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The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
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Book Name: The Only Harmless Great Thing
Author: Brooke Bolander
Publisher(s): Tor.com
Formatt: Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Science Fiction / Alternate History
Release Date: January 23, 2018

It seems that I have a thing for sentient elephants. My first experience was the excellent Downward to the Earth by Robert Silverberg. But, The Only Harmless Great Thing is much more than just sentient elephants, it’s an emotional piece of work creating a quite plausible alternate reality that makes us think about the morality of human experience.

I loved Brooke Bolander’s short stories. She is a master of prose and can create a beautiful and emotional landscape with unique and relatable characters. But, I really had a bit of doubt as to whether or not she could turn her prowess into producing longer fiction. Well, she really did amazing work on this one.

Bolander attempts at combining two shameful instances of American history. Both events showcase greed and human cruelty while creating an alternate history that makes you pause and re-read paragraphs just to appreciate her powerful and emotionally charged narrative. This is a passionate attempt at creating a voice for the voiceless, to give the victims a chance at getting revenge for the misdeeds done to them.

The element of fantasy is actually quite subtle here. The elephants have only minimal means of communicating with the human and even then the humans cannot really appreciate their way of thinking. The author created her unique brand of a fantasy by using different time periods and giving each character their own voice which introduced to the readers an unusual yet strong sense of a fantasy world.

I really have nothing much to say about the characters rather than they are something that is to be experienced rather than talked about. There are only three viewpoint characters and some other side characters, adding elements and dimensions to their story. This book is more about the story being told and the atmosphere that these characters have created for the reader.

On the negative side, the first few pages were a bit hard to understand. The changing viewpoints were a bit confusing to be honest. And also, the story rather lacked some kind of twist and became rather predictable despite the artistic execution by the author.

In the end, I would recommend this one strongly for anyone interested in something short and interesting. For me this is really a showcase of beautifully structured prose and an example of telling a simple story with a unique flavour. I am quite sure Brooke Bolander is going to be a big writer in the future and I, for one will follow her journey as a fan from now on.

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