Reviews for A Season of Sorrows Unending -- the Cerberus Files : Citadel Races
OfficialWeedTesterGuy chapter 32 . 1/5
This is actually insane. Bit of racism, too, but what can you expect? It's Cerberus. Very well written. Did the guy who wrote Chapter 32 is drunk?
AnthonyR89 chapter 31 . 11/24/2017
so, xurious as to Garrus's rank in the Meritocracy
AnthonyR89 chapter 20 . 11/19/2017
...you kind of screwed up the ranking nobles entirely. in the real world, a Seroth would be a Baron, the next up (in broad terms, anyway) would be a Count/Earl, a Margrave/Marquis, a Duke, a Prince, a King, and Emperor.

is this another one of your quirks like a major outranking a naval captain?
AnthonyR89 chapter 19 . 11/18/2017
...that Salarian General you mentioned wouldn't happen to be named Thrawn, would he?
mantimeforgot chapter 15 . 7/15/2017
The second rule seems to suggest the Salarians would want to start heavily investing in high energy and organic technology research since the Reapers are proven masters of gravitic and spatial manipulation and the Relay/Citadel system is "a trap." The Inusanon and Tho'ian managed to be something of a credible opposition because their technology was outside the enforced paradigm.
Bea Winters chapter 5 . 2/3/2017
Heya, lurker here. Finally getting around to reviewing the Asari Psychology section! (Still congealing my thoughts on the History section.)

I'll preface this by reiterating how much I love what you've done with the Asari in your fics - the Thirty are terrifying, and the species' dominance of the galaxy is much more believable than in canon, in my opinion. Ultimately the thing that decides whether worldbuilding works or not is whether it's effectively and plausibly used in fiction, and in that regard, you've succeeded.

That said, my main critique has two parts.

One: This document describes Asari as "baffling" and "alien," but personally I found it pretty easy to understand what's laid out about them here. This could mean you've just explained it very clearly, but it could also mean you haven't pushed them to be as "alien" as they could be.

Two: (Somewhat related) The fundamental concepts of Asari species identity, or the ones that most clearly separate them from humans, seem to be "biologically mandated social behavior" and "shared/communal memories." I think these traits could have been played up a lot more; they don't always feel like they've been followed to their logical conclusions.

-

I'll start with the ideas I really like.

1.) The implication that the Thirty's lofty status arose as a result of having the most expansive "memory network" of well-connected linking partners, and therefore the largest pool of knowledge and experience. This is a great example of an alien social structure that derives organically from its species concept.

2.) The interesting parallels between the description of Matriarchs, as "a semi-gestalt of what she has absorbed, changing her from a person to a virtual group of persons operating with one viewpoint," and common understanding of the Geth - hundreds of thousands of individual "runtime thingie program dudes" (my technical terminology) acting as a unit. Probably not a useful parallel, but I enjoy recurring motifs.

3.) The evolutionary purpose of Matriarchs, as the living archives of their Clan's history and gathered experience - no longer an individual, but the flesh-and-blood avatar of the Clan itself - is SO COOL. It very effectively supports the reverence younger Asari supposedly have for their elders in canon.

-

#3 is actually a good example of what I mean by an idea not being fully utilized. Neither Benezia nor Aethyta seem to fit this; they're both obviously well-respected, but they come off as "highly experienced and wise" as opposed to "I've seen the world through twenty thousand eyes and am no longer entirely human" so to speak. I can't really comment on other Matriarch characters, since they don't get much screentime, but none of them struck me as quite this awe-inspiring either. Rich and powerful, but not transcended.

Before moving onto things that could be improved, I did catch one consistency error. Minsta makes it clear that not a single Asari over 500 years old is childless; but Benezia didn't have Liara until she was much older, and unless she has at least one more daughter running around, that means a highly visible childless Asari leader somehow slipped Cerberus's notice.

-

Now for things that could be pushed:

1.) Maslow's pyramid as applied to Asari, with "acceptance and clan identity" as a basic need. AWESOME idea - but has some implications that don't pan out as written. My understanding is that basic needs are the ones you can't survive without; so an Asari would starve to death after X-number of weeks without food, die of thirst after X-time without water, and commit suicide after X-time in solitary confinement. This is a great way to clearly separate them from humans, because humans CAN survive in isolation, while Asari fundamentally cannot.

This setup might actually fit quite nicely with your current model for the outcasts, since you describe them as predictably throwing themselves into suicidal stunts in order to gain acceptance into another "clan." That implies extreme emotional pain, and the phenomenon is widespread enough to suggest evolutionary hard-wiring.

2.) Direct experience of others' memories as a vital part of the life cycle, essentially making empathy a biological mandate. Another fantastic concept that logically leads to an emphasis on conflict resolution and "humanizing" one's enemy. When you can directly experience your own hostility from the perspective of its recipient (not just by bonding with that person, but by bonding with ANYONE who has bonded with that person at any point in time, whether you're aware of their connection to your victim or not), you quickly learn not to be hostile. This has a ton of cool ripple effects I want to point out.

First: How it could impact their view of Ardat-Yakshi. If a percentage of AY victims ever survive to bond with another Asari, they then pass the experience of their trauma into the communal memory. This supports the violent knee-jerk reaction Asari have when faced with AY; they probably "remember" what it's like to be mind-raped by one.

Do AYs experience their victims' trauma via their link during the botched bonding process? It could be that some do and some don't; the ones who DO might develop severe AY-specific personality disorders based on self-loathing, and the projection of that loathing onto others, while the ones who DON'T are the Asari equivalent of sociopaths, incapable of empathy in a way that is uniquely horrifying from an Asari perspective.

Second: For a species so allergic to interpersonal conflict on a biological level, the average infighting alien race must come off as an entire species of sociopaths. This could EASILY explain why Asari avoid aliens like Batarians at all costs - they're horrified by Batarians' penchant for exploitation and slavery of their own kind, and an Asari might see this as a twisted form of self-harm. They would be psychologically incapable of understanding how the oppressor can withstand the anguish of the oppressed. Asari might see Batarians as a race of Ardat-Yakshi-like creatures to be avoided at best, and destroyed if confronted.

Perhaps the Asari superiority complex is based on a supposed "moral supremacy" that stems from this view.

And now I'm going to SPLIT THIS REVIEW IN HALF SO IT DOESN'T CUT OFF AGAIN. Back in a bit for Part 2, in which I ask a bunch of questions that occurred to me while reading this.
Skadarken chapter 34 . 10/15/2016
This is the MOST DETAILED piece of work I have EVER READ in THIS CANON.
Have you ever written any novels? I would be very interested in reading them as well. This is some damn fine work!
Skadarken chapter 5 . 10/11/2016
Typo:
"all to devoted" - "all too devoted"

"no series mental stress" - "no serious mental stress"

"appearance no defense" - "no apparent defense"
Skadarken chapter 2 . 10/8/2016
Typo:
"Fairaxen" - "Farixen"
Bea Winters chapter 6 . 9/18/2016
Eyyyyy the lurker strikes again!

I'm still digesting the history section, so you probably won't see a review of that for a while yet (worldbuilding history can be so squishy and taste-based, I find it difficult to sort "things that aren't working" from "things I personally would have taken in a different direction"). With evolution and physiological adaptations, on the other hand, I'm a bit more confident in my ability to critique speculative stuff without being an idiot, so here we go.

In this installment of the Asari documentation, you've done several things that are pretty awesome:

1.) Explained the phenotypic homogeneity of the hot blue space chicks. Taking the whole "same 3DS Max model with replaceable heads" thing and turning it into a clue to the asari's gene-tampered origins is a smart move. (This has been a pattern; you have a talent for molding some of the games' worst failings into some of the coolest story content.) Good thinking!

2.) Head crest as heat-exchange system to maintain a constant intracranial temperature. Pretty ingenious use of an otherwise silly character design choice, and one I wouldn't have thought of.

- My one suggestion: You mention that the crests flatten down when pressure is applied. Since the asari are semi-aquatic, and water saps heat like no tomorrow, you might also push this to add a fully fledged heat-sealing function; maybe when an asari's core temperature gets too low, the crests compress into a series of overlapping flaps of tissue that trap small air pockets, insulating the skull instead of venting it. Maybe blood flow to the crests is sharply reduced when this is in effect. Or maybe redirecting blood flow from the crests to slow heat loss and keep the brain warm (triggered by low core temperature) is what CAUSES the sealing response in the first place.

This would make that feature even more versatile in its ability to do the job. A heat exchange feature that doubles as a convertible woolly hat would come in handy when you're diving deep enough that things get chilly.

3.) Signs of "conscious engineering for maximum efficiency" in the brain's structure. Three parts to this-

A: The presence of way more sulci/gyri, resulting in exponentially more surface area (and therefore more neurons). This makes a lot of sense for a species that will need to make trillions more neural connections over the course of their lifetime than any other organism (thanks to the "data download" function of bonding), and on top of that, will live LONGER than any other organism. The addition of "unknown structures" is also a great way to shore up the believability of their innate grasp of biotics.

B: You realized that putting the cortex on steroids with way too many sulci and gyri will leave the cerebellum shortchanged, and you actually USE that fact - which would normally be a serious oversight on the writer's part - to further underscore the notion that this species was tampered with, by scientists who had a very specific purpose in mind. Nice covering of tracks there.

C: You had the presence of mind to add a true sacral brain in order to pick up the shrunken cerebellum's motor control slack. A lot of people don't realize that the cerebellum, though ancient, still serves a critical function and can't just be excised in the name of a larger cortex without serious consequences; I'm stoked that this isn't the case here. (Also, dude, sacral brains. Dinosaurs may not have had them after all, but... come on. Butt brains.)

3.) The combination of a cranial electrogenesis organ and dedicated eezo storage glands to produce a species innately capable of biotics. Heck yeah, great way to make that happen. And you explained it without a boatload of jargon, too, which is impressive.

4.) STOOPID HUMAN-BODY-WITH-TENTACLE-HAIR BODY PLAN is actually used as evidence that both the asari *and* humans were hijacked and forced along a deliberately similar evolutionary path. This pissed me off so much in the game. So much. I mean the fact that almost all aliens are four-limbed with recognizable heads and eyes (and mostly bipedal as well) is pushing it far enough without... literally being color-swapped copies of human women. With the only exceptions being color-swapped copies of generic jellyfish.

Once again, you take Bioware's brain fart and make it cool.

5.) Retooling the ardat-yakshi from a "symbiotic genetic disorder" (?) into an error, introduced by gene tampering, that manifested too late to be corrected by the alien geneticists who mucked up the asari genome and caused it. Much more believable than the game's version of things, and also further highlights exactly how much the Protheans screwed over the early asari. (God, I hate how ME3 just... glossed over that little detail. You'd think the utter destruction and butchery and fundamental twisting of an entire species - sapient or not, depending on how late this happened in their evolutionary line - would be a bit more noteworthy. Mass abductions, vivisections, forced breeding, jeez. It should probably be considered xenocide to be honest, especially if it led to the extinction of the unmodified asari.)

(... you know what, I might do a fic about that myself. Anyway I'm rambling)

So in brief: You're smart and you've generated some cool material here.

That said, I know you like reader gushing to come with some constructive criticism, and this feels like it was written fairly early in OSABC's life so I'm confident that I actually have something to contribute for once. Here's some things I think could be improved.

1.) Three-chambered heart.
While I think the frog direction overall is pretty cool and something I haven't seen done, three-chambered hearts tend to work best for organisms who are small, ectothermic, or both. It's definitely not efficient enough for an endothermic species whose brains generate so much heat they're forced to develop a dedicated venting system. Deoxygenated blood would mix back into the oxygenated blood and be pumped back out into the body, carrying a fair mix of waste products with it; that's why mammals evolved a fourth chamber to make sure the two types remain fully isolated. Mammalian muscles need as much oxygen as they can get. Since asari biotics probably mean a higher-than-average caloric need compared to other organisms of similar size and lifestyle, a frog heart probably couldn't meet the oxygen demand.

2.) The double-spine setup is an interesting idea, and I'm curious to know what inspired it, but it does raise some practicality questions - how does bending side-to-side work? Wouldn't one of the spines be forced to warp oddly, either displacing vital organs or causing the torso to twist instead of bend? Or if one side doesn't warp, does the other somehow stretch to compensate? I didn't pick up on what specific purpose the split-spine serves, and without knowing that, it seems complicated and a bit cumbersome.

3.) The reproductive process still doesn't seem quite believable. (This isn't your fault; Bioware stupidity backed you into a corner and you've clearly done your best to work around it.) There's a few facets to this:

A: The "consciously editing DNA templates using bioelectricity" part seems sketchy to me. It sounds like a very small, subtle thing to control, and I certainly wouldn't trust a human to do that manually; they'd probably give instructions to a supercomputer with tools and let that handle it.

It also sounds like the asari in question would have to know the format of the protein template in the first place, or else her edits might be entirely scrapped 'cause Nature's like "dude, what are you doing. That doesn't work." And if that happens, how would she know? There doesn't seem to be a feedback system that would let an uneducated individual figure out how it's supposed to work.

And if it's an optional thing - the asari can just let her own body do what it wills, and not try to make a Custom Superkid - then it's probably the sort of feature that would be weeded out by evolution. Nature hates unnecessary extras. Even organs we no longer need are there because they once served a critical purpose, not just something that came in handy once in a while.

B: If there's no direct DNA exchange involved in asari reproduction, I'm not sure I buy the notion that the asari would assume traits from the "father" are passed to the daughter. There have been cultures in human history where the father wasn't thought to play ANY role in a woman's pregnancy, and human reproduction definitely involves direct DNA exchange. This sounds like the sort of mistake a human or other two-sexed species would make. And especially if there's no empirical evidence to suggest it's true - according to the narrator, anyway - then it seems implausible that the asari would reach this conclusion based on studies or something.

I can see the Thirty actively working to encourage the misconception among the uneducated, since they have good reason to foster asari-alien interbreeding, but I don't see it originating from the asari as a species.

That said, I can see why you included the DNA customization feature; there needs to be some sort of functional difference between asari/asari sex and asari/alien sex, otherwise both the premise that ardat-yakshi are born from homospecial unions AND the foundation of your Homogenous Phenotype Explanation fall apart. There has to be something the asari can do to their mates that non-asari, even biotics, can't - something which, when done to the mother, has a chance of directly causing the ardat-yakshi disorder, and which also results in an oddly small phenotypic range in fetuses who make it to term. This may or may not be related to how each generation is a sort of eugenic "improvement" on the last. (That sounds a little like the Krogan genophage, actually, except that instead of selecting for "the ability to survive the genophage," it's selecting for a certain suite of desir
darkerdeepdown chapter 34 . 10/24/2015
Lol I love when they say Jesus wept. As a Christian I find it most apt XD
Nefer Ka Re chapter 7 . 10/15/2015
"House Devir". "DeVir" Bwahahahahaha! :)
Divv chapter 7 . 8/6/2015
Hi. Can you tell me what a gesture of Siari might look like?
Michael1110 chapter 38 . 4/27/2015
And done for now : )

1. "The worst storms are those that come upon you far from any shore, after all."
; )
2. "but he is at least proficient in detaching his opinions and beliefs from the data he submits."
Again, I can respect him for that : )
3. "Almost twenty percent of the female's core body mass is given over to a heavily integrated womb that can regularly support triplets and quadruplets."
Made to breed.
"this explains why even though batarian females are constantly having sex pregnancy rates are even lower than that of humans or quarians."
Population numbers would be unsustainable otherwise.
4. "The dire situation of the batarian female is saddening to me, but it is the course of biology and little can be done to change their plight."
: (
5. "I worry about him, at times – he seems rather unstable, and anyone who utilizes that much sarcasm is clearly only a few bad tides away from some sort of incident involving far too many knives to think about."
Right... Right!?
6. "and the clever thinking of your Major Kyle on Mindoir of using pepper on the batarians was fiendishly effective."
Interesting : D
7. "an anomaly, to be sure."
; D
Michael1110 chapter 37 . 4/27/2015
More

1. "Only the fool expects the alien's outstretched arm to hold anything but a knife. "
Same goes the other way ; )
2. The low mental abillities of Batarian females : (
3. "We should set this entire species afire"
Alien too different from our norm. Bring out the flamethrower.
4. "the entire race sees physical prowess and fitness in almost as high a light as humans would view physical beauty."
hmm : )
5. "He does so because it is the ultimate method of showing he is worthy to force that level of submission, freely given or not."
: /
6. "It is a sickening fact that batarian females crave abuse as a form of attention.
Wouldn't work that much otherwise I would guess.
7. "They do not even actually have a word for self-esteem, is is something each and every batarian takes for granted – that they are important, that they are destined for something."
: D
8. "Such things enrage humans and turians, disgust asari, and make the salarians laugh as they take advantage of the openings, but batarians are too blind to see this."
: D
9. "any improvement would be slight at best, hardly worth looking for."
Waiting for an a-typical example in the main story ; P
10. "Either batarian low castes are so mentally warped that they actually think the tiny bits of freedom they are given makes them the equal of a high-caste, or their minds are so twisted they edit out the fact that no matter how high they rise they are little more than trash in the minds of higher caste types."
: S
11. "You can go ahead and dismiss the concept of batarian 'love'"
Thought so : S
12. "batarian females have no ability or understanding of how to consent, and the concept never entered the batarian mind."
: (
13. "drove home the fact that batarians as a species are hopelessly and irrevocably sick"
and possibly on purpose : /
14. "They also have a lack of care about issues such as the size of their sexual organs, unlike humans, turians and krogan."
: D : D
15. "Fittingly, these monsters have no tear ducts, and cannot cry."
Interesting. (there are other ways to show sadness, Minsta ; ) )
16. "The vileness of these people – nay, these animals – cannot be overstated."
I get it Minsta ; D
17. "whatever I feel like doing right now as long as no one stops me" So similar to Salarians XD
18. "Dark Gods"
hmm...
19. "Theft and murder are not crimes – if one is too weak or stupid to protect their property or lives, then the batarians are better off with that one dead."
: (
20. "Psychologically, batarians do not feel guilt. For anything. Ever."
There more I read, the more they seem like a over time manipulated and breed nightmare army.
Then again you could say similar things about the Turians, exluding the "nightmare"(mostly).
21. "drinking human urine is more tolerable than drinking battery acid"
XD
22. "about their only positive trait in my mind"
Nope
23. "The fact that the squints never had enough brains to develop atomic weapons until Aria sold them the idea goes unmentioned. Brutes."
: D
24. "There are times I could almost respect the grays."
: P
25. "some kind of virus that makes the squints all grow titties and turn into bitches"
: D : D
26. "Even those witches don't deserve that kind of vile death."
How kind of Minsta : D
27. "The idea that we are the closest culturally and psychologically to these things is enough to drive me to drink or to despair"
haha : D
28. "Pel has jokingly suggested all batarians are suffering from 'crazy'"
Or the oppsite ; P
29. "either the darkening of their culture is a natural evolution as they get more and more debased, or something has corroded and corrupted them and the very methods they view the universe with."
Hmm ; D Something Something long term Plan...?
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