Verdict: CETAPIENS is a story that relies heavily on surrealism and abstract concepts to tell a larger narrative that spans multiple planes of reality to tell a story about life, evolution, and the persistence of love through it all, in a clear narrative lifeline.
CETAPIENS by S. Amaranthine is the second novel of a trilogy dealing with large-scale science fiction and fantasy concepts in a non-linear narrative that encompasses multiple planes of existence. Unlike THE VENCELLO, the first book in this series, this narrative follows multiple characters, some of whom are amalgams of other characters, as well as characters existing in multiple universes at the same time. One of those universes is called “Cetapiens,” because it is a universe combined with cetaceans and homo sapiens.
To draw a comparison, not to other prose but to television, THE VENCELLO is to CETAPIENS what the original run of Twin Peaks is to the recent revival of the series airing on Showtime. One is a straightforward narrative with fantastical elements hinting at a deeper mythos. The sequels, however, are more a collection of images and concepts from which a dedicated audience can glean details about both the narrative and the wider mythology. The two works share a similarity of theme, at least when it comes to doppelgangers, different dimensions, and the ability of people in one dimension to perceive the other.
CETAPIENS may be a challenge for readers, especially since Amaranthine creates an entire vocabulary to help tell the story. She includes a glossary of fictional terms, though the concepts are defined much more clearly in the context of the story. For example, in the glossary Amaranthine defines a “gemini” (or the twin) of a being alive in one universe existing in another. A confusing concept, no doubt, but one best described, not in the glossary, but rather in a scene that that revisits the climax of the first book.
The concept of time-travel–introduced in the first book, as well, but only in the abstract–also plays a big role here and we revisit a number of scenes, including the deaths of a human character and an Orca character multiple times. It’s actually a fun twist Amaranthine employs on the common time-travel trope of revisiting key moments in time, but seen from multiple angles. It’s reminiscent of the finale of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but the fairy-story about a wizard school’s version of time travel is far less complex than what we find in CETAPIENS.
Still, despite all of the confusing concepts throughout, Amaranthine does a wonderful job of keeping a clear narrative lifeline throughout the story. Whereas in THE VENCELLO our narrator was omniscient, Amaranthine ties the point-of-view to specific characters. This helps readers keep the storylines straight. While it’s tough to envision what a person who is also an entire universe might look and sound like, we are never lost about what they want or the purpose they serve in our characters’ journeys.
~Joshua M. Patton for IndieReader