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Only Harmless Great Thing
Only Harmless Great Thing | Brooke Bolander
33 posts | 41 read | 29 to read
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.
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review
TieDyeDude
Only Harmless Great Thing | Brooke Bolander
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Pickpick

A bit of a bleak read, but short and powerful. I would suggest a little research on the radium girls before picking this up. It is an alternate history novella where elephants are brought in to replace radium girls because they are dexterous with their trunks and their mass means the poison takes longer to set in. Like I said, bleak. But the three POV s are very well written and it is a solid story.

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Redwritinghood
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Mehso-so

This alternative history was imaginative, but ultimately there wasn‘t enough here to keep me invested in the story. 3⭐️

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night_shift
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Pickpick

I recieved this in 2018 from a swap. Don't think the gal who sent it to me has the same name on here as it's not coming up, but thanks anyhow!

This was great. I mean, horrible, but great. It imagines a world that combines the Radium girls with sign language speaking hive-mind-ish elephants. And Topsy. Poor Topsy 😔 but this novella gave her a righteous end.

If you're looking for a very quick, interesting read... this one.

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Pedrocamacho
Only Harmless Great Thing | Brooke Bolander
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Mehso-so

I was definitely curious about this story. However, in my estimation, it never truly coalesces.

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Book_Gobbler
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Pickpick

5/5 ⭐️
What is an alternative history? This is. The story of Topsy the elephant, the Radium Girls - they really did exist but in Bolander‘s book, they get the attention they truly deserve. No other way to put it, but I absolutely loved it from beginning to end. It is poetic & heartbreaking, it‘s an origin story a mythology & a beautifully thought provoking tale. The Many Mothers are all Mothers.

Winner of the Nebula award for Best Novelette 2018

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underground_bks
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Pickpick

In this brief but powerful alternate history, the WWII-era Radium Girls, sickened by the radioactive paint with which they are numbering clockfaces, are replaced by elephants. Intelligent and powerless, they too are abused and manipulated into this deathly work against their will. This is a potent, sharp, and imaginative investigation of the consequences of injustice, the force of story, and the power of community.

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ralexist
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Pickpick

Speculative fiction novella which combines the tragic story of the Radium Girls with the tragedy of Topsy the elephant, in a dark alternative history. Bolander's writing and choice of language and voice are superb and the feel reminded me of MEM, a 5 star pick of mine from last year. Short but impactful, I highly recommend this for something a little different.

28 likes2 stack adds
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Lindy
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Pickpick

A brilliant reimagining of history, with humans able to communicate with elephants using sign language. In this slim yet powerful novella, true facts are mashed together in three alternating storylines. Radium Girls plus Topsy the elephant (executed in public on Coney Island) plus the problem of how to warn future generations to stay away from toxic nuclear waste sites. Weird and wonderful, especially the parts from an elephant‘s POV.

alanacristin Did you happen to read this for #readharder- a book written from the perspective of an animal or inanimate object? I'm noticing more books that qualify for it now 😍 3y
Lindy @alanacristin No, I picked it up because it won a Nebula award. It reminded me of another novel that features an elephant‘s perspective: 3y
Lindy @alanacristin Atlas Obscura has a good article about the genre of novels from the perspective of things, which was a popular literary form in the 18th century: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-novels-came-to-be-written-in-the-voice... 3y
See All 6 Comments
llwheeler I had such an odd reading experience with this one. I really wasn't into it at first, kept wondering why it had so much buzz, then somehow without me noticing the change, I was super engrossed and by the end thought it was so good. Definitely brilliant. 3y
Lindy @llwheeler Yes, I found the reading experience memorable too. 🤪 3y
alanacristin Oh, fabulous! 😍 Thanks for the link and other elephant recommendation 📚 3y
47 likes2 stack adds6 comments
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Lindy
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But chains can be snapped, O best beloved mooncalf. Sticks can be knocked out of a Man‘s clever hands. And one chain snapping may cause all the rest to trumpet and stomp and shake like a rain-wind coming down the mountain, washing the gully muddy with bright lightning tusks and thunderous song.
(Internet image)

38 likes1 stack add
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ChasingOm
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Pickpick

Reading my way through the Hugo Award shortlist, starting with the Novelettes. This cover is awesome (even cooler in color) and the story itself was such a great, twisted alternate history. 🐘💚
http://www.thehugoawards.org/2019/04/2019-hugo-award-1944-retro-hugo-award-final...

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Carolyn11215
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Pickpick

Never read anything even remotely like it. Alternative history combining two unrelated events and just an incredibly weird little novella. Man‘s inhumanity to man and to other species in order to make a buck is sickeningly portrayed. Creative use of language. Photo is Topsy, the elephant who was electrocuted at Coney Island.

wordzie ❤ the review 👍 3y
ChasingOm Oh my gosh, I just finished this novelette and I had NO IDEA the Topsy part of the story was based in a real event. 🤯 3y
30 likes2 comments
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khooliha
Pickpick

I read most of this book at Animal Kingdom and you know what? It feels appropriate. Look at some elephants before reading this one.

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Angitron
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Pickpick

It took me a minute to get into the language of this book, and its various POVs. But in the end I was really impressed by the way Bolander was able to weave together three historically-based storylines to create an alternate history in which elephants and humans can communicate via sign language. Very inventive and well-written!

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sacrilecious
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This book is just lovely.

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rachelsbrittain
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Pickpick

An interesting novelette weaving together the history of the radium girls with Topsy (the elephant electrocuted at Coney Island) and sentient elephants who use their own sign language to communicate. The worth of the elephants and the women who were knowingly endangered definitely have some strong parallels. A short, enjoyable and extremely creative read with a lot to dig into and think about.

(Also in love with that cover, wow.)

gradcat Cover art is great, and so is your review! Tell me, is this fiction or nonfiction? It sounds beautiful! 😊❤️ (edited) 3y
readordierachel This sounds so interesting! 3y
rachelsbrittain @gradcat fiction-- it's an alternate history drawing on some true events (the radium girls and the death of Topsy) but reimagining some of the facts and with fantasy elements weaved in. And thank you! 3y
rachelsbrittain @readordierachel it definitely is! 3y
43 likes4 comments
blurb
rachelsbrittain
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FYI you can download a free ebook from Tor right now and it sounds pretty freaking awesome: an alternate history novelette weaving together the story of the radium girls in Newark, New Jersey and Topsy, the elephant that was intentionally electricuted at Coney Island around the same time.

www.tor.com/2019/01/15/the-only-harmless-great-thing-january-2019-ebook-download/

32 likes1 stack add
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tournevis
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1️⃣ Last time I had duck.
2️⃣ Free from Tor.com yesterday.
3️⃣ Of the US, 12.
4️⃣ I collect the Star Trek foto-novels. I now have all 12.
5️⃣ I have a conference in Angers, France next week. Will be going to the US for another conference in April.
#humpdaypost @MinDea

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andytbarnes
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PSA: I have yet to read but hear nothing but good things. Tor.com has a free ebook club so if you‘re like me and need a great excuse to keep your kindle/ereader fully stocked...this is as good as any. Something that I look forward to each month.

SW-T @andytbarnes This is good to know! Thanks for sharing 😊 3y
35 likes1 comment
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sakeriver
Pickpick

A well-written and moving tragedy, I thought. I think it‘s interesting how Bolander juxtaposes the oppression and exploitation of women with the disregard for non-human others—here elephants are shown as unequivocally sentient. And possibly one could make of this story an allegory of race relations and particularly American treatment of indigenous people, although I‘m not sure whether that‘s intentional or not. Something to think about, anyway.

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sakeriver
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Next

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night_shift
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@ErinSueG - it came today! It was a nice end to a tiring day.

Thank you so much! Everything is so light and pretty :) I've been wanting to get my hands on Boy's Life since I was reminded I wanted to read it a couple weeks ago and I completely forgot about the tagged book, but 😀 stoked to get to it, especially after reading Radium Girls.

#requiredreadingredo

ErinSueMreads Awesome!! I‘m so glad you liked it 😘😘 sorry it took so long! 4y
night_shift @ErinSueG I do! Thank you again! It's absolutely no big deal :) 4y
Bklover Love love love Boy‘s Life! (edited) 4y
71 likes3 comments
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TheBookstorePodcast
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Pickpick

Today on the podcast 🎧
We discuss Hannah Bolander‘s tiny and wild The Only Harmless Great Thing. Find out why we had no problem diving right into a world where elephants speak sign language. 🐘 Listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Guildedearlobe Such a great little book. Loved the idea of Probiscian sign language. 4y
TheBookstorePodcast @Guildedearlobe I loved it. Such a wild idea and yet it took me no time to buy in. 4y
37 likes2 stack adds2 comments
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Guildedearlobe
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Pickpick

Finished today while waiting for Benjamin‘s MRI. Absolutely loved it. Lush and lyrical with a blend of alternate history and folklore. Plus sentient elephants.

Crewgurl Hope all is well with Benjamin! ❤️ 4y
MStew Love elephants and readong things like this 4y
Guildedearlobe @Crewgurl thanks. Benjamin is a 18 year old I work with whose on the spectrum and has renal cell carcinoma and a benign brain tumor. He‘s been doing well on his new meds so we‘re hoping for good signs in this scan. He‘s my buddy and a real trooper. 4y
See All 6 Comments
Guildedearlobe @meghan2714 the elephant folklore was my favorite part of the book. 4y
Crewgurl ❤️❤️❤️❤️ sending lots of good thoughts his way! 4y
Smrloomis Hope the scan went well! 🤞🏽🧡🧡🧡 4y
37 likes2 stack adds6 comments
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Guildedearlobe
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Loving the book and fascinated by the concept of Proboscidian sign language for sentient elephantine communication.

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BeckyLeJ
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I‘m at 7.5 hours now. Pregnant ladies need naps, yo 😊 Starting book 2 of the #24in48 readathon.

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TheBookstorePodcast
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We‘ve got a couple of short books on our TBR right now, followed by what will be one of the longest books I‘ve read in a long time. Is it weird that I‘m nervous about getting it read in time? I think I‘ve developed a long book anxiety. How do you feel about reading long books? Are you a fast reader, or are you slow, like me?

Gitanjali I feel very anxious before reading a long book. Mostly because I feel like I don‘t have the permission to stop if it sucks. 4y
TheBookstorePodcast @Gitanjali I hear you, they can be a big commitment! 4y
33 likes2 comments
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Tonton
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Pickpick

Take two true things: an elephant was electrocuted at Coney Island, and women who painted the glowing Timex numbers on the watch faces dying from radium sickness/cancer; add the dreamtime memories of the Mother of elephants, and an alternate world scientist who thinks up a way to use elephants as warning of radioactive waste areas and you have a stupendous story. Wow.

23 likes4 stack adds
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meggofrank
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Pickpick

The day after my birthday means cake for breakfast & reading a beautiful, heart-rending novella before being responsible & productive. I believe Boba Fett's post book-licking face is a great summation of the feels this one creates.

razmanda He looks just like my Murphy! Hey, there, brindle buddy! 4y
meggofrank @razmanda 👋🐶🐾 4y
10 likes2 comments
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jhstack
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Pickpick

Next up is Brooke Bolander's 'The Only Great Harmless Thing', which is a brilliant little novella centered around radium girls, elephants, and Coney Island. I wanted a bit more from the three plot lines, but I was happy with what I got.

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kgriffith
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Because someone on Twitter told me to and I‘m highly impressionable and also avoiding my homework.

2BR02B It's a short one, so it shouldn't put you off for too long. 4y
kgriffith @2BR02B That was definitely part of my justification 😏 (edited) 4y
22 likes1 stack add2 comments
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Ashley_Nicoletto
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Pickpick

I adored this. To make me cry in 95 pages is quite the accomplishment.

68 likes2 stack adds
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Ashley_Nicoletto
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If you aren't reading the novellas that Tor.com is putting out right now you're missing out.

🔥🔥🔥

They're so weird, but so good.

BookNAround Check this out @CarinSiegfried (edited) 4y
2BR02B I just finished an excellent one last night. 4y
Ashley_Nicoletto @2BR02B Thanks for the rec! I haven't read that one! Picking it up now. 4y
Beachesnbooks Love the Tor novellas! 4y
56 likes2 stack adds4 comments
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shanaqui
Pickpick

Received to review. Still turning this one over in my mind. Some of the elephant sections are really great writing.