Ogres by Adrian Tchaikovsky - Suprisingly political?

Posted on May 27, 2023

‘Ogres’ is a novella by sci-fi and fantasy megalith, Adrian Tchaikovsky. The world juxtaposes normal, common humanity with the ruling Ogre class. Larger than everyone else, the ogres rule by inherent genetic ‘supremacy’ in a feudal-esque steampunk setting. After killing his feudal landlords son, Torquell, larger and stronger than most other humans, is on the run. Eventually his time in imprisonment and servitude sees him discover a chilling truth about the nature of the world, and the origin of the ogres.

Reader engagement is kept throughout the novel as we remain eager to understand the origin of the ogres and humans, learning as Torquell does about the history of their society. The final reveal about this history comes gradually, and was something I picked up on earlier than overtly spelled out in the novella. However, I do think it had the effect Tchaikovsky intended in provoking reflection about our own society. The humanity of the ogres is continually questioned throughout the novel, as they are shown to have great variation in attitude to and treatment of the humans. This is, as the novel progresses, used for social commentary throughout before the ‘big reveal’ of the history of the world.

An interesting element in the story is the vegetarianism of humans which contrasts the meat-consumption of the ogres. According to this, the humans are considered incapable of digesting meat and it remains the exclusive pleasure of the ogres. Putting aside the animal rights implications of meat consumption, this distinction serves to create an animalistic air about the ogres where the humans are pacified, and subservient. The very nature of the human as a predator species is undermined, further personified by the passivity of the masses at their mistreatment. Beyond the size difference between the ogres and humans, this provided a clear distinction in the nature of the ogres as violent and oppressive.

This novella has social commentary, fantasy intrigue and a not-too-shabbily developed main character, what’s more to like?