his own path to resisting the monstrous aliens that have overtaken his home planet. The novel is enjoyable, in part, because it offers genuine surprises. The conflict you first think is going to be central to the story is not as it appears, and the characters you think you'll be stuck with are not the only people around–your perspective and worldview expand right along with Eric's (his knowledge is your knowledge, his ignorance is your ignorance), and that's a big part of the fun of the book. On top of that, the nature of the relationship between the aliens and the humans, while not a drastic revolution in sci-fi storytelling, is definitely handled creatively. The shifts from one portion of the story to another are sometimes sudden, but always believable within the context of the world built for you. After all, no good adventure should be all smooth transitions and curved edges: life is random! things change all of a sudden! revelations can change your world in a heartbeat! But these changes and shifts in the story always serve to lead us to a conclusion that, while slightly rushed, is supremely satisfying in its combination of plausibility and originality. William Tenn, with Of Men and Monsters, answers for all of us the question: what would the rats and the roaches do and think, if their brains were a little bigger? It's not going to rock your world or change your life, but it's a tale well told, and a question well answered.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Roddy Williams

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 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 tentacle 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 Aaron People’s secret plan, which shocks him. Far from attempting to fight the monsters, the Aarons plan to spread humanity across the galaxy by remaining as the mice in the walls. The plan is to invade the hold of a monster ship and drop off parties of colonists at every stop the monsters make. It’s a refreshing and surprising denouement, and a welcome change to see humans reduced to existing as an inferior species, but nevertheless finding a means to adapt and survive. Most other authors would have set Eric and the Aaron People on the road to defeating and destroying the invaders. 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.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Carrabis

    I got on a William Tenn kick in high school and carried it on through college. The most memorable line (to me) in Of Men and Monsters is "A baby's first impressions are the adult's last conclusions." Tenn was known as a satirist and much of what he wrote made good psychodynamics sense (recognizing that he presaged that discipline by about twenty-five years, minimum).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Miguel

    In "I am legend" Richard Matheson took an already existing story (Dracula), saw the structure of the story (someone, the only one of his kind, kills to survive) and came up with a turn of the screw: what if that someone, the only one of his kind, were a human being in a world of vampires? William Tenn did the same with "Of Men and Monsters", the already existing story being that regular people live in their houses and fight pests. Tenn decided that now mankind is going to be the pest and the "re In "I am legend" Richard Matheson took an already existing story (Dracula), saw the structure of the story (someone, the only one of his kind, kills to survive) and came up with a turn of the screw: what if that someone, the only one of his kind, were a human being in a world of vampires? William Tenn did the same with "Of Men and Monsters", the already existing story being that regular people live in their houses and fight pests. Tenn decided that now mankind is going to be the pest and the "regular people" - gigantic aliens that conquered the Earth hundreds of years ago. While reading, I couldn't help but think of the Lovecraftian Great Old Ones - "Lovecraft views humanity as being insignificant within the universe; thus, the Elder Gods share little concern for humanity's fate." These Monsters are not evil and do not want to destroy humanity out of hate; they don't even notice that the human race is intelligent. They crush people the same we crush cockroaches.

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