Of Men and Monsters; or, Adventures in Reviewer Parallax

Over at Science Fiction Ruminations, Joachim Boaz mentioned William Tenn.

I like Tenn but see I’ve never posted about any of his titles. So, since I’m still catching on reviewing my reading of the past few months, I thought I’d give you this. The parallax is, of course, provided by Boaz.

Raw Feed (1998): Of Men and Monsters, William Tenn, 1968.

Cover by Boris Vallejo

I enjoyed this famous Tenn novel about men living in the walls of the “Monster” alien race that conquered Earth. (I have not read Tenn’s “The Men in the Walls” which the novel expanded.)

Tenn’s story is humorous and almost savage in parts. 

The title comes from John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men, but the inspiration and structure of the novel seems to come from the Brobdingnag section of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels

The plot starts as a variation on that favored by many stories and films featuring primitive or post-holocaust primitives:  a young man finds himself on the wrong side of tribal politics and questioning a religious taboo

Here the heresy is man’s Ancestor-Science is not as efficacious in battling the Monsters as advertised. After all, as the uncle who initiates hero Eric the Only into the heresy points out, it didn’t do humanity much good in resisting the Monsters. 

But Alien-Science turns out to be, in part, a scheme by Eric’s uncle to become Chief, a scheme that leads to a brutally suppressed uprising. 

Eric takes up with the more advanced “back burrowers” only to find their technology and knowledge of Monsters impressive but their military skills lacking. Eventually, he meets, marries, and mates with a woman of the Aaron People (after a funny scene where he tries to act dignified while assessing his mate’s physical wiles). 

In a way, this is one of those conceptual breakthrough stories. Eric learns that the tribal society he was born in was based partly on fraud: rigged visions used in naming initiate warriors and “enemy” chiefs who will band together to quell heretic Alien Sciencers. 

Continue reading