The Origin Chronicles: Mineau, by Justin Reece Swatsworth – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Origin Chronicles: Mineau, by Justin Reece Swatsworth. Illustrated by the author.
Grampian, PA, Dolphyn Visions, December 2008, trade paperback $34.95 (391 [+ 1] pages), Kindle June 2016 $3.98.
“The universe is a living experiment in the realm of possibility. From the largest stars down to the smallest particles of matter, everything exists because at some point it became possible to exist. In this context, time simply marks the beginning and completion of these possibilities. Everything changes in the universe, yet amazingly it never stops experimenting. As one object reaches the end of its existence, a new one is born … the possibilities are endless.
The only constant in the universe is the experience of curiosity. Curiosity is not only the signature of possibility, it is the beginning of it.” (p. 6) Etc., at great length.
The Origin Chronicles: Mineau is the story of one dolphin’s experiences. To the reader, his background may be of greater interest.
“My family and I decided to swim over to the celebration on this particular occasion. After all we lived on the coastline directly opposite the city, and it was only a short swim to reach the docks. The levitation tram would be packed at this hour and honestly, something just felt more natural about the water. There was noting quite like a warm ocean on a brisk evening!” (p. 9)
“As we both glided through the water, I marveled at the sights taking place below us. Vast green tunnels and tubes could be seen stretching for miles, providing services like power, transportation of goods, and walkways for those who did not feel like traversing the waterways of the city and getting wet. These tubes were particularly busy tonight.” (p. 11)
Mineau is part of a world of anthropomorphized dolphins. He is an adolescent living in a coastal city designed by uplifted dolphins for uplifted dolphins. “Dolphins were shown being given legs and arms to be able to work on land, which allowed them to have increased mobility.” (p. 21) Who uplifted the dolphins? That would be a spoiler.
At an annual semi-religious celebration in the city of Atlantis (which helpfully shows key events of the dolphins’ past in a pageant), Minou is ceremonially chosen to give that year’s blessing. The experience, including a vision of Atlantis in ruins, calls him to the priestly Elders’ attention. This leads to Minou becoming an important part of the dolphins’ religious and political hierarchy.
Everything is described in great detail, which helps to bring the dolphins’ civilization to life:
“The elevator slowed, and then gently leveled off before coming to a final stop. The door opened, and the three Elders stood in front of a gleaming entranceway. Giant pillars stood guard on either side, flowing with some strange luminescent vapor. The pillars seemed to be made of the same material as the cubes each Elder carried as verification of their status. Makara had a slight grin on his face, unusual for such a solemn occasion, for he knew what the two elders were about to witness. The three scanned their Holoform Cubes once more, then walked through the door. The room opened up into a grand semi-circular hall, and had enough seats for all fifty current minor Elders. Up front, on a raised balcony, sat five seats for the High Elders, who were evidently present before anyone else; they sat with expressionless faces, and Makara could not tell if it had to do with the meeting or just their wait. Finally, in the middle of the room, sat the secret for which the Sanctum was created. Encased in a shielded pillar, the Orb sat for all to see, almost completely intact except for one corner where a large crack had formed. Tiny shards lay on the pillow all around the Orb, one of which Makara recognized from the Ceremony. He had recently held it himself.” (p. 32)
The reason for the Elders’ meeting is to discuss Mineau’s vision, and incidents that they know about which support it. Their conclusion is to keep a surreptitious watch upon Mineau. Makara, who turns out to be an important supporting character, has his own opinion. “He felt Mineau may be in more danger than anybody else in the hall realized.” (p. 36)
The Origin Chronicles: Mineau begins with a colorful combination of Mineau’s teenage life alternating with the dolphin Elders’ quiet watch of him, with further details at length of the Elders’ religio-political structure, and of the growing menace to the dolphin civilization. The detail sometimes seems excruciatingly slow, but it leads to scenes of action and violence, including military conflict:
“The battle appeared over, much to the amazement of the Ti’eminar Guard. As the smoke cleared, they surveyed what had just occurred. Outnumbered, outmanned, and outgunned, they had succeeded in averting disaster for the city. The battle was not without losses, however. As the guards began to gather and regroup, most ended up carrying fallen comrades. The mood was solemn; easily half of the guard had been lost. Many dolphins had lost close relatives in the battle; some even carried their family members themselves. Guardsmen expressed every emotion possible, and each took turns expressing the opposite emotions of joy and despair.” (p. 193)
Minou moves from an unaware adolescent to an informed and major shaper of events. Swatsworth provides 22 full-page illustrations, mostly in full color, including the cover. The dolphins’ world (which is shared by intelligent whales) is an exotic one, with sometimes-drastic changes. As the introduction indicates, the universe is a living experiment. Expect the unexpected.
Check out Swatsworth’s website. In addition to his artwork, it includes photographs (taken at Anthrocon?) of several high-quality fursuits that he has made, including one of Mineau.