Lawrence M. Schoen has been nominated for the Nebula Award three times, and the Hugo Award once, and anticipation is high for his next novel: Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, a far-future SF tale in which humans are long gone but anthropomorphic elephants, exiled to the ghetto world of Barsk, speak with the dead. I met Lawrence at the Nebula Awards banquet earlier this year, and he was kind enough to give me an advance copy. The early reviews contains some of the most effusive praise I’ve seen for a novel this year, with Karl Schroeder calling it “A compulsive page-turner and immensely enjoyable,” Robert J. Sawyer describing it as “Weird, wise, and worldly… a triumph,” and James L. Cambias proclaiming it “Captivating… [a] heartwarming story in a unique and fantastic world… as rich and mysterious as Dune.” Do yourself a favor and grab a copy when it arrives next month.
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.
Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard will be published by Tor Books on December 29, 2015. It is 384 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition. The marvelous cover is by Victo Ngai.