Far-Seer is the first book in the Quintaglio Ascension.
|Fossil Hunter||1993||ISBN 0-765-30793-4|
Fossil Hunter is the second book in the series.
Foreigner is the final book in the series.
As stated above, Quintaglios are Tyrannosaurs. It is stated in Fossil Hunter that they're directly descended from Nanotyrannus, (although debate among paleontologists since the series' initial creation suggests Nanotyrannus might simply be a juvenile form of Tyrannosaurus rex; if so, that species would be the Quintaglio's true direct ancestor.) Isolation on the Quintaglio Moon (along with some genetic modifications to their Tyrannosaur ancestors by the aliens that transplanted them there to push them in the right direction), ensured that one day they would evolve into a sentient species. 65 million years later, they did, and the Quintaglio race emerged.
Quintaglios resemble miniature Tyrannosaurs, and share many features in common with their ancestors. They eat only meat, and have massive heads with jaws filled with rows of sharp, serrated teeth. They have short, muscular necks, stocky torsos, solid black forward-facing eyes, thick muscular tails, and powerful hind legs ending with three birdlike talons.
However, due the 65 million years they've had to evolve, Quintaglios vary from tyrannosaurs in several significant ways. Tyrannosaurs have very stubby forelimbs, with only two visible fingers. Quintaglios, on the other hand, have longer, more well developed arms with dexterous five-fingered hands, (four fingers and an opposable digit) similar to a human, (unlike humans, though, most Quintaglios are left-handed). The fingers terminate in curved, retractable claws, which can be extended when the Quintaglio is threatened, (though they are capable of extending and retracting them at will). They are much smaller than a Tyrannosaur, although still large; an old adult Quintaglio standing about high. Rather than standing with their backs parallel to the ground like a normal theropod, they usually maintain a semi-erect posture, although while running they do stoop forward into a traditional theropod-like stance. They are far more intelligent then their ancestors, (apparently surpassing humans in intelligence).
While they are indeed dinosaurs, Quintaglios possess a variety of traits that are more reminiscent of lizards. They are capable of limited regeneration; a Quintaglio can grow back a severed limb or tail, although complex, vital structures such as organs cannot be grown back. Male Quintaglios possess a dewlap sack on their throats, similar to a frog's or those on some types of birds, which they can inflate with air when they're sexually aroused or in "dagamant". Quintaglios continue to grow throughout their entire lives, like crocodiles, although their growth rate slows with age. Similar to certain lizards, Quintaglios have a small salt-secretion gland beneath the surface of the muzzle, but the opening for it is simply a very tiny hole halfway down the side of the muzzle. Except in an extreme close-up view, it would be all but invisible.
Quintaglio hide is tough and leathery. As humans have lost most body hair, Quintaglios have lost most scales and scutes, but these may be present in individuals. Quintaglio skin is almost entirely green, although it may be freckled, mottled, or splotched with brown or yellow in some individuals, and with black in old individuals. Oddly enough, Quintaglios cannot lie; their muzzles turn blue when they say something untrue, and for this reason the colour blue is reviled among Quintaglios as "The Liars Tint". Those who can lie without their muzzles turning blue are called called demons or "Aug-Ta-Rot", which literally means "Those who can lie in the light of day", and though there exist Quintaglios capable of doing so, this is not widely known, and Aug-Ta-Rot are believed to exist only in mythology.
Quintaglios are exclusively carnivorous, like their Tyrannosaur ancestors. They bring down larger prey by hunting in packs. While they are advanced enough to use weapons to kill prey, their culture forbids it; Quintaglios hunt the old fashioned way, running prey down and dispatching it via tooth and claw. Quintaglio hunts are led by special female Quintaglios who perpetually emit the pheromones characteristic of being in heat.
Quintaglios live a mostly nomadic lifestyle, travelling in packs and following herds of animals. They set up camp for a short while, then move on so that prey can repopulate extensively hunted areas. Quintaglio population density is kept fairly low for this reason, and also due to the culling of egglings by the bloodpriests.
Quintaglios are sparsely clad, and wear little clothing beyond simple sashes, hats, belts and jewellery. Priests, however, wear robes; junior priests wear robes of black and red, senior priests wear colourful, banded robes coloured like The Face of God (these are changed to white robes after Far-Seer), and Bloodpriests wear purple robes.
Quintaglios are a very religious people. Their original creation myth tells of a god who laid the "Eight Eggs of Creation". From the first egg came all the water, and from the second came the land. From the third came all the air, and from the fourth came the sun. From the fifth came the stars, planets and moons, and from the sixth came all the plants. Finally, from the seventh came all the herbivores (Ceratopsians, Ankylosaurs, Sauropods and Hadrosaurs, among others), and from the eighth and final egg came the carnivores which preyed upon them, (Tyrannosaurs, Ornithomimids and Dromaeosaurids, among others.) God created the five original female hunters by biting off her left arm, each of her fingers becoming a Quintaglio. They wished to create as God did, so she bit off her right arm and these became the first males, the mates of the original hunters.
Quintaglio tradition states that a Quintaglio must go on at least one proper hunt in their life in order to go through the rites of passage. After a successful hunt, the Quintaglio gets a hunting tattoo which symbolises their passage into adulthood. Adults with no hunting tattoo are accorded no status at all.
The Quintaglio mythos was further expanded when roughly 150 years prior to the story, the Quintaglio prophet "Larsk" discovered what he believed to be the face of God, and a religion was built around the worship of The Face of God. Larsk's descendants became the Royal Family, and rule all of land. Dy-Dybo, former Prince and current Emperor, is a part of the Royal Family and a direct descendant of Larsk. This religion adds a new tradition to Quintaglio society; that of sailing across the ocean to retrace Larsk's voyage and gaze upon The Face of God. The story of the first book in the series revolves around Afsan (the main character), discrediting this notion while on one of these voyages, and challenging Quintaglio tradition by proving that the Face of God was nothing more than a planet.
There also exists a cult known as the Lubalites. This cult is based around the worship of the original five hunters, particularly Lubal, and rejects the notion that The Face of God is actually God, adhering more closely to the original creation myths set forth in the sacred scrolls. Worship of the original five was banned by Larsk, but after Far-Seer the Larskian faith is discredited and the Lubalites are free to engage in worship of the original five without persecution.
A special order in the Quintaglio Priesthood are known as the "Halpataars", or "Bloodpriests". In order to prevent overpopulation, a Bloodpriest is assigned to devour seven out of every eight Quintaglio hatchlings a day after they hatch. The Bloodpriest first goes into a trance, then dons a purple robe and enters the nest; there, he chases the hatchlings and eats all but the fastest, strongest one. The order of the Bloodpriests is exclusively male; the original Bloodpriest was Mekt, one of the original five hunters, but she passed on the tradition to males because she felt it was inappropriate for one who lays eggs to dispatch hatchlings.
In Foreigner, it is decided to end the tradition of killing hatchlings and instead just not allowing seven out of the eight eggs to hatch. This decision came after it was proven that the Bloodpriests' tradition was actually psychologically scarring the survivor and causing increased territoriality. It was also decided that the survivor should be chosen randomly in order to increase the variability of the population.
While Quintaglios consider themselves to be civilised beings, deep down their thoughts and actions are ruled by their primal, territorial instincts. Quintaglios hate physical contact with one another, value their privacy and have a wide circumference of personal space. Spending too much time in the company of others, or extended time in close quarters with other Quintaglios can cause them to enter an animalistic frenzy known as Dagamant.
When a Quintaglio is in dagamant, he or she will bob their torsos up and down, and males will inflate their dewlap sacks. A Quintaglio under dagamant loses all conscious control over their actions, and will attack with unrelenting viciousness and bloodlust until it wears off or one or both are killed; for this reason, to kill another while in dagamant is not considered murder by Quintaglios.
Seeing a Quintaglio in dagamant can trigger it in others- in overpopulated areas, or on crowded ships, "Mass Dagamant" has been known to occur. The books frequently refer to a past event of a Mass Dagamant aboard the ship Galadoreter, in which the entire crew went into a territorial frenzy and everybody on board was killed.
Some Quintaglios are exempt from dagamant; Toroca, Afsan's son, has a subdued territorial instinct, and it is implied that Dybo is less succeptable to it as well, although not entirely. However, this is extremely rare, and nearly all other Quintaglios have the territorial instinct.
Even Afsan himself, among the most level-headed and rational of Quintaglios, had killed while under the madness of dagamant, not once, but twice; the first time was in Far-Seer, aboard the Dashater, where he and Dybo were challenged by a sailor named Nor-Gampar in full dagamant; Afsan killed Gampar and nearly attacked Dybo before coming to his senses. The second time was during the mass dagamant caused by the bloodpriest repute in Fossil Hunter, and he killed Rodlox's aide Pod-Oro.
Quintaglios have a level of technology comparable to our own Renaissance. They have sailing ships, and electricity hasn't been discovered yet, nor have fossil fuels or solar power. The telescope and the microscope are recent inventions and modern-style medicine is in its infancy. Aviation is also in its infancy, and haven't gotten more advanced then gliders yet. Thanks to Afsan and Toroca, Quintaglios are also aware of the solar system and evolution. Buildings are made out of stone or mud, and not much attention is given to them; due to frequent earthquakes, structures rarely stand for very long. Quintaglios have no firearms, and due to their laws and customs pertaining to using weapons to kill food it is highly unlikely that they ever will.
In the epilogue at the end of Foreigner, the Quintaglio's technological prowess has increased dramatically due to new technology recovered from the ancient alien spaceship. The Quintaglios have apparently achieved spaceflight, built computers and set up temporary colonies on nearby moons. They are on their way to colonising new worlds, and it is implied that they are on their way to Earth.
In Foreigner, a second species of sentient theropods is discovered on an archipelago on the other side of the world; they are simply known as "The Others". They are similar to the Quintaglios, but lack dewlaps, are yellow with grey highlights, and are smaller in stature.
The following is a list of the main and secondary characters featured in the books.
On his pilgrimage, Afsan discovers that the Face of God is just a planet, and also discovers that their world is a moon that orbits it; furthermore, the Quintaglio moon is too close to the planet, and that it causes stresses that will one day reduce it to a ring of rubble surrounding the planet. When he declares his findings, he is met with opposition from the Master of the Faith, Det Yenalb, and is blinded as punishment for his "heresy".
Afsan's ability to keep a level headed, strategic perspective has also made him an expert hunter. His kills were few, but memorable and dramatic- on his first hunt, he killed the biggest Sauropod ever seen, slew the water serpent Kal-Ta-Goot during his pilgrimage, and single handedly killed a Fangjaw on his trip back to capital city. It is this hunting prowess, as well as his proclamation of the end of the world, that caused the Lubalites (practitioners of the Cult of the Original Five Hunters) to believe that he is "The One" foretold in their ancient prophecy.
Afsan also mated with Wab-Novato, and produced a clutch of eight eggs with her. Their egglings were spared the culling of the bloodpriests because the Lubalites believed Afsan was The One, and so would not eat them. Afsan's son, Toroca, is a prominent character in Fossil Hunter and Foreigner.
In the second book, Afsan is made Dybo's court astrologer, and is given a "Seeing Eye" Goanna named "Gork" by his aide, former palace butcher Pal-Cadool. Though Afsan is now blind, this doesn't stop him from trying to track down a murderer when his children start to get killed off one-by-one. He also proposes a solution for Emperor Dy-Dybo when his Brother, Dy-Rodlox, challenges him for position of Emperor.
In the beginning of the third book, he suffers an accident which nearly kills him, but as a result he regenerates his eyes; however, he is still blind, despite having eyes that are physically fully functional. Afsan undergoes extensive psychoanalysis with Nav-Mokleb to try and solve this problem. Afsan is mortally wounded by a gunshot wound during a confrontation with "The Others". He lives long enough for his eyesight to come back, and he says goodbye to his friends and loved ones before his death.
In the epilogue of Foreigner, Afsan is long dead, but a computer emulating his exact thoughts and mannerisms has been built. It journeys with the last of the Quintaglios to return to their original home; Earth.
The Quintaglios live on a moon, that orbits around a gas giant called "Galatjaroob", which means "The Face of God". The moon is mostly covered by water, but has a single huge continent on the far side, a small archipelago of islands on the other, and a southern and northern ice cap. The continent the Quintaglios live on is called simply called "Land", and is split up into provinces. There are eight provinces, and they are called, (from west to east)
Capital City lies on the far eastern end of land, in the shadow of the Ch'Mar volcanoes. It is where most of the action takes place. Arj'Toolar is Afsan's home province.
In addition to Quintaglios, many other creatures inhabit the Quintaglio Moon. All originally came from earth. Some have remained pretty much unchanged since the cretaceous period, whereas others have evolved since then into completely new species. There are no mammals on the Quintaglio moon, and birds are extinct. Following is a list and a brief description of creatures known to inhabit the Quintaglio moon, first with the Quintaglio term and then the human one.
The Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy is intended to be an allegory to our own Age of enlightenment. Each book features a Quintaglio equivalent to a prominent human thinker. Sal-Afsan is a Quintaglio version of Galileo, his son Toroca is the Quintaglio equivalent to Charles Darwin, and Mokleb is a Quintaglio Sigmund Freud.
The Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy has an underlying theme of standing up for the truth in the face of overwhelming opposition, of dedication to a cause no matter what. It champions new, innovative ideas overcoming fundamentalist dogma, of rationality overcoming mysticism. These themes are explored in other books by Robert J. Sawyer.
The Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy has generally been very well received; the Toronto Star called Far-Seer "One of the year's outstanding SF books", Far-Seer, Fossil Hunter and Foreigner consistently receive four- to five-star ratings in user reviews on amazon.com, and both Far-Seer and Fossil Hunter received Homer awards for "Best Novel" during their initial release dates. The books have been praised for their creativity, endearing characters, and social relevance. Sawyer has remarked in his short story anthology Iterations that the Quintaglio Ascension has generated the most fan-mail for anything he has written.
However, the series has received some negative criticism. Some reviewers have said that the Quintaglios act too human, while others point out the implausibility of a technological civilisation developing from a nomadic hunting society. Sawyer defends his work by stating that the human-like behavior of the Quintaglios was necessary for readers to connect with the characters, and that agriculture isn't necessarily a pre-requisite for a developed civilisation, (a point that he goes into greater detail with in his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy.)