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The Moons of Barsk    by Lawrence M. Schoen order for
Moons of Barsk
by Lawrence M. Schoen
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2018 (2018)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Moons of Barsk follows Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard as the second in Lawrence M. Schoen's series set in a galaxy of uplifted (for those who've read David Brin) animals.

Long ago, the Fant, uplifted elephants universally despised for their lack of fur, were forcibly exiled from their worlds to rainy Barsk. There, they developed a pharmaceutical, koph, that allows talented Speakers to communicate with the dead. The first book introduced Fant Speaker/historian, Jorl and his best friend's small precognitive son Pizlo.

The latter is an outcast, even more so than India's untouchables. Pizlo is invisible to most Fant, considered an abomination because he was conceived before his parents bonded. His mother and Jorl help him as much as they can. Pizlo, who is also a Speaker, is very close to Jorl's small daughter Rina, visiting her nightly.

Events in the first episode made Jorl a Senator, active in galactic politics. As this story evolves, Jorl becomes aware of a very secret resistance movement on Barsk, the Caudex, whose objective is to populate new Hidden Worlds and so save their race from the Alliance. This knowledge proves very dangerous to Jorl, and creates a terrible dilemma for his wife Dabni.

However, The Moons of Barsk is mainly young Pizlo's story. Readers will root for him as he fights back against the cruel treatment that those like him experience all their short lives, and seeks to make a hero's journey, as explained to him by an AI created by humanity, the Archetype of Man. Pizlo's journey takes him into space where his message is shared with millions.

I enjoyed The Moons of Barsk even more than the first book and look forward to what's coming next - there's an intriguing hint in the cliffhanger ending of this episode.

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