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Literature: Quintaglio Ascension

The Quintaglio Ascension Trilogy is a series of science fiction novels written by Canadian author Robert J Sawyer.

The eponymous Quintaglios are a species of human-like intelligence descended from small tyrannosaurs. Though they are similar to humans, the Quintaglios are true to their ancestry. They are obligate carnivores that hunt with tooth and claw, are fairly aggressive by nature, and have fierce territorial instincts that often turn out to be a major problem when several Quintaglios must work in a confined space (like, say, a ship).

The most interesting twist is this: Contrary to most alien species in Sci-Fi, the Quintaglios do not posses highly advanced technology, and are instead at a level comparable to our Renaissance. As the series progresses, this becomes the key source of drama in the plot.

In the first book in the series, Far-Seer, we meet Afsan, an apprentice astrologer. Every Quintaglio goes on a "pilgrimage" to see "the Face of God". Using his telescope (what the Quintaglios call a Far-Seer, hence the title of the book), he learns that the Face of God is actually a planet, and that their world, long believed to be a giant "boat" floating down river, is actually a moon. Of more dire importance, however, is that their moon is too close to the Face of God, and will eventually break apart into a ring. Afsan's claims attract significant attention from Det-Yenalb, the Quintaglio high priest. The Royal family, descended from the prophet Larsk who discovered The Face of God, rules by divine right, and Afsan's discoveries threaten this rule. Afsan's claim that the world is coming to an end also attracts the attention of an ancient cult known as the Lubalites, who believe Afsan to be their Messiah foretold in the Prophecy of Lubal. Afsan must fight to convince his fellow Quintaglios the dire truth, as the fate of their civilization hangs in the balance.

Far-Seer won a Homer award upon its initial release and met with wide critical praise. It was followed by two more books: Fossil Hunter, and Foreigner; Fossil Hunter won yet another Homer award and both were similarly well-received as Far-Seer.


This series provides examples of:
  • Axe Crazy: Quintaglios in dagamant
  • Berserk Button: When their personal space is invaded, Quintaglios enter a stage of animalistic rage known as dagamant.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Afsan regains his vision near the end of Foreigner, but dies shortly after.
  • Blind Seer: Afsan, after having his eyes gouged out by Det-Yenalb for his "blasphemy".
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": A telescope is called a "Far-Seer". Also, Tyrannosaurs, Ceratopsians, Ankylosaurs, Hadrosaurs and Sauropods are referred to as "Blackdeaths", "Hornface", "Armourbacks", "Shovelmouths" and "Thunderbeasts", respectively.
  • Can Not Tell A Lie: Their snouts turn blue whenever they tell lies. Quintaglios that can lie without turning blue are considered to be demonic.
  • The Chosen One: Afsan.
  • Colossus Climb: How Afsan brings down a giant sauropod on his first hunt; he shimmies up its neck and bites out its throat.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Face of God, the planet the Quintaglio's moon orbits, which they worship as a deity
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The entire series is an allegory for our own age of enlightenment. More specifically, the Quintaglio religion and their reaction to Afsan's discovery of heliocentrism is meant to parallel the Catholic Church's inquisition of Galileo. In the second and third books, Toroca is essentially Charles Darwin, and Mokleb is their version of Freud.
  • Executive Meddling: "Far-Seer" was originally meant to be a standalone novel; however, Rob Sawyer's publisher encouraged him to make it into a series.
  • Freudian Excuse: Sort of, given that the third book features a Quintaglio version of Freud. The entire Quintaglio species has been psychologically scarred due to being traumatised by the traditional culling of the Bloodpriests. Being bred for aggression on top of that has resulted in the exaggeration of the Quintaglios' territorial instincts.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Len-Lends was deemed too aggressive of a leader by the bloodpriests, so they used the royal family as a breeding experiment to try and usher in a new generation of more docile Quintaglios.
  • Hates Being Touched: a racial trait of Quintaglios, due to their intense territoriality; most strive to maintain a healthy distance between one another, they must warn anyone who must have hands laid on them (such as an injured person being moved), and casual touching as a sign of affection is virtually unheard of.
  • Ignored Expert
  • Knight Templar:Det-Yenalb.
  • Most Writers Are Human: Word of God states that the reason Quintaglios have so many inexplicable and often counter-intuitive similarities with humans is because he didn't think that readers could empathize with completely alien protagonists, and also that he had trouble getting the first book published because editors thought a series without any humans in it wouldn't sell.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Blackdeaths aka Tyrannosaurs.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed
  • Prophecy Twist
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Emperor Dybo is jovial, open-minded, even-tempered, and fair, in stark contrast to the rulers before him. These dissimilarities to his predecessors were, in fact, the reason he was chosen for leadership: the bloodpriests hoped he would help create a less homicidally violent generation of Quintaglios.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: The age of enlightenment, WITH DINOSAURS!
  • Rite of Passage: To be considered an adult, Quintaglios must partake in at least one proper hunt and be marked with a tattoo.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Quintaglios themselves, prior to Far-Seer. Later, The Others.
  • Shout-Out: To Moby Dick, via Captain Keenir's obsession with Kal Ta Goot.
  • Shown Their Work: Robert J. Sawyer is a dinosaur enthusiast, and strove for accuracy in the Quintaglio Ascension. Though the Quintaglios themselves stand in a tripod stance, have retractable claws, and can regenerate limbs, this could be attributed to the fact that they were genetically altered by the Jijaki anyway.
  • Stern Teacher: Tak-Saleed.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The reason for Afsan's continued blindness in the third book despite his eyes regenerating turns out to being due to being wracked by guilt over being chosen by the Bloodpreists over his siblings, his killing Nor-Gampar during dagamant, sadness over the murders of his own children and his guilt over setting up the battle between the Blackdeath and Dybo's siblings. He gets over it thanks to Mokleb's therapy.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Not only did the Quintaglios evolve from dwarf tyrannosaurs, a T. Rex proper shows up in Fossil Hunter as a "Blackdeath".

Professor Mmaa's LectureXenofictional LiteratureRaptor Red
The Queen's ThiefLiterature of the 1990sQuite Ugly One Morning

alternative title(s): Quintaglio Ascension
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