In the second half of the first chapter of “On Ordeal: Mamvish,” Mamvish learns to navigate her world. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
This is very different from the first “On Ordeal” story, both in the scope (which I wrote about in the last review) and the tone. The sense of grandeur that Duane wrote into the opening of this chapter still feels just as grand here. Right after Mamvish bursts from their egg, Duane pulls back from the immediacy of that moment to give the reader some vital information on Tauwff biochemistry and heredity. It’s necessary, especially since we need to know how the Tauwff assimilate information from one generation to the next. That process evolved from the tragic and bleak survival tactic that the Tauwff used to persist through the Doom: cannibalism.
Which is really cool all on its own. Their “adaptive physiologies” pushed them towards a biochemical process that allowed them to, more or less, absorb “information” and wisdom from the other Tauff who they consumed. Duane details this process, how it became complicated over time (like when some Tauwff became “irresistible” due to the traits they possessed), and it’s all very well thought-out.
It’s also distant. Unlike the opening myth and the story of Roshaun, it takes a while for Duane to drop back into Mamvish’s head, so this info-dump was a little more detached than I expected. I still don’t have a sense for the direction of this story. If I didn’t know who Mamvish was, I don’t know that I’d have felt grabbed by this, either. The science is interesting, but there’s so much of it, and there really isn’t much of that close third-person narration that I normally enjoy. Which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself! Like I said in my “Roshaun” reviews, I do enjoy it when authors can experiment with how they tell stories. But we’re a chapter into a story that is the shortest of these three, and I barely know much about Mamvish as a person. How can I? She has been a conscious being for like… a few days? That’s if you’re counting her time in her egg, so if I’m being generous, she’s still a newborn. Newborn Mamvish was not what I was expecting for her Ordeal, which makes me wonder: is her Ordeal going to happen while she’s fresh to the world???
I can’t actually tell! This first chapter could all be build-up for something that happens later in her life, you know? As it stands, Mamvish’s early concerns are all instinctual, which is fascinating given that some she was born with, while others are gained through consumption of her sacrifice-dam’s body. Look, I can’t deny how that’s both kinda revolting but 100% SOME COOL WORLDBUILDING. On top of that, Mamvish also gains the knowledge of her world by eating a FLYING PREDATOR. So, it’s like she unlocked the map of a video game by eating another character. (You’re welcome for that metaphor, btw.) Then there are the malfeh, which are like Wimsih ants? I mean, the closest analogue for their behavior and mannerisms seems to be ants. They move like them, they have scent trails that they follow, they use everything around them, and it’s in them that Mamvish sees a way the world should be.
That was such an interesting reaction, too, because for the most part, I’d argue that the Tauwff also found ways to work together for the survival of the whole. Sure, there were exceptions to the Tauwff way of life that Duane briefly mentions. Still, I get why she thinks this: the Tauwff were forced into this predicament due to the Lone One. There are other ways to live, ones that don’t require the cannibalization of others. So, what I think might be happening here is that Mamvish will become the “one” that she believes must have existed for the malfeh. One of those creatures had to have been the first of the group to suggest a different way. Why can’t she be that being for the Tauwff? What that actually entails is a mystery to me; I assume her Ordeal will be related to that? I mean… is she, like, gonna call a meeting of all Tauwff and just convince them to do things different? How do you change thousands upon thousands of years of evolution???
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