Books & Brews, Back in Business

Submitted 3 months ago
Created by
Page Turner

Welcome to back to Books & Brews!

Sorry for the hiatus, I just am going back to get my Master’s and I have been juggling work, life, and school work lately. BUT I am back for a quick Book & Brew this week.

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What do you get when you take a science fiction fantasy and combine it with an extinct human race and humanized animals? Something very much like the book I am bringing you today – Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard is framed in a futuristic setting were humans are long gone and instead we follow the events transpiring among anthropomorphic animals. This book has been out for a few years now, but Book 2, The Moons of Barsk,  was released in August.


Barsk by Lawrence Schoen

Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen (Barsk #1)

[Disclaimer: This book was received from Tor Books in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review.]

Book 1 of the Barsk series is framed in a futuristic setting where humans are non-existent and instead the events we follow transpire among anthropomorphic animals. These animals include a variety of  species and they have formed their own nations on various planets in space with government and trade. Essentially taking the place of humans.

The book follows Jorl, who is a Fant (which is essentially an elephant), he is a Speaker which means that he can talk to long dead ancestors to gain knowledge, which is also good because he is also a Historian. While trying to talk to a deceased friend he finds out that some of the dead are not responding to his calls which is unusual, he sets out to find out what is happening.

The story also follows a child who is not accepted by the community, his name is Pizlo and he has a very special talent as well - he can talk to the moons and they tell him things. 

The overall plot follows these two as they learn of a scheme to try to cut the Fant out of the cycle of things by stealing one of their trade goods and its production. The story is very intense and pretty fast paced if you can wrap your head around the different animals and how this galactic system works. Helping that, it the world-building, it is wonderfully done by the author and while you are thrown in the deep-end right in the beginning he is able to real you back in with the details you need. And even though I don't read a lot of Science Fiction I was very interested in this animals-in-space perspective.

The book rotates perspectives of the various characters so is you don’t like that type of thing this might not be for you, but there was enough variety in the characters that I even really enjoyed the switching between them from chapter to chapter and I really felt invested in their plights. 

For Sci-Fi fans this would be a great addition to your to-read list, and if you aren't a fan of Sci Fi, I think that these are not so over the top Science Fiction-y that you can get into them as I did. I really enjoyed the first of this series and even if you don't continue to the next book, it has a wonderful ending and ties up nicely. I think it really showcased the growth of the characters well.

But what are we drinking with it, you ask? Well to go along with the psychedelic – talking animals, craziness I picked a fun and very color drink this week.


We had a friend visiting recently and she is very into beers and local breweries. We had the pleasure of going with her to five breweries over the weekend and doing a lot of great drink tasting. With that awesome time, I found the perfect drink to go with this series. Today we are drinking a Colors That Don’t Exist from Burlington Beer Company. If you have not had the pleasure to experience their beers -you should, they make all sorts of wacky combinations that seem to just work in ways you would not expect.

Colors That Don’t Exist is a Sour IPA with (VT) Apples and Aronia Berries – don’t know what an Aronia Berry is? Me neither, I Googled – it is a berry from a shrub also known as a chokeberry (doesn’t seem as appetizing with that name). They can be eaten raw but are often processed and when fully ripe they are actually sweet. In this beer though, they seem to be processed early to help with that sour taste, but it was delicious.

This beer sits at a 4.5% ABV and is a hazy pink color, but while hazy in tone – it is not a thick beer, it is actually pretty light. It is a collaboration with Stowe Cider and the apple taste is awesome behind the initial puckering you get from the sour. It is both sweet and sour as you drink and it the perfect combination of that sweet and sour taste.

Colors That Don't Exist

Cans of this beer were released in August. So, they might be hard to come by locally, but if you take a trip up to Burlington Beer Company, they may have them or a similar one. The Colors that Don't Exist line changes from time to time in the flavorings but I have had a few and they are all delicious.

Here is their address - Burlington Beer Co., 25 Omega Dr. Suite 150 , Williston, VT 05495. Their taproom has tasters and food, and they are open from 12- 7 or 8 daily, and once you hit there you can continue into Burlington for the day.

If you don’t feel like the drive, you can check in over at Woodstock Hops n Barley, they carry a decent amount of the BBC varieties.

About the Book

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication Date: December 2016

ISBN: 9780765377036

Buy the Book
Amazon  / Barnes and Noble / BAM

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.

About the Author:
Lawrence M. Schoen holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology, with a special focus in psycholinguistics. He spent ten years as a college professor, and has done extensive research in the areas of human memory and language. His background in the study of human behavior and the mind provide a principal metaphor for his fiction. He currently works as the director of research and chief compliance officer for a series of mental health and addiction recovery facilities in Philadelphia.
He's also one of the world's foremost authorities on the Klingon language, and since 1992 has championed the exploration of this constructed tongue and lectured on this unique topic throughout the world. In addition, he's the publisher behind a speculative fiction small press, Paper Golem, aimed at serving the niche of up-and-coming new writers as well as providing a market for novellas.
In 2007, he was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and in 2010 received a Hugo nomination for Best Short Story. He's hard at work writing the latest in the ongoing adventures of the Amazing Conroy, a stage hypnotist traveling the galaxy in the company of Reggie, an alien buffalito that can eat anything and farts oxygen. Lawrence lives near Philadelphia with his wife, Valerie, who is neither a psychologist nor a Klingon speaker.


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