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Lawrence M. Schoen

Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard

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The Sixth Sense meets Planet of the Apes in a moving science fiction novel set so far in the future, humanity is gone and forgotten in Lawrence M. Schoen's Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard

An historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who feels no pain and who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that will shake worlds.

In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity's genius-animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the recently deceased and learn their secrets.

To break the Fant's control of koph, an offworld shadow group attempts to force the Fant to surrender their knowledge. Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, is compelled to question his deceased best friend, who years ago mysteriously committed suicide. In so doing, Jorl unearths a secret the powers that be would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend's son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future.


Series Title
Tom Doherty Associates
Book Format
Original Languages
Number of Pages
Lawrence M. Schoen
Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard
Publication Date
December, 2015
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
8.69 x 5.94 x 1.24 Inches

Customer Reviews

Average Rating:(4.5)out of 5 stars
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Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

**I purchased a copy o...

**I purchased a copy of this book for my own enjoyment.** Welcome to the richly complex world of Barsk, home to the Fant. It is a lush world of jungle archipelagos, where the arboreal inhabitants live high above the shadowed forest floor. The Fant, divided into the slightly different Lox and Eleph, live in a harmonious balance with nature. Once elderly, each Fant receives a special vision of a place to go, a final resting place. There are those few, among the Fant, and among other races, who can Speak with the dead, through special training and use of koph. Jorl is one such Speaker, special even among this rare group for the honour of bearing an Aleph. When Jorl begins having difficulty summoning the dead, he fears an ancient prophecy is coming into play, and sets out to solve the mystery of the Silence. His journey will take him worlds away, and worlds within, opening unfathomable possibility. Following Jorl on a different path is Pizlo, a young albino Fant who lives wild, shunned by all but his mother, and Jorl. Pizlo has a special roll to play in the events to come, for he is another special Fant, burdened and gifted with visions, and an ability to commune with nature. Each will suffer greatly on their paths, and emerge from the forge tempered stronger than before, but will they be strong enough? In Barsk, Schoen has opened the door to a world quite unlike most. Barsk is inhabited by the Fant, a race of beings who resemble anthropomorphised elephants. They are just one of a multitude of 'raised mammals' living on far flung worlds. Here Schoen has shone a light on our own penchant for discrimination. In a place where every race is fundamentally different, the Fant are despised for having no fur, as all the rest of the species do. (I do wonder what these racist beings would make of meeting a raised mammoth or mastodon?) Threaded through are the echoes of our past, where might makes right. The Fant have chosen to be less technologically dependent, and have chosen isolation from the rest of the galaxy. When the Alliance decides they want the secrets Barsk harbours, they break the pact and come to take by terrible force that which they seek. Barsk: The Elephant's Graveyard is a richly woven tapestry of life and death, love and hate, sacrifice and greed, and the timeless beats between.. One part Planet of the Apes, one part Avatar, yet wholly original, this story is immersive; it will pull you in, and keep you reading long past your bedtime! I eagerly await the next in the series. Highly recommended. Can't recommend enough. You need this book in your life.

Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Barsk is darn good sci...

Barsk is darn good scifi that explores issues of history, race, and existence through the plights of anthropomorphic elephants and a wide cast of other creatures. It touches on hard science fiction issues but never goes too far. Most importantly, it's a book with a heart. It gripped me right from the start with a Fant accepting his call to go where all his kind must go when they die, but on the way he is kidnapped and held captive. The poor guy just wants to go and die in peace. All of the characters are fantastic. I adored the precocious young Pizlo and a particular sloth character who gave me all the feels. Jorl is a fantastic protagonist, a Fant who is called far beyond his comfort zone as he begins his hero's quest. This book will definitely be on my nomination lists for the Hugo and Nebula.

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

In a galactic culture ...

In a galactic culture of creatures that Humanity uplifted to sentience before we faded away, Barsk is both the sole source of a narcotic that allows psychic adepts to speak to the traces of personality left behind by the dead and the home of the uplifted elephants; beings who are deeply disliked by the rest of galactic culture for reasons that are none too rational. This is a politically unstable situation and much of the conflict in this book is driven by these realities, as the "Fant" historian and adept Jorl tries to make sense of certain prophecies left by the first Fant adept who spoke to the dead. As for the influences on this book David Brin and Ursula K. LeGuin seem to be the biggest ones, but it's also hard not to invoke George Orwell's "Animal Farm." While the ending was a little pat I liked this novel quite a lot. As to how one speaks to the dead, the real basis of the plot, that is a business of manipulating "nefshons," which are essentially particles of memory. I'm not sure that anyone else has brought this up but this is very reminiscent of some of the ideas Konstantin Tsiolkovsky invoked about how the rationale of going into space was to gather together all the particles that had made up the dead so that they could live again. Maybe the next time I see the author I'll remember to ask him about it!

Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

This is a book that ha...

This is a book that had themes that seemed from science fiction during the 90's - this isn't a bad thing, but it felt a bit surreal. The story is really quite well done, the different civilizations of animals were interesting. When we got to the psychic powers and the nefshons (particles that hold memory), it felt out of place with the space faring civilization and science stuff. There are parts of this story that needed more explanation, like with the Phants were so persecuted - it is hinted at, but the explanation wasn't enough to cover the hatred of the other species. Once all the different elements were written, it was fairly easy to see where the story was going. The ending was fairly predictable, and needed a bit more finesse - the actions of the major characters at times, felt forced. However, with all the problems, I found this to be an amazing read. I really want to know about the different cultures in this world, and how they differ from each other. I will read a second book in this universe, if one is ever published.

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