Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen’s haunting novel about truth, memory and anthropomorphic animals, had such an impact on one reader that they created a powerful tribute: a sculpture of Pizlo, one of the book’s main characters! Twitter user @MadAshura shared a photo of the sculpture with Schoen, writing that they wanted to honor him, the book, and its unique protagonist.
In Schoen’s vision of the future, humanity is long gone, but the genius animals they created have ascended to the stars. Upright, sentient animals have created their own hierarchies, with the Fant ostracized and exiled to the rainy ghetto planet of Barsk. The planet is so besieged by constant rains that it’s difficult to see the sun or the seven moons; but Pizlo, a physically challenged young Fant who is impervious to pain, hears voices guiding his sight through the breaks in the trees. While Victo Ngai’s gorgeous cover depicts the moment that the voices lead Pizlo to one of the “chimneys” that allow him to glimpse the third of Barsk’s moons, @MadAshura’s sculpture wonderfully turns the perspective around to show us Pizlo himself:
“I’m overwhelmed!” Schoen responded. More about Barsk:
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 is available now from Tor Books.