Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

UnknownBarsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen
NYC, A Tim Doherty Associates Book/Tor Books, December 2015, hardcover $25.99 (384 pages), Kindle $12.99.

In the very far future, civilization has spread throughout the galaxy, but there are no longer any humans. Humanity has been replaced by the descendants of uplifted animals.

Chapter One, “A Death Detoured”, features Rüsul, an elderly Fant, alone and naked, on a raft six days at sea. He is on his death journey, the traditional final rite of passage of every Fant on the world of Barsk. Rüsul expects to sail alone until he dies. He does not expect to be picked up by a spaceship of Cans (canines; Dogs) commanded by a Cheetah, Nonyx-Captain Selishta. She tells her Cans, “‘Maybe this one will know something useful about whatever shrubs and leaves the drug comes from. Hold him here a moment while the rest of the crew secures his flotsam, and then put him below in one of the vacant isolation cells.’” (p. 19)

The importance of Barsk’s drug, koph, is explained in Chapter Four, “Solutions in Memory”, in this description of Lirlowil the Otter and her ability to talk with the dead:

“Beautiful by Otter standards, she’d spent the last few years enjoying the peaks of privilege earned not by any acts of her own, but by the random chance that gifted her with being able to both read minds and talk with the dead. Unless you had the misfortune to be one of those disgusting Fant on Barsk, you could go your entire life without encountering a Speaker. The drug that triggered the ability was fiendishly expensive, and rarely worked the first few times. Alliance science had yet to determine what genetic markers resulted in the talent. Off Barsk, Speakers were unlikely, though hardly uncommon. True telepaths though, people who could effortlessly slip inside the mind of other beings and sample their memories and knowledge as easily as flipping the pages of a book, were orders of magnitude more rare.

The number of individuals with both sets of abilities would make for a very small dinner party indeed. Lirlowil’s mental gifts emerged with puberty and elevated her social status a thousand-fold. The discovery that her talents included Speaking occurred a couple of years later when she’d sampled some koph at a party and began seeing nefshons over the next hour’s time.” (pgs. 42-43)

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