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Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard

(Barsk #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,670 ratings  ·  310 reviews
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, sent
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published December 29th 2015 by Tor Books (first published December 15th 2015)
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Robert Nolin This is an adult novel. The protagonist is an adult, which makes it not YA. I can't see YA readers finding this interesting. YMMV.…moreThis is an adult novel. The protagonist is an adult, which makes it not YA. I can't see YA readers finding this interesting. YMMV.(less)
Pavel Lishin I would say not particularly, other than featuring uplifted animals, and everyone in the galaxy crapping on one race.

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Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2015/12/29/b...

UPDATED: US/Can giveaway 12/29/15-1/8/16 http://bibliosanctum.com/2015/12/29/b...

We’re just about nearing the end of the year, but apparently 2015 had one last big surprise for me. It came in the form of Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen.

I confess, I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I started this book because I dove in blind, and that’s actually the way I wanted it. When I first looked upon t
Feb 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this story of uplifted, anthropomorphic animals. And as the main characters are elephants, animals that I love for their intelligence and social dynamics, I was happy!

Just a note about the cover: I LOVED the image! The artist, Victo Ngai, has created other covers for various short stories and novels published by Tor, and I'm very fond of this artist's work.

The story stars with the interrupted voyage by an elderly Fant (as the elephant-like species is known) on his voyage to a Fa
Aug 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zootopia for adults and telling a SCI/FI story.

Kung Fu Panda in outer space.

Good speculative fiction where anthropomorphic animals are the main characters and have colonized space. The author draws from classic SF inspiration from authors like Philip K Dick, Frank Herbert, CJ Cherryh, and Orson Scott Card.

While a SF story with animals as the characters could put off some readers and leave others dismissing this as a kitschy Dr. Moreau knock off (oh yeah, add Wells to the above list) author Lawre
Jun 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This book caught my attention because of the beautiful cover and the intriguing title. And after I looked at the summary, I decided to read it because the story sounded interesting and certainly different than any book I'd ever read before. Because I'd never read a book that had human-like animals as characters, ones that walked upright and spoke, had hands and feet, were intelligent, wore clothes, and were basically like humans in every way except they weren't human. They were still for the mos ...more
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Jorl is a Fant historian who is also a Speaker. Once he ingests a drug called koph he can speak with the dead by making a construct of the person using particles of memory called nefshons. Pizlo is the son of Jorl's deceased best friend, but because of the circumstances of his birth, Pizlo is not recognized as a person in Fant culture. But his mother and Jorl care for him regardless. It soon becomes clear that Pizlo has a kind of gift of his own, and living in the wilds as he has probably helped ...more
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, sci-fi
There's really only one choice you ever have to make in any act of creation. Will you be the instrument or the artist? If you're only now coming to realize that you've been a tool all your life, there's no one to blame for it but yourself. If you don't like that state of affairs, then act! Impose your will upon the world and walk your own path. If you don't, you'll just end up being a token in someone else's game; you'll continue to be used as they see fit. That's how the universe works. You don ...more
Dec 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
This was such an unexpected pleasure. I absolutely loved the level of detail that went into the Fants and the character development was exceptional. Somebody told me that he had been thinking about this novel for 20 years and I think that really shows. This is a world that seems like it's alive. Surely this really exists somewhere? He did an excellent job of explaining these strange animals, as well as the lack of linguistic drift. IT WAS BRILLIANT!!!

The audio was good, although not exceptional.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Barsk has quite a unique premise, in which the galaxy is populated by uplifted animals who have no cultural memory of the humans who engineered them 60,000 years before. The Fant (uplifted elephants) manufacture a drug that allows certain gifted individuals to speak to the dead, and distribute it to the other races in the Alliance in exchange for being left alone. An ambitious Yak senator decides he doesn't want to abide by this agreement anymore, and maneuvers to steal the secret of the drug fr ...more
Viv JM
This book was a real treasure - great worldbuilding, fascinating characters, and an immensly satisfying ending.

I listened to the audio version of this, narrated by J.G.Hertzler, and I think he did a really great job of the different voices, so that each character was completely distinct.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I had not heard of this book or author when this book was announced on the Nebula Award list, although I did recently realize that the author and I are friends here in Goodreads. I did not go to great lengths to seek the book out, but the local branch of my public library had it available when I looked at the titles, so I figured it couldn't hurt. In a recent book speed dating project (which will post later on to my podcast,) I read the first 50 pages and was surprised to find I wanted to keep g ...more
Jun 04, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, sci-fi
First - All I could picture the entire book was this - (from a favorite childhood book series - The Story of Babar


Anyway - 3 stars. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it. This isn't a book I would proactively recommend to my friends, and if there were any follow up books, I probably wouldn't read them.

The best thing about the book was little Pizlo, the 6 year old albino elephant-person. His own people shun and ignore him for being different (and it's never explained exactly why they feel that w
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An interstellar society of different species of anthropomorphic animals grapples with psychic powers, collective memory, prejudice and a trade monopoly on a critical resource. The comparison with key elements of Dune is stark.

Barsk is the home planet of the Fants (anthropomorphic Elephants) who have a Compact with the rest of the Alliance. The Compact preserves Barsk for just the Fants at the cost of ensuring a supply of the critical drug koph to the rest of the Alliance. This mostly suits the A
The Captain
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Ahoy there mateys!  Though the First Mate and I have very different reading tastes, occasionally we do recommend books to each other.  He and I both read the following:

barsk: the elephants' graveyard (Lawrence M. Schoen)

We read and talked about the book and I enjoyed his viewpoint so I ordered asked him to write a review.  So you get one from me and a bonus additional review from me crew.  Please note that I write like I talk and the first mate writes like he thinks.  Hope you enjoy!

From the Cap
Christina Pilkington
Apr 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
*4.5 stars

This is a book unlike I have ever read before. Almost the entire cast of characters are different types of sentient animals who live and thrive in worlds they rule themselves. And yet, while reading the book, I would often forget they were animals. They acted, spoke, thought and dreamed like humans.

And because of that there are such deep and thought provoking themes explored throughout this novel. I read this because it was short listed for the Nebula this year and I can see why. I re
This Nebula-nominated novel has a very strong aura about it, bringing uplifted races of animals and main characters who are elephants in the far future.

Perhaps I should have done a bit more research before reading this novel, or perhaps the nature of the novel should have been telegraphed just a little bit better from the start, because I suffered a bit of aimlessness as I plodded through the initial sections of the novel. Where was this going? What's the purpose? Where should I expect this sto
Gregory Frost
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
What would you get if you put Orwell’s Animal Farm, Adams’s Watership Down, and Kipling’s The Jungle Book into a blender with David Brin’s “Uplift” series? You might well get Lawrence Schoen’s novel Barsk.

Rich in texture, full of great dialogue, and terrifically realized creatures, Barsk is ultimately a simple story of one character’s quest to find out why the world has gone wrong. For the first 300 pages it is anything but simplistic. It’s complex, fun, dramatic, emotionally compelling, and as
Jan 05, 2015 added it
I've never had a book about anthropomorphic elephants bring me to the brink of tears within the first ten pages before. In the good way! ...more
Hélène Louise
(French review below - slightly different)

I've just read this book for the second time, with as much pleasure, fascination and admiration as the first time.

If perfect, universal books don't exist, perfect reads actually do, and "Barsk" was one for me. An outstanding read, that I'll keep in a special place, to re read and recommend.

To begin with, the writing is flawless. The kind of writing that would make any story, even without any fantastic or science-fi elements in it, delightful to read. A s
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting setting and concepts. Not a big science based Scifi novel. More human interaction and culture based. A little slow to get going. Never really hooked me until the last 80 pages or so, when the ending has a solid payoff.
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anthropomorphized animals rule the Galaxy now...the story mainly focuses on "Fant" (elephants) who are despised by the other races and live in exile on only one world of the Alliance. The other races long ago agreed to leave them in peace, as they produce drugs on their world that the Alliance needs. But that agreement has been broken...

This was slow going for me, listening to the audio version and getting distracted by other books. But it came to a delightfully satisfying conclusion.
Beth Cato
Nov 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, science
Barsk is darn good scifi that explores issues of history, race, and existence through the plights of anthropomorphic elephants and a wide cast of other creatures. It touches on hard science fiction issues but never goes too far. Most importantly, it's a book with a heart. It gripped me right from the start with a Fant accepting his call to go where all his kind must go when they die, but on the way he is kidnapped and held captive. The poor guy just wants to go and die in peace.

All of the charac
Fantasy Literature
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
When I put in my ARC request for Lawrence M. Schoen’s new novel Barsk, all I knew about it was that the setting involved a group of worlds inhabited by a variety of anthropomorphic space-faring animal species, with the main focus on elephants (thus its subtitle: The Elephant’s Graveyard). C’mon. El-e-phants in Spaaaaaccce! How could I resist? But Barsk is much more than a funny-but-cool premise; it’s a thoughtful, moving, and provocative exploration of a host of issues, including but not limited ...more
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book about humanity even though it's not about humans. I was somewhat hesitant at first about this one. Anthropomorphic animal stories aren't usually my favorite but this is so creative and original and so well written that it absolutely works. Huge thanks to my SpecFic friends because without them I wouldn't have picked this up on my own and it will most likely end up as a favorite of 2016. ...more
Mattia Ravasi
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Video-review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRos7...

Excellent characterization and an inventive premise make Barsk a pleasure to explore and a great world to get lost into, especially for those who like a little economics, politics and science in their fiction.
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the most interesting and unusual sci-fi books I've ever read. ...more
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-eaudio
A novel with significant flaws, most notably in the form of elephantine holes in the worldbuilding, and yet enjoyable because of the characters and their struggle.

The setting (a galaxy filled with anthropomorphic/uplifted animals from Earth) is interesting, though the backstory, when it finally arrived, didn't surprise me even slightly. The psychic-powers aspects are rather old-fashioned in SF; they were big in the 80s, but no longer, and the handwavium is plentiful, obvious, and pretty clearly
Michael Burnam-Fink
Barsk is a novel of a many parts, let down by an inability to grasp some ineffable quality of grandeur. In the far future, science has proved the existence of souls, and a select group of Speakers can commune with the dead by taking the drug Koph, which grows only on one planet. All the humans are gone, and the sentient beings are various species of uplifted animals. Barsk, source of the drug, is also home to the despised Fants, descended from elephants. For 800 years, their world has been defin ...more
(The review is based on a review excerpt kindly offered to me by the publisher via NetGalley.)

Being a fan of the fantasy genre, I have read many different fantasy novels and short stories. Yet, when I first read 'Barsk: The Elephant's Graveyard''s description, I felt it might offer me something unique that I had not read before. I was a bit reluctant at first, because this book features anthropomorphic animals as its main characters, and I have to admit that I'm usually not very fond of that, bu
Shae Uisna
Nov 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It's impossible to say enough great things about Lawrence M. Schoen's new novel, "Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard." I found it to be uplifting, visionary and a damn good read... I took my time reading it as I wished to savor every moment of this marvelous and enthralling book. Schoen describes his world with such precision and poetry, making it possible for his readers to fully enter the world and culture of Barsk. I found myself wondering about the "actual" logistics of Speaking with the Dead, ...more
Bridget Mckinney
Feb 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Lawrence M. Schoen’s Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard is a wonderfully original masterpiece of a novel, and I am so glad that I got to it in time for Hugo Award nominations. Somehow, I’d thought it was a 2016 book because it came out so late in the year (December 29). Fortunately, it showed up on the Nebula shortlist before I missed out on it entirely. You guys, this book is so good. If you are a Hugo voter, I highly recommend reading this book before you finalize your nominations. 2015 was an am ...more
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Review 2 18 Jan 31, 2016 08:27PM  
Casting BARSK 1 24 May 22, 2015 05:34PM  

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Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, is a past Astounding, Hugo, and Nebula, nominee, twice won the Cóyotl award for best novel, founded the Klingon Language Institute, and occasionally does work as a hypnotherapist specializing in authors’ issues. He is a cancer survivor.

His science fiction includes many light and humorous adventures of a space-faring stage hypnotist and his

Other books in the series

Barsk (2 books)
  • The Moons of Barsk (Barsk, #2)

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