THE WEBS OF VAROK-- available online in several editions, including a classy hardcover. Find the first chapter, reviews and excerpts below.
Tandra—2051 CE Earth, approaching Varok
“Push off and sail up here, Tandra. You need to hear this.”
I didn’t like the elll’s uncharacteristic dry tone. My soul-brother, the aquatic member of our new family, Conn had not spoken English since we left Earth’s moon. Goose bumps surged up my arms.
“We have a personal message from Varok,” Orram said. “It’s coded ‘urgent,’ but I’ll bet a kaehl egg it’s not, considering the source.” The varok also spoke English, trying his best to sound reassuring.
As I glided to the flight deck, Conn reached back and wrapped my hand in the wide fins between his six fingers. “Where are the kids?” he said. “Are they sealed in?”
“They’re fine,” I said. “Is something wrong up here?”
Ahead, Jupiter appeared in the ship’s main viewing screen, its deceptive beauty roiling with stripes of gorgeous pastel colors.
“We don’t need this distraction now.” Conn scowled at the maser radio. “We’ve got the magnetosphere to avoid.”
The radio hacked and coughed up a silken feminine sound in Varokian, unlike anything I had heard other varoks produce. “Orram? Mahntik speaking. Welcome home.”
Conn’s knuckles went bright green, and overtones in Mahntik’s voice set off something worse than goose bumps across the back of my neck. The regard, the respect for life, so obvious when I met Conn and Orram, was missing. Now, the two exchanged the kind of look only a varok and an elll on close terms could manage.
“An urgent welcome, Mahntik?” Orram said, rolling his eyes—an expression he’d picked up from our adopted daughter, Shawne.
Mahntik’s voice oozed through the ship’s speakers. “I am inviting you to L’orkah, Orram, before Global Varok schedules all your time.”
Conn glanced back at me. His huge dark eyes flashed with bright green sparks I hadn’t seen since our last day on the moon, when human bureaucrats made an empty threat to take three-year-old Shawne away from our mixed family.
“Get off the transmitter, Mahntik darling,” Conn snarled. “We’ve got a ship to navigate.”
“Is that you, Conn?” Her words suggested claws, unsheathed.
“My family now includes this rude elll, Conn,” Orram interceded, “and the two beautiful humans, Tandra and Shawne Oran-elConn-Grey. I will share all personal transmissions with them.”
“Of course, most messages would normally include your family.” Mahntik sounded very different now, almost seductive. “But not this time, Orram. You and I have business of a personal nature.”
Orram smiled. “I doubt that, Mahntik.” He stretched his long legs under the control panel and let his lean torso sag against his restraints. His smile morphed into a laugh almost edged with pride.
I couldn’t believe it. He was flattered—or something I misunderstood from reading his mood. A wave of jealousy crashed over the caution Mahntik’s voice had triggered in me. Who is this person? Old friend? Home-wrecker? I didn’t know all the rules, but I was determined that no one or nothing would disrupt our family.
“I’m sorry I can’t accept your invitation Mahnate Tikahn,” Orram continued, “but thank you for your welcome. It will be good to be back, if Conn can remember how to nudge this ship into orbit.”
Conn pulled my hands to the swirling green lumps atop his head, ignoring the open radio. “I’ve always wished I could move my sonic melons around a full half-circle, like rhinoceros ears—you know, aim them better, for better navigation under water. Can you wiggle your ears, Tan?”
I smiled and almost laughed. “No, not at all.”
“They’re gorgeous tiny ears anyway, my delicate human.” He raised our hands palm-to-palm, and his temper came down a notch, taking my fear with it. Orram joined Conn’s high-five so our family rings clinked together. We made a teepee of our hands—Orram’s smooth, bronze and powerful from his youth working the web fields, mine brown and freckled from studying in Earth’s sunshine, and Conn’s green and webbed for swimming the seas of Ellason.
“Are you there, Orram?” Mahntik insisted. “My invitation is for you alone. Please come here to Leahnyahorkah before you go to the great-fish Leyoon. I have things to show you. I have made great progress with my recombination research at Global Varok’s Genetics Laboratory.”
“Now that’s a first, Mahntik,” Conn said. “I never thought I’d hear you say please.”
She laughed, a real varokian snortful laugh. “You’re still too annoying, Conn. I’ve missed you terribly, but don’t come with Orram when he visits me.”
The transmission ended, and Conn signaled the elll at the communications console to shut the radio off. Killah knew us well.
“Nice work, my dear elll,” he said to Conn. “You’re getting as good as Orram at reading Tandra.”
“Of course he is,” I said.
Our family bonds were working, weaving us ever tighter as a team. Orram was my soul-mate, joined with me in mind, fulfilling his deepest varokian need. And Conn—what can I say about an aquatic biped who can bat his billiard ball eyes like that? As always, he let the air out of my inflated worries without saying anything direct.
Link to The Webs of Varok on AskDavid.com.
It got a great review from Douglas Cobb, including an overview of the series. Read the full review on Book Spot Central. and more reviews on Amazon.com, ArchivesofVarok.com and AskDavid.
An exciting review by Frank Kaminski includes a detailed synopsis of both books, A Place Beyond Man and The Webs of Varok. Click here
Information on characters, setting and editions to buy can also be found on ArchivesofVarok.com. More reviews are on Amazon and author's profile there, Goodreads, bookclubreading.com and Facebook/archivesofvarok.com
Notes on The Webs of Varok, by Katherine Campbell
"Who knew sustainable economics could be so much fun? Served up with large helpings of adventure and novel romance, the post-growth society of Neeper’s complex but completely imagined world on a hidden moon of Jupiter is the setting for a page-turning struggle between the eternal themes of personal accumulation vs. the common good.
"The evil Mahntik schemes to grow and dominate Varok’s economy, mindlessly replicating the mistakes of earthlings, from energy-intensive globalized trade to water pollution from the overuse of nitrate fertilizer. Fighting back is the inter-species family of varoks, humans and ellls recently returned from a station on Earth’s moon where they were unable to help prevent the disintegration of the unsustainable human economy of 2050 CE. The human example reinforces the lessons that varokian society learned millenia ago after the collapse of the equally unsustainable economy of their own forebears. Orram, the varok head of the mixed family, accepts the position of Governor of Living Resources and struggles to repair and reinforce the steady-state economic system that has allowed varokian society to evolve and thrive in the wake of that long-ago disaster."
Kathy Campbell co-taught a sustainability course with Neeper in New Mexico in the early 2000s. She currently lives in central Massachusetts, where she is heartened to observe the emerging network of relocalization and sustainability efforts, from a system of cooperatives in Springfield to a transition town in Greenfield, and from Coop Power, solar building and alternative financing to the preservation of farmland, forests and wetlands in the broad Pioneer Valley.
By Douglas Cobb at BookSpotCentral.com
"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. . . ."
Douglas Cobb, author and book blogger, Book Spot Central
Read the complete comprehensive review
THE WEBS OF VAROK--Prologue
I found myself immersed in a living painting . Opalescent blues and tans danced a slow waltz with sheets of lightning behind portly trees, knee-deep in dark, blue-green scrub. Rock and adobe buildings with rounded contours shared nearby cliffs or nestled under huge trees, scattered on the hillsides or clustered near streams and lakes. All sang with a peaceful quiet. Only a few tall figures moved along the paths, spiraling their hands at the occasional rider on wheeled craft. Across broad, rust-hued fields leapt huge rabbits, like shaggy giraffes with smiling dog faces.
"They're daramonts, Orram, aren't they?"
My varok nodded and smiled, raising his chiseled brow without looking up from the navigation panel.
The vision faded, but the painting was mine now, a part of me.
"Want me to call up some more memories while Conn's still soaking his gills?"
"I'd love it," I said, easing forward to take Conn's usual seat next to Orram.
"Where shall we go?" he asked. "My past is yours for the reading."
"How about interactions with ahlork?"
"I'll see what I can remember. Too bad elll brains are so convoluted. Conn could give us some good memories, but they're not easy to access."
"He's told me about his first encounter with ahlork when he arrived on Varok."
"Oh yes, the ahlork who was applying to the Concentrate." Orram smiled. "Conn took the brunt of Nidok's rage when he was rejected."
"Conn didn't realize he should not offer a comforting word."
"A comforting insult might have fared better."
"Hold that thought," I said.
Orram raised his chin and pulled his full mouth into a thoughtful grin . "I was only one Jovian year old when I encountered my first ahlork. I had just started work on calculus at the Concentrate . . . sitting outside at a table, a bright peach colored sky . . ."
I felt the pen in Orram's young hand sketching a diagram—no, a graph. Suddenly a small whip encircled his wrist. I felt the grip of an ahlork's prehensile wingtip and heard the strange gargling sound of his rough Varokian words.
"Show me this. Show me this writing, varok."
With his free hand, young Orram pushed five long fingers through his head of silver-streaked bronze hair. What can I do? The ahlork could slash me if I don't tell him something. What can he understand?
"Tell me these lines," the ahlork demanded. "What are they meaning?"
"I am learning calculus."
"You learn about warts?"
Young Orram laughed, and for a moment nearly went irrational with comingled fear and bemusement. Quickly regaining control, he said, "No, no. It's your brain that has warts. This is mathematics."
The strangled sound of the ahlork's laugh flooded Orram's memory and filled my mind, overlain with the the crackling of chitinous wing plates as the beast took off from the table.
The sounds faded, leaving pleasant traces that merged with the love I knew was in real time, coming from the deepest blue of Orram's eyes.
"Thank you," I said, as his gaze shifted again to the instrument panel.
"We'll do more later, Tan. Tell Conn to put on a wet-sweater and come back to work flying home. He won't want to miss the swing around Jupiter."