Monday, February 5, 2024

Microreview: Ogres by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A devastating powerful and potent novella about a dark future for humanity that peels back reveals and worldbuilding with masterful craft.

Sometimes, wanting a particular kind of a story can knock your reading schedule on its ear. At a whim, I decided to go back to a 2022 novella and listen to it, as a way to pass the time on a slow week for audiobooks. Instead, I was knocked on my arse by the story I read and had to review it.

The novella is Ogres, by Adrian Tchaikovsky. I listened to it in a supremely good audiobook narration by author Emma Newman.

Tchaikovsky is a multimodal SFF talent who has blossomed in the SFF field as of late, especially given his prodigious and expansive output. Not only that, but he writes in a variety of modes, lengths and subgenres, giving him a wide range of work that allows a variety of readers to discover his work and the value it has. I should not have been surprised at how strong Ogres was as a novella, but even for the high standard of his work, I was amazingly impressed.

So let’s dig in. Ogres slowly makes its reveals about what kind of story and who the antagonists are, and even the nature of the world in a slow and sedate pace. It uses a very intimate second person point of view to introduce you as the hero of the story (and you are labeled as the hero of the story). The feel of the world, the description, the lack of technology, the reference to outlaws led by Robin (who wears a hood), all carefully gives a feel of a pastoral pre-industrial countryside, and an English one at that.

Tchaikovsky layers in things strata by strata. The eponymous ogres, larger and more dangerous than humans (although, you, Torquell, are almost as large as they are, towering you do over your fellows). The feel the author goes for is distant and disinterested English nobles who have little use for the hamlets under their control save for their taxes. There is a mention of forests being stocked for their hunts. It all feels like, aside from the size of the ogres, to be a recapitulation of pre-industrial countryside England, and from the point of view of a lowly hamlet dweller who runs afoul of his masters, the ogres.

But this gets peeled away, piece by piece, as you, Torquell, wind up having to go on the run after an act of violence against the ogres. This propels you the reader, as Torquell into the wider world, and to truly understand what the ogres are, who they are to the people, who you really are, Torquell, and what it all means. And then we follow the consequences of those revelations and decisions, all the way to the ending.

It’s been difficult to talk about the book without giving away major plot developments, revelations and the nature of the world here and its a novella that I think holds up to examination without the surprises, but they are surprises that the reader should have an opportunity to examine, think about and come to terms with. But I do want to discuss the shape of the book and the ending, obliquely by discussing one of the many things that the novella reminded me of. While for a while I flirted with books and properties like Battlefield Earth, what I settled on for my model for Ogres is a movie that you might not have thought of lately, but if you have seen it, you will never forget it.


Stay with me here. The story of Zed and of Torquell and the worlds have some very strange resonance, and once you read Ogres you can’t unsee it. Torquell is more than he appears, even to himself. He gets involved with the society of the overlords of his society and finds out some powerful and dangerous truths. The true nature and history of the world comes to Torquell. And he winds up orienting against the overlords of the world. There is a strong and unmistakable critique of the overlords of the world.

The revolution, the revolt, the response against the ogres shows the difference between a 1970’s story, and one written today. Ogres is a story that is written today and shows the difference, the evolution, the recognition of what revolution and upsetting the social order, and how it works and how it doesn’t work.

This is a novella whose revelations about the hero, about the world, in that strong second person choice, peels back away the world and hero piece by piece all the way to its stunning ending. It really nails the conclusion for the story in a way that I did not see-but I should have. I will give you a key. In a second person “you...” viewpoint, consider and think about *who* is the person who is giving you that perspective, and what they are, and what their agenda is.


  • Excellent Narration by Emma Newman 
  • Strongly interesting revelations in the course of the plot
  • Second person perspective a high wire act that works. 
Reference: Tchaikovsky, Adrian, Ogres, [Rebellion Publishing, 2022]

POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I'm just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.