Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard
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.
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Nebula- and Hugo Award nominated Schoen (Calendrical Regression) spins an emotional, richly imagined tale in this novella. In the far future, the Fant, an outcast race of anthropomorphic "uplifted" elephants, are at the mercy of a powerful alliance of hundreds of worlds and races that would destroy them and their home planet, Barsk, in order to wrest control of the drug koph, which allows its users, known as Speakers, to speak to the dead. Jorl ben Tral (a member of the Fant and a Speaker himself) is compelled to discover why his best friend, Arlo, committed suicide, while Pizlo, Arlo's six-year-old son, hears whispers that lead him to take his own fateful journey. Meanwhile, a young uplifted otter named Lirlowil is forced to put her own talents as a Speaker to the ultimate test. Schoen's vivid writing makes the Fant and the other species intensely relatable, elevating familiar themes of predetermination, prophecy, and the power of memory. Even as the Fant face genocide, their bravery and spirit makes this a hopeful and very human tale in a posthuman world.