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The Webs of Varok (The Archives of Varok)
In this gripping sequel to Cary Neeper’s debut novel, A Place Beyond Man (The Archives of Varok), the main protagonist, Tandra Grey, leaves behind the confines of an Earth that is in economic and ecological decay, and travels with her new alien family to the moon of Jupiter called Varok.
You may think that your family is strange, but Tandra’s is…unique, to say the least. In A Place Beyond Man, she met the elll named Conn at a masquerade party. She thought he was just one of the other guests, as he was wearing his spacesuit. As she talked with him, though, she found him to be more interesting than “The Most Interesting Man In the World (my words…)” probably because of his very different viewpoints on almost everything.
Also, later on in that science fiction novel, the first one in Cary Neeper’s planned five-book series “The Archives of Varok,” she meets the varok Orram. After Tandra gets to know the two aliens, and hear them talk about their world, eventually she thinks it would be the perfect place (and a stable one) in which to raise their adopted young daughter, Shawne.
The aliens Conn and Orram are very different from humans in several respects. For instance, they can–and do–use words to communicate, but they also can communicate telepathically. It can be a very intimate experience. Sometimes, certain aliens will put up mind blocks, if they don’t want their true thoughts to be known.
More than one species on Varok is intelligent. I was struck as I read about how well the author describes the various life forms and the geography of Varok. Conn has “swirling green lumps” on the top of his head called “sonic melons.” He is green-skinned, has eyes about the size of billiard balls, gills, and webbed hands, to better aid him when he swims the seas of Ellason. Orram, in contrast, has bronze-colored skin, and Tandra considers him to be her “soul mate.”
Varoks are the dominant species on Varok. Conn, though, is quite intelligent, as well. He is described as being an aquatic species, “a master of three-dimensional space, hence a talented space pilot.” familial units have a broad scope of definition on Varok. They are actually considered to be “economic units,” and Tandra, Conn, and Orram were “a legal entity defined by Varokian law.”
Things on Varok have changed a lot since Conn and Orram left it to travel to Earth in A Place Beyond Man. A female alien, Mahntik, has become the Director of Genetic Research. She has gained her place of power trough unethical and devious means, and spreading sickness and death through genetically modified germs that cause terrible diseases. Mahntik desires, among other things, to gain control of the “web stalk, berry, cloth and grain market on Varok.”
She confides to Gitahl, one of her underlings but one she’s elevated to a position of power in her plans, that if a bird-like species called the ahlorks that are used as employees get in her way, she’ll use the germs to kill them. As well, Mahntik plans to use the ahlorks to spread the diseases, to also help her corner the web bush market and make her “master of Varok within the year.” She would even use the diseases against the varoks and any humans who might come to the moon in the future.
Tandra is the first-person narrator of portions of The Webs of Varok, like her voyage to Varok with her other family members. Other parts, like when we read about Mahntik conspiring with Gitahl, are in the third-person. Cary Neeper deftly weaves the various points of view she writes about into a page-turning novel that will keep you interested and wanting to read more from the start to the finish. With her in-depth descriptions of the moon, she displays incredible world-building skills and makes Varok seem like it could be a real place with a myriad of life forms.
The Webs of Varok is a spellbinding read and a great addition to Neeper’s series, “The Archives of Varok.” As we read about characters like Mahntik, it becomes apparent that evil exists everywhere, and leaving the Earth behind doesn’t mean that she’s also left behind all of her troubles and will have a perfect life with her new blended family unit. The Webs of Varok can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, but A Place Beyond Man is a book I’d recommend you read first to get some background information about the characters. “The Archives of Varok” is a series that all science fiction fans will want to add to their personal libraries. I can’t wait to read the third book, whenever Cary completes it!