Select one of the keywords
Foreigner: Book Three of the Quintaglio Ascension    by Robert J. Sawyer order for
by Robert J. Sawyer
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Foreigner is third in Robert Sawyer's Quintaglio Ascension trilogy. He postulates a civilization of intelligent dinosaurs, transplanted from Earth by an advanced race of 'five-eyed beings' who have left behind a 'space ark' (a crashed spaceship). Having missed the first two books, it took me a while to catch up with the story, but when I did I found it engrossing. In Far-Seer and Fossil Hunter, a saurian scientific genius (and focus of prophesy), Afsan, discovered that his world was doomed. Though the resulting conflict with religious leaders left him blinded, his ideas were eventually accepted, so that Emperor Dy-Dobo now leads the Quintaglio in a race against time to leapfrog technology advances enough to get off the planet. This series conclusion develops three plot skeins and ties them together, in a manner that realizes this ambitious (if not miraculous) goal.

Afsan has been suffering disturbing dreams. After a chariot accident stimulates regeneration of his eyes (but he still cannot see), Dy-Dobo presses him to consult Nav-Mokleb, who practices a new 'talking cure' (I enjoyed the head brain/tail brain theory of psychoanalysis). Over many sessions, Mokleb helps Afsan understand that the root of his nightmares and continuing blindness is a trauma that affects every Quintaglio and inhibits their evolutionary progress. In the meantime, Afsan's son (how he, unlike his peers, knows his son, is a story in itself) Toroca leads a Geological Survey on the sailing ship Dasheter. They discover a volcanic chain of islands, inhabited by saurians more technologically advanced than they are. These people are different in appearance, and (like Toroca) lack the Quintaglio's violent territoriality. Unfortunately, they also somehow stimulate the berserker dagamant effect in most Quintaglio. This results in the Dasheter rushing home, with a fleet of justifiably angry Others in hard pursuit. The third component of this interleaved plot involves the mother of Afsan's children, scientist Novato. In charge of the planned planetary exodus, she is studying the alien ship. She finds an ancient orange dust, that creates a smart space tower, traversed via an ascending and descending lifeboat. Through this mechanism, Novato discovers more about the challenge that faces her people.

Robert Sawyer pulls all of his intriguing sub-plots together into an inspiring whole - as Toroca tells his father, 'only a fool fights in a building that's on fire'. Both Quintaglio and Others work together to get off the planet and the great Afsan's epic story has the satisfying resolution it deserves. This is an excellent series in the classic SF tradition of exploring a unique premise. Don't miss it.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more SF books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews