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Literature / The Adventures of Tom Rynosseros

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But those that cross Tom Rynosseros...

The Adventures of Tom Rynosseros is a lengthy story cycle written by the Australian writer Terry Dowling. The first story "The Only Bird in Her Name" was published in 1985, the latest "The Library" was published in 2009.

The series takes place a thousand years in the future. A mysterious cataclysm has changed the balance of power in the world; in particular, Australia is now ruled by a congregation of its native Aboriginal tribes (referred to as Ab'O in the stories). Enter Tom Tyson, a National (white) freed from cryosleep with much of his memories removed. Tom gains ownership of Rynosseros, a charvolant or sandship propelled by solar-powered kites, and, due to the mysterious plans of a rogue A.I., is given a Colour, granting him living legend status in the Ab'O society, and free passage for Rynosseros to travel the continent.


Most of the stories are stand-alones of various adventures or characters encountered by Tom as he seeks for his past, or just highlighting the world itself. A Myth Arc involving Tom and the belltrees begins in "Colouring the Captains" and culminates in "Sewing Whole Cloth."

In 1999, the Hollywood Theater of the Ear did a radio dramatization of "The Only Bird in Her Name."

This series contains examples of:

  • "Arabian Nights" Days: The major influence on Blue Tyson's world.
  • Artificial Human: Beth Lessoa-Tojian/the Forgetty, in "The Only Bird in Her Name."
  • Awesome Aussie: The whole cast.
  • The Chooser of The One: Rynemonn, the Belltree A.I. that Coloured the Captains.
  • The Chosen One: Tom is the last of the Coloured Captains, and has special significance as the Blue Captain.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Sticking his nose where it's not wanted, at no particular benefit to him, simply because it's the right thing to do, is practically Tom's MO.
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  • Disc-One Final Boss: Bolo May, described as the Witchfinder General of the Ab'o nations and is established as an adversary to the Captains in in the first chronological story "Colouring the Captains", - and is dispatched by a Kill Sat in the same story.
  • Fantastic Racism: Belltrees and other A.I. are anathema to the most traditionalist Ab'O tribes. It's heavily implied that Tom and the other captains were Coloured so the belltrees would have someone to fight for them.
  • Godhood Seeker: Chiras Namarkon in "The Library" which he (almost) achieves through Brain Uploading.
  • Grand Finale: The novella "Rynemonn" (later divided into four separate stories - "Coyote Struck by Lighting," "Coming Down", "Sewing Whole Cloth" and the wraparound piece "Doing the Line") serves as this to the Blue Captain's story. A Tom Rynosseros novel called Malgre, taking place before "Rynemonn'' has yet to be fully completed/published.
  • I Have Many Names: Tom Tyson, Tom Rynosseros, Blue Tyson, Tom O'Bedlam..
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Everyone in future Australia, regardless of ethnic background, carries one.
  • Hive Mind: Dewi Dammo in "Marmordesse"
  • The Lancer: Ben Scarbo, Tom's kite-master.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The name (and its idiosyncratic spelling) comes from the seventeenth century poem "Tom o'Bedlam":
    But those that cross Tom Rynosseros
    Do what the panther dare not.
  • Magic from Technology: Ab'O Clevermen gain Dreamtime powers through advanced energy vectors called haldanes.
  • Narrator All Along: Most the stories are told by Tom himself. The story "Ship's Eye" reveals that Rynosseros itself has an AI core, and is narrating the tales Tom doesn't tell.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Tobys are gray, featureless animals incapable of doing so much as feeding themselves. However if seen through the right angle by someone with Psychic Powers they take take the form of dragons or a number of mythological creatures -including basilisks...
  • Overarching Villain: The Haldanian Order, an fundamentalist coalition of Ab'O tribes with genocidal intention towards all A.I.s.
  • Really Gets Around: If there's a woman in the story, National or Ab'O, Tom will have bedded her before the last page.
  • Sapient Ship: "Ship's Eye" reveals Rynosseros has an AI core.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality of Man and Jack Vance's The Demon Princes.
  • Theotech: Unique case in that the theology is drawn entirely from Indigenous Australian mythology and religion.
  • Tom the Dark Lord: The villainous characters, like Bolo May and Dewi Dammo, tend to have fairly innocuous names.
  • Tulpa: Strong psychics can conjure them as a form of dueling.
  • Weird Trade Union: "The Only Bird in Her Name" revolves around a club where membership is only open to people whose name includes the name of a bird. Changing your name to qualify isn't allowed, but one of the members is a geneticist who invented a new kind of bird and named it after himself solely so he could join.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Very much in the spirit of these kinds of stories.

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