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February 2009
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Smallcreep's Day, By Peter Currell Brown (1965)

"THIS IS an ironic, comic, macabre, basically savage attack on modern man," proclaims the front of the dust jacket for Smallcreep's Day, and for once, they're not lying. It's a bitter, didactic, bracing novel.

The titular and symbolically named Pinquean Smallcreep is a factory worker who, after sixteen years in the same slotting section of a nameless factory, decides to venture deep into its Gormenghastian confines to find out what it produces. On his journey he meets no end of strange characters blithely going about their business despite the ominous, surreal landscapes around them, from men being "drowned" in an unchecked flow of money to a poleman boating on a vast underground lake of sewage.

Near the end of his journey, Smallcreep runs into a managing director who offers a wholesale indictment of mankind. "We should eventually become necrophiles together, and walk hand in hand through charnel houses and execution chambers, or write marriage vows on parchment made of human skins, or copulate in burial pits by the light of pyres."

Smallcreep eventually sees the machine the factory produces in action. It does not make him any happier.

Musician Mike Rutherford (of Genesis fame) released a concept album based on the novel. The music is good but he gave the story a happy ending, rendering it a rather aggressive exercise in point-missing.

Though evidently still alive, Brown does not seem to have published any subsequent fiction. Smallcreep's Day said all he had to say.

—Lawrence Person

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