The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
“No matter what you did, forty or fifty or a hundred years passed and everything became a narrative to be toyed with, masters of media alchemy splitting the truth’s nucleus into a ricocheting cascade reaction of diverging alternate realities.”
This novella is a story about stealing back your narrative from those who wish to change it, to sanitize history and make their own actions sound good. It is a discussion of the animal capacity to feel and the morality of making animals props in our war. And it is a discussion of the human tendency to let things progress as long as it doesn’t hurt the privileged class. With a discussion of revionism, a strong undercurrent of revolt against the horrors of our past, and compelling leads, it is so amazing.
It’s amazing how much I’ve begun to appreciate Tor’s recent novellas. Short fiction like this is a really amazing medium for thematic explorations that might not be conveyed in long-form fiction, and perhaps more importantly, Tor’s novellas are so in my niche. Novellas like this one are about revolt against oppressive institutions and the subtle patterns humanity exhibits, whether in an alternate universe or our own. There’s so much here crammed into so few pages and I love it.
I honestly don’t have a lot else to say about this – morality discussions of this caliber benefit from actually being read – but I want to mention one thing so you’re prepared: this novella is weird. I mean, just try reading that blurb. It is a fucking TRIP. And the story itself is one too, honestly – quickly-changing perspectives made the first 20 pages or so a bit difficult to read. But as the book progresses, it becomes easier and easier to connect to the story and the characters. And maybe the weirdness is a good thing: I can honestly say I have never read anything like this before and I doubt I ever will. Brooke Bolander is definitely an author to watch in the future. This novella made a huge personal impact on me and I’d totally recommend it for a short but super developed thematic meditation.