Review copy provided by Tor Books. Also I have known the author approximately since the dawn of time, though I think it’s fair to say not particularly closely.
Another thing I think it’s fair to say: this is not “another one of those.” While the focus is on two races of anthropomorphic elephant people, there are dozens more anthropomorphic races. (And unlike my complaints about a certain comic series, there is no human savior for the animal folk.) Their story takes place tens of thousands of years in the future–farther out than all but a handful of stories have been set in recent decades.
And the main thrust of the plot deals with koph, a drug that allows its visionaries to talk with the dead by gathering their soul particles from the farthest reaches of the universe. Koph–and its refinements and control, and the wisdom of generations past obtainable with it–is the center, the heart of the book–that and the relationships of the elephant people on the planet from which it is obtained.
So yeah: not another one of those. Quite uniquely itself. There is only the tip of the galactic iceberg here in how the different anthropomorphic species relate to each other and among themselves. There’s room for more, much more, and if this is your style of science fiction, Schoen definitely executes on it.
One thing that surprised me was that I’m used to thinking of Lawrence wearing his linguistics hat, and the linguistics aspect didn’t come into the book until very late. It’s there! So if that’s something you’re looking forward to in a Lawrence Schoen novel, rest assured that it is present! But it doesn’t come in until quite late in the narrative.
Please consider using our link to buy Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard from Amazon.