Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This Nebula-nominated novel has, strangely enough, a very strong aura about it, namely 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 story to take me? I honestly didn't know.
Hell, it seemed almost as diffuse as the nefshons in the hands of a novice Speaker.
Huh. Well maybe that was the point, and maybe it wasn't, but unfortunately, I kept losing interest. I'd come back to it, repeatedly, because I'm a stubborn cuss, and that's good, because the novel *eventually* takes off.
The end is quite satisfying, and as long as you, dear reader, don't get overly bogged down in the generally and almost completely inexplicable revulsion and prejudice that every other race holds toward the Fants, then you will, much later, be treated to an actual reason for the psychosis. I'm not entirely sure I *buy* the reason, but there is a reason for it, and it even ties in to the main plot!
The good parts are very good, mind you, and I like how the implications are turned directly into actualities, but I get the weird impression that this entire novel could have been shortened to the second half, alone, and left as a stronger novella rather than a full novel. I had too many "why"s floating around that took away from my enjoyment as a whole, including the knee-jerk prejudice, the wandering and seemingly pointless early plots that seems to do little more than establish our two main characters, and the shockingly pure-evil-out-of-the-blue recommendations for genocide. I mean... is it just due to greed? Did I have to wait until the 90% mark to have an alternate reason for it? Of course, when we do have the reasons, it's all tied back into the other super-powerful reveals that is very superman and mythological.
Of course, I'm sure that isn't an accident, from actual references to kal-el and a scientist who really digs northwestern mythologies, to a borrowed nostalgia of Dune, Startide Rising, and even The Foundation Trilogy, at least in scope and history manipulation. I liked all of that. :) It's a good homage.
If you like novels that end strong even if they aren't awfully impressive in the beginning, BUT they start with an awesome premise that seems to hold a lot of promise, then definitely check this one out.
There's a rather interesting galactic empire waiting for you.
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