I always assumed Gulliver’s travels to be primarily a children’s book, most probably from the cartoons that were always around of the titular Gulliver being tied down to the ground by the Lilliputians and generally harassed through no fault of his own.
Thankfully, this book is so much more than that now iconic view of Lemuel Gulliver. You see Mr Gulliver is a luckless (depending on your view, of course) ships surgeon who gets involved in many crazy voyages, chronicled within. You would think he would notice the pattern of his lucklessness at sea and just stay at home, but there you go.
Like all classics, and indeed all good books in general, there is plenty of biting social commentary, satire and parody of the era to be enjoyed, that in many cases still rings true for today’s society. Some of the references can be a bit obscure and so for maximum enjoyment it’s preferable to get an edition with notes for historical context, it’s definitely worth it.
From a modern point of view it is interesting to note the cyclical nature of history or perhaps the more honest view that we never learn from past mistakes. Happily (for me, at any rate) Swift is always pushing you to consider the flaws and unjust way of society as a whole, and your place within that system.
Aside from all that though there is, in fact, a story to be enjoyed, it’s a ludicrous set up but one to inspire the imagination. Anyone who has ever looked at the old maps where they drew pictures of mythical creatures and added the legend, here be dragons, cannot have failed to get that sense of curiosity and wonder about what might be there. This book does exactly that even for todays totally globalised populace.
Throughout the novel the theme of contrast is always vigorously employed, whether between size, intelligence or a myriad of other things. Although with the benefit of hindsight the similarities with the worlds failing, the views of races towards each other, social behaviours, politics etc makes for an interesting exercise in comparison.
Everyone loves the fantastical, and stories about the lands of giants, of flying machines and a civilization of horses who rule an island can’t fail to excite. The richness of the novel is probably a big factor in later authors’ own sci fi musings. If you can get past the archaic style of writing, you are in for a treat with this one.