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Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard
by Lawrence M Schoen
Tor Books, $26 HB, $13 ebook, 384 pp
Published: December 2015

A science fiction tale of talking elephant-men who speak with the dead; so what's not to like? The notion of talking animals is timeless and common in many varieties of fantasy, but it seldom occurs in real science fiction (why bother when you can have space aliens, not to mention Planet of the Apes). The two most notable examples would be Clifford Simak's City for an arguably neutral yet wondrous spin, and HG Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau for a pessimistic view. This novel steps off from Simak's trope of evolution so far in the future that the human race has been forgotten. Whereas Simak's City was limited to planet Earth, this book concerns many animal species scattered among the stars. So let's run through the six basic questions of journalism. You know the who: talking elephant men and many animal species. The what: who speak with the dead. The where: scattered among the stars. The when: so far in the future. The how: evolution. The why: for a plot driver, what if Doc Smith's Pirates of Boscone tried to hijack the spice of Frank Herbert's Dune? Something like that, except with the best NONviolent ending EVER, and so yeah, I liked it. ~~  ML Fringe

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