by Pup Matthias
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Moons of Barsk, by Lawrence M. Schoen.
NYC, A Tom Doherty Associates Book/Tor Books, August 2018, hardcover, $26.99 (430 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $13.99.
This is the sequel to Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, reviewed here in 2016. Barsk has such an unusual and unique plot that you should really read it before The Moons of Barsk. Both have interstellar settings and are set in the far future when humanity is extinct and has been replaced by the descendants of uplifted animals.
You also need to read Barsk first because there is no synopsis here. The opening paragraph is:
“Amidst torrents of rain and blasts of lightning, Ryne stepped from his boat onto the shore of the last island, the place where his life ended. The mental beacon that had guided him across the open water faded away. Clarity replaced certainty, composed of equal parts confusion and anger. Flapping his ears against the downpour he muttered a phrase heard by his students at least once a tenday for the past six decades. ‘The math is all wrong!’” (p. 11)
But Chapter One is titled “Nothing But Lies”. Pizlo, Jorl, and Ryne are Fant, elephant-men of the planet Barsk, looking like a human with an elephant’s head; great flapping ears and a trunk. That’s not why Fant is reviled as abominations throughout the galaxy, though. Of the eighty-seven races (species) of the Galactic Alliance, the Fant are the only ones who are not furred. The Yaks, the Prairie Dogs, the Giant Anteaters, the Hares, the Sloths; all the others have respectable pelts. Only the Fant, divided into Elephs (uplifted Asian elephants) and Lox (African elephants), are disgustingly nude, with wrinkly gray, hairless skin, plus those giant flapping ears and the huge mobile nose.
The Fant are not only known for their hairlessness, though. Barsk is the only planet where the wonder drug koph can be found. Koph enables rare individuals who take it to access the nefshons of the dead and to become Speakers to the dead. “He could see nefshons; the subatomic particles of memory and personality would come at his call. If he summoned enough of them that had belonged to a dead person he could even talk to them.” (p. 22) Barsk is partially about some Fant, and the attempts of some individuals of the other races of the Alliance (notably Nonyx-Captain Selishta, a Cheetah) to get more koph.
Barsk focuses upon a few individual Fant on their planet, and a few members of the Alliance, notably Selista the Cheetah and Lirlowil the Otter, a Speaker, who are especially dependent upon koph. The Moons of Barsk is about Barsk’s relationship with the rest of the Alliance, focusing on why the Alliance wants to destroy Barsk.