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The Only Harmless Great Thing

The Only Harmless Great Thing

Scritto da Brooke Bolander

Narrato da Courtney Patterson


The Only Harmless Great Thing

Scritto da Brooke Bolander

Narrato da Courtney Patterson

valutazioni:
3.5/5 (22 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
2 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Oct 29, 2019
ISBN:
9781541431850
Formato:
Audiolibro

Descrizione

Winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novelette

Finalist for the Hugo, Locus, Shirley Jackson, and Sturgeon Awards

The Only Harmless Great Thing is a heart-wrenching alternative history by Brooke Bolander that imagines an intersection between the Radium Girls and noble, sentient elephants.

In the early years of the 20th century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey, slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time, an Indian elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island.

These are the facts.

Now these two tragedies are intertwined in a dark alternate history of rage, radioactivity, and injustice crying out to be righted. Prepare yourself for a wrenching journey that crosses eras, chronicling histories of cruelty both grand and petty in search of meaning and justice.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Oct 29, 2019
ISBN:
9781541431850
Formato:
Audiolibro


Informazioni sull'autore

BROOKE BOLANDER writes weird things of indeterminate genre, most of them leaning rather heavily towards fantasy or general all-around weirdness. She attended the University of Leicester 2004-2007 studying History and Archaeology and is an alum of the 2011 Clarion Writers’ Workshop at UCSD. Her stories have been featured in Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Nightmare, Uncanny, and various other fine purveyors of the fantastic. She has been a finalist for the Nebula, the Hugo, the Locus, and the Theodore Sturgeon awards, much to her unending bafflement.

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3.7
22 valutazioni / 15 Recensioni
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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (4/5)
    I knew about the Radium girls and this one riffs off that. I had also read about the elephant (Topsy) killed using electricity. Some sources describe the incident as part of the war of the currents (AC vs DC) but whatever else these are real things that happened. This takes those incidents and wraps them together with elephants having learned a type of sign language and the concept of Elephant stories and it becomes an interesting tale of complicated politics and strange bedfellows who are all being exploited. It does take the concept that in reality some lower-waged workers are treated no better by management than animals, and honestly I find it hard to disagree. It also asks if taking revenge really does improve some people's lives, the women all die horrible deaths, often waiting for monies owed and it's hard to see that en exploited elephant mightn't one day take revenge. Even into the future of the story things remain bleak.It's a story that made me think and I'd be interested in more by this author, but I'd need something quite sunny afterwards.
  • (5/5)
    I'd heard good things about this story, and it's even better than I'd heard. I love the voices of the different characters, how different they are from each other, and how much they illuminate. The elephant POV is particularly well-done. The ideas are tied together well; the social commentary is well done. Just everything about it is great.
  • (2/5)
    Unlike the other Hugo nominees, this is the only novelette to have been published independently as a book. By Tor.com. Like a novella. All the others appeared in magazines, online or otherwise. Except this is not entirely true: the Connolly and Gregory below may not have been published in paperback, but they were published as independent pieces of fiction on the Tor.com website. So that’s five of six novellas and three of six novelettes published by Tor.com. Anyway, during WWI the US used women to paint glow-in-the-dark radium on watch-faces and the like, and many of them died from, or were disfigured by, cancer. Bolander has taken this historical fact and run with it. In her story, elephants were involved – and were smart enough to be communicated with using a special sign language – and an attempt by the US to train elephants to work with radium instead of young women results in the death of a nasty piece of work supervisor and the public execution, by electrocution, of the elephant responsible for his death. This is juxtaposed with a near-future narrative in which a young woman wants to genetically engineer elephants to glow in the dark as a warning of the nuclear waste buried beneath land which will be bequeathed to them. None of this last narrative makes the slightest bit of sense, but it’s presented as if its the anchoring narrative thread. Another thread is told from an elephant’s POV and, well, it doesn’t really work. Or feel necessary. There’s a really cool story somewhere in The Only Harmless Great Thing but the way it’s been presented doesn’t to my mind do it any favours. Too much of it is unnecessary – and while I’m all for writers being clever, in fact I both relish and admire it, the cleverness here lies in the narrative set in the past, which are handled well, and not in the near-future narrative or the elephant POV ones. Which is a roundabout way of saying that The Only Harmless Great Thing really didn’t work for me.
  • (3/5)
    An alternate history novella where elephants reveal that their sentient ability and are now socially involved with human culture. The story is weird and not very engaging. It is well written and has interesting ideas though.
  • (2/5)
    Its chief virtue is its length.
  • (4/5)
    This is above all a story about stories.

    I know that sounds cliche but I promise you, this isn't a cliche. This is a novella about how stories are told, remembered and how they're used to create history, to create narratives and feelings and futures. And the story-tellers here aren't human but elephants who, perhaps, are one of the few other mammals we know of that have stories the way we understand stories.

    Elephants are poignant symbols of how human greed and violence has destroyed so much of the world; we know now that elephants have long memories, cultural memories, and they transfer these memories to their children and grandchildren and so on. They are animals with history, just like us, and humans have fractured the history of elephants as violently as we have fractured our own history.

    And that context makes this novella so very powerful. Because Regan and Topsy are both victims of a shattered narrative, a fractured history, a calyx of pain and death and suffering but at the same time they are also blossoms, blooms--violent and angry and powerful even when they are forced to walk together into death. They change the narrative. They fracture the fracture and in so doing make something new, something broken but brave and immense and memorable.

    This story isn't so much about its characters but that's the point. The characters themselves know that they aren't the point. The story is the point. And Bolander gets that point across so perfectly and painfully that it never feels like gratuitous suffering or hurt for hurt's sake or shock just for shock value.

    It feels like righteousness. Like power. Like the lightning at the heart of all stories, the lightning that laces narrative to past and present and future.
  • (4/5)
    I was really annoyed by this book in the beginning. It's set in a world related to our world and history, but different in a few key ways, and told with shifting perspectives and time periods that obscures for quite a while what those differences are -- and what the rules and conventions of this world are. I'm sure that this was a deliberate choice by Bolander, but it didn't work for me. Had this not been a little novella with a promise that all would have to be made clear fairly soon, I might have given it up.Personally, I think giving up these tricks would have forced Bolander to tell a stronger story. The elements she's chosen to shape her story around are so fascinating -- the radium girls, the sentience and capacity for memory in elephants, the fight between direct and alternating current, and the electrocution of animals as a spectacle in that fight. But then there is an entire additional layer of long-term nuclear waste storage -- and that element in particular never seemed to serve the story for me -- it added too much confusion and did it ever even get resolved? I wish it had been cut.This is a lot of complaining for a four-star review.That's how much I liked the voice given to the radium girls. The voice given to animals who continue to be thought of as things even after they've been taught language. The simmering rage that finds power out of what seems like powerlessness. The criticism of a soulless capitalism that will continue to grind the powerless under its boot as long as there is a profit to be made.A remarkable little book.
  • (4/5)
    Die Radium Girls kombiniert mit denkenden Elefanten und der Problematik der Warnung vor Endlagerstätten über Zeiträume von zehntausenden von Jahren. Exzellent.
  • (3/5)
    Prose on a Radium high!
    Not the easiest to read but the story gets under your skin - once you've deciphered the intertwining and sometimes disjointed threads. On an emotional level, I felt for Topsy and Regan and their predicament. I do not like sad stories, but I ploughed through anyway. On a more cultural level, I loved the focus on stories handed down through generations - they are called a Memory of elephants not for nothing!
    A lot of the elephant related terminology may be lost to those who do not know of these majestic creatures, like 'musth' for example.
  • (4/5)
    I thought this was a lovely short book with a strong message of empowerment. The narrative weaves together the perspectives from prehistory, alternate history, and a possible future of both women and female elephants, showing how both have been considered disposable but how they gain power from making their own choices about their fates and telling their own stories.
  • (3/5)
    Notes for a proper review:
    • Alternate history, but far-fetched
    • The cool idea at the core is that bioluminescent intelligent elephants will serve as a future-proof warning to stay away from a mountain used as a radioactive waste storage facility, which might be effective even thousands of years in the future, after (literate) society has collapsed.
    • Mainly keeps the interest up because it is told out-of-order, and in two storylines decades apart. The novella would lose its impact if it were told chronologically.
  • (5/5)
    This is a grim story, but in its own way a beautiful one. Now, those who know me know I don't do grim. At all. Except on the rare occasions that I do.You may know the story of the Radium Girls. In the early part of the 20th century, young women were employed painting glowing numbers on watch faces, using radium paint. Yes, radium. Yes, it's radioactive, enough to be really dangerous, especially if you work with it constantly or accidentally ingest it.Who would be so careless as to ingest it, you ask? Well, see, the women weren't told it was dangerous; they were told it was perfectly safe. And of course the best way to get a good point on your paintbrush to paint those fine, exact numbers, was to put it briefly in your mouth every so often.They all got very sick and there was a big lawsuit, and they died. There are books about the Radium GirlsThis is an alternate history, in which after the employment of young women painting radium onto watch faces ends in that lawsuit, the company didn't give up. Instead, they bought elephants who weren't working out for the circuses. One aspect of this alternate world is that in the 1890s, elephants and people began developing an elephant sign language. This helps make employment of elephants in factory jobs more or less possible. And the elephants, being much larger and stronger than slim young women, take significantly longer than the young women to get sick from radiation poisoning. It's still a much worse idea than what happened in our timeline, where eventually the litigation and the bad publicity made it just not worth the effort to make them in any significant numbers.And I'm really getting off track with this.The story follows a former "radium girl" named Regan, who is slowly dying of the radiation poisoning, but in the meantime working with the elephants to teach them to paint watch dials; Topsy, a former circus elephant sold to US Radium after she killed a man who was "teasing" her with a lit cigar end; and Kat, a scientist who, years later, is working on a way to keep the now-buried radioactives safe forever with a warning system that will not fail, erode, or cease to scare people off.Her solution will involve the willing cooperation of the elephants. The elephants have no obvious reason to cooperate with humans, of course, so Kat has to find an argument to persuade them.Interspersed are stories from the elephant matriarchs, future and past.It's a fascinating and absorbing world and story. Highly recommended.I received this story as part of the 2019 Hugo Voters Packet.
  • (4/5)
    This book is well written and I'd be perfectly fine if elephants outlived us considering we're doing a pretty terrible job of taking care of ourselves. But it still made me really sad.
  • (5/5)
    Brooke Bolander's The Only Harmless Great Thing is an alternate history, taking as its inspiration the case of the Radium Girls and Thomas Edison's film Electrocuting an Elephant about Topsy, a condemned elephant Edison had electrocuted at Coney Island as part of his propaganda war with Nikola Tesla. In this alternate history, U.S. Radium enlists elephants to replace the workers suffering from radiation poisoning on the factory floor on the belief that their larger size will forestall their radiation exposure and eventual death. The elephants, fully sentient with their own mythology and ability to use a form of sign language, work and live as slaves with broken spirits. Regan, a woman dying of radiation poisoning, befriends Topsy, an elephant she's training to replace her, and the two seek a way to fight back.Bolander's story examines the nature of humanity's place in the world and the damage we leave in our wake. Further, she encourages the reader to consider non-human animals' emotions, a quality now understood to be common to most animals. Her discussion of radiation, industry, and war forces the reader to reconcile the promise of progress with the scars we leave on the natural landscape. Bolander's work is an amazing piece of speculative fiction and rightfully belongs under the Tor imprint alongside works by Philip K. Dick, Nnedi Okorafor, Douglas Preston.
  • (5/5)
    Brooke Bolander's THE ONLY HARMLESS GREAT THING is not a book you can read in fits and starts. Instead, set aside a bit of time to read it from cover to cover. Immerse yourself completely in the story of Regan, a young woman dying from radiation poisoning, and Topsy, the elephant she's assigned to train to do the job that is killing her. Interspersed with their tale are glimpses of the future in the form of Kat, a scientist who has developed a warning system for a nuclear waste dump and is now tasked with selling the idea to the ones who will carry it out: elephants. But that's not all... there's also a fable about the strength and wisdom of the elephant, there are poems and songs, and there are news stories. All of this in less than 100 pages!Bolander's novella is both brutal and gorgeous. Every sentence has purpose, and even the horrific episodes are beautifully written. The females--both human and elephant--are strong and compelling characters. This is a book that will have more meaning with subsequent readings--in fact, I recommend finishing the book, pausing to reflect, and then starting over again. Repeat as necessary.