Re: Elegy for a Young Elk

It’s easy to talk about things you don’t like. In fact, it’s so fun you can get totally caught up in hacking a story to pieces. But even though it took me two tries to properly read “Elegy for a Young Elk,” by Hannu Rajaniemi, I liked it so much, I’m having trouble explaining why.

In a cold and icy world where you have to keep the squirrels from picking the locks, Kosonen lives  with his companion, a talking bear, Otso. Then the avatar of his wife, Marja, descends from the sky and asks him for help. He agrees, if she will help him write poetry again.

I’m a total sucker for talking bears. I love how the setting gracefully steers from Kalevela territory to a world akin to “I, Rowboat“. I enjoyed his journey to the city, which is infested with hi-tech dangers and old-fashioned betrayals. Where I ran into trouble was the revelation as to who is ruling the city. It seems cheap. I was so annoyed that I skimmed it on the first read, and I must have been falling asleep because I managed to concoct a completely different story in my mind than what was on the page. Screen. You know what I mean.

When I re-read it to make sure of the details, the story clicked. I was sucked right in and couldn’t stop reading from beginning to end of Kosonen’s quest to regain his lost poetry. I love the way he proves he has it back, with an act that skates the melting edge between scif-fi nanotech and magic. It had me wondering if the magic in the story had cast some spell of confusion on me the first time. Or maybe I was just awake on the second try. I’m still annoyed by who the lord of the city is, but if it were someone else, the ease of Kosonen’s choice at the end wouldn’t make sense.

Since this is Installment Four in this year’s Torque Control short story club, maybe after I see the other comments, I’ll be able to articulate better why this story cast such a glamour on me.


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