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
Review by Denzil Pugh http://denzilpugh.blogspot.com/2013/03/book-reviews-2-x-sci-fi.html
Having read Cary Neeper's second book, The Webs of Vorak prior to the first, it allowed me to first see the more mature creation before the beginning. Tolkien, in his essay "On Fairy Stories" talks about the creation of mankind, the constant need for making something, in emulation of God. Imagine taking a ball of play-doh, and, realizing that you could make anything you wanted, you set out to create a world. This, as Tolkien calls it, is Faerie. In The Neverending Story, it is Fantasia, and in the PS3 game LittleBigPlanet, it is the Orb of Dreams. But whatever the name, it is the molding by which we create our dreams, our novels, our gods (if you look at many of the myths from Greece, Rome, and elsewhere). So Cary Neeper took the mold of her world and created Ellason and Vorak, and on them, she placed the diametrically opposite Vorakians and Ellls. In 1975, she wrote A Place Beyond Man, which is the account of the first contact between the two alien species and human beings. You can tell that, in the beginning, the mold is forming, becoming the deep and solid world that Neeper wants us to explore. Get there, she does, and it becomes a magnificent lesson in the humility man will have to have of himself to save the world he lives in and to venture forth into the universe, as so many sci-fi writers will want to have us do.
. Conn, the Elll, is the personification of Dionysus, pleasure, enjoyment incarnate. Orram, the Varok, is the antithesis, the voice of Reason, Apollo, standing firm with stolid emotions, using reason and logic to perceive the world. (I reject the idea of other reviewers that Orram is simply a Vulcan rehash, even though there are similarities.) Thus, to follow Hagel's philosophy, Tandra, the human, is the Synthesis, the balance of emotion and reason. But this is only one way to look at it. Another perception to each of the characters lies in the "widening gyre" of William Butler Yates. Control of Orram's emotional states is only possible when the spiral is tight, compacted, governed by cultural and physical boundaries that are strictly enforced. The same, remarkably, is the case for the Dionysian character Conn, who must stay grounded within the "school" of his amphibious culture. Even Tandra, who must handle the first contact situation with a balance of emotion and reason, must keep herself in control of her faculties. In all cases, the sprial unravels, and they must each help one another to return to the sanity which is inherent in their own species. In the strengths of their own characters, they can survive.
In the end, it is Tandra, and us as well, who must see that the first contact situation calls into question everything that we assume about ourselves as human beings, about our position in the universe, about the superior stance we take in the world, and in our own minds. Tandra becomes much as Jodie Foster's character was in the movie based on Carl Sagan's Contact. There are few humans, as was seen in the movie, and as was rightly guessed by the Ell-Varokian team, that would have successfully reacted and adapted to finding other sentient species in the world, especially ones without the bi-pedal look of current Earth sentient beings (supposedly).
The original 1975 book, published by Dell (now Random House), is out of print, but was reprinted in 2011 by iUniverse. Neeper is working on a revised edition of this book, which is scheduled for release in a couple of years. I do recommend reading this book (before or after The Webs of Varok) instead of waiting, as it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, thought provoking, and great addition to the Science-Fiction cannon. I only hope that more of the classic sci-fi books can be rescued from the shelves of obscurity and reissued to a public that needs to be reminded of just how amazing mankind is, what his potential is, and how fragile our world is, how dangerous it will be if the "centre cannot hold."
You can tell that, in the beginning, the mold is forming, becoming the deep and solid world that Neeper wants us to explore. Get there, she does, and it becomes a magnificent lesson in the humility man will have to have of himself to save the world he lives in and to venture forth into the universe...
I do recommend reading this book (before or after The Webs of Varok) instead of waiting, as it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, thought provoking, and great addition to the Science-Fiction cannon.
--Denzil Pugh, 3/13 on blogspot.com
Imagine the selfless and cooperative qualities individuals need to participate in a sustainable society. Thus far, earth-bound experiments in utopian communities have ultimately faltered.
Here, Cary Neeper challenges the reader to contemplate the nature and eons of evolution that would enable a culture to base their lives allocating resources among all of their beings sustainably.
Set in another planetary sphere with engaging friendships, relations, and commitments, the occupants in The Webs of Varok face an imaginative but challenging environment.
Even for a newbie to science fiction, it was easy to accept the quantum leap to time travel and life in a highly different chemical and physical landscape. The characters, too, are appealing. With the author, one examines the fragility of personal strengths and potential weaknesses that may thwart this utopian web of relationships.
Donna Smith PC'58
A Place Beyond Man by Cary Neeper
Foster Buckman's review
Apr 04, 12
i Actually won this book through good reads, as the reason why i have read this book. It wouldn't be my type of book to pick up on a book shelf but it was utterly interesting.
Ill jump strait in.
There are two alien species in the novel that make contact with humans. The amphibious ells and the humanoid varoks have been studying the Earth for a very long time, and each has debated when and where contact with a human should occur, and under what cirucmstances, if any. We’re introduced right from the beginning to the very personable main ell of the novel, Conn (from the dark watery planet Ellason), though we also read a mention of the Varoks, who live closer to the Earth.
The Earth has limited resources, and how the dwindling supplies are used will determine mankind’s fate! It’s more than a little ironic that we are all using the wonders of technology and have become dependent on them. It’s one thing to know that sustainability and steady state economics are necessary for humanity to survive, but it’s another to put those ideas into daily practice.
The friendship and romance that develops between Tandra and Conn are fascinating to read about, like omg, very fascinating, as are the many difficulties their relationship encounters! I really enjoyed reading this book! Cary Neeper is a very talented author. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves great science fiction. :)
over all i give this book a 3.5. enjoy reading :)
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
Link to The Webs of Varok
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
An exciting review by Frank Kaminski includes a detailed synopsis of both books, A Place Beyond Man
and The Webs of Varok
. Click here
Frank Kaminski .
...it is an involving, well-plotted story that does justice to both the hard science underpinning its interplanetary settings and the long evolutionary perspectives typical of the old scientific romances
The version of A Place Beyond Man reviewed here is an Author's Guild Backinprint.com Edition that came out in June 2011, the original having long since gone out of print. And what a worthy revival it is, in both its continued timeliness and its intelligent, believable rendering of alien values and cultures.
Its sequel, The Webs of Varok, was a long time in coming, but it's finally here waiting to be discovered by a new generation. And I’m happy to report that the 38-year lapse between offerings has not dimmed Neeper’s storytelling ability nor dampened her ambition: the new novel is every bit as well made, poignant and entertaining as its predecessor.
Three more Archives of Varok novels are in the works and are set to be released between now and the end of 2014. I look forward to seeing what additional insights their alien worlds have to contribute to the growing debate about our species’ predicament.
OTHER WORKS AND PUBLICATIONS--Please email for more information on a listed item.
January-May 2005 Co-Instructor and Developer of "Sustainable Solutions for an Overused World," a one-unit course for UNM-LA Undergraduate study and Continuing Education.
“Complexity and Chaos—Church Organization,” Workshop for Unitarian Universalist Mountain Desert District.
“Complexity and Chaos--Implications for Philosophy and Theology,” Meadville/Lombard Theological Seminary, January-March, 2003.
"Bypassing Divine Action: Built-in Meaning Inspired by Complexity Principles," talk and publication for Collegium, San Juan Batista, CA, Oct. 23-26; published by the Unitarian Universalist Process Theology Newsletter, 2004.
BOOK REVIEWS for The Christian Science Monitor: "When Humans Converse with Apes and Whales; What’s to be Learned," 6/30/82. "New Light on Debate Over Atomic Power Plants," 10/8/82. "2010: Odyssey Two" by Arthur C. Clarke, 12/3/82. "Computer Books Help You Pick the Right One, Translate the Jargon," 3/22/83. "Useful Look at Genetic Engineering..." 9/28/83. "Bright New History Traces Music Through the Ages, 11/14/83.
"Complexity--Simple Drivers in Nature" for the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos, Spring 2006.
"Complexity and Organization," Course for Unitarian Church of Los Alamos, Spring 2004.
Cary Neeper and Don Neeper, "Concepts," Junior High Course for the Unitarian Universalist Church of Los Alamos, 1995-1996.
Cary Neeper, "Looking Out, Looking In: Exploring the Significance of Being Human in a Vast Universe," Junior High Course for the Unitarian Church of Los Alamos, 1993-4.
"Findings from Complexity Studies Impacting Education,"
for the Northern New Mexico Education Coalition, April 2005.
Cary Neeper, "Common Sense, Chaos, and Theology," for the Unitarian Church of Los Alamos, August 1995.
Cary Neeper, "Human Denial: A Workshop in Chaos, Genetics and Connectivity," for the Unitarian Church of Los Alamos, June 14, 1992.
Cary Neeper, "[Seismosaurus] Findings and Their Importance," for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Museum, December 11, 1991.
Cary Neeper, "Meaning in Existence As Ordered Chaos," Unitarian Church of Los Alamos, March 17, 1991.
Cary Neeper, "A View From the Sidelines," Women in Science Newsletter 6:4, December 2, 1985, Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Cary Neeper, "Observation-derived Faith," Flagstaff Unitarian Fellowship, May 13, 1984 and Unitarian Church of Los Alamos, October 28, 1984 and A Pulpit for Liberals, October, 1984.
Carolyn Neeper, Ph.D., "History of Catholic Attitudes Toward Abortion," Speech for the New Mexico Committee on Medical Termination of Pregnancy, 1969.
Cary Neeper, "Double Bass Music of Frank Proto," Los Alamos Monitor, September 21, 1997.
Cary Neeper, "What the Government Should Do to Create a Sustainable Economy," Los Alamos Monitor, June 24, 1997.
Cary Neeper, "Striving for Sustainability at the Community Level," Los Alamos Monitor, June 22, 1997.
Cary Neeper, "Sustainability: Finding Equitable Solutions," Los Alamos Monitor, June 20, 1997.
Cary Neeper, "Putting it Simply: Enough is Best," Los Alamos Monitor, June 19, 1997.
Cary Neeper, "Forgotten Guidelines: Sustainability According to Herman Daly, 1977," The New Sunpaper III:05, October 1996.
Cary Neeper with Robert Schrei, Certified Rolfer, "Rolfing to Save a Career," Rolf Lines XXI:1, March 1993, pp. 12-15.
Cary Neeper with Robert Schrei, Certified Rolfer, "Rolfing to Save a Career," International Society of Bassists XVIII:1, Fall/Winter 1991-2, pp. 48-50.
Cary Neeper, "Gilbert and Sullivan Have a Long History Here," Los Alamos Monitor, October 19, 1990.
Cary Neeper, "Kinder, Gentler Rolfing," Los Alamos Monitor, May 10, 1990.
Cary Neeper, "The Importance of Imprinting," Unitarian Universalist Voice, April, 1988.
No byline, ZPG column "Little Island Earth,", The Los Alamos Monitor, 1969-1973.
No byline, writings on the abortion issue for the New Mexico Review and Legislative Journal, 1969
Carolyn Neeper, Ph.D., "Understanding the Abortion Reform Movement," Newsletter of the New Mexico Committee on Medical Termination of Pregnancy, January, 1969.
No byline, pamphlet and speech material for the Illinois Citizens for Medical Termination of Pregnancy, 1966-1968.
Cary Neeper, "A Gift of Fear," in Adobe Christmas, The Santa Fe Reporter, New Mexico, December 1979, p. 105.
Cary Neeper, "An Undeniably Sentimental Journey," in Adobe Christmas, The Santa Fe Reporter, New Mexico, 1975, p. 13.
JOURNAL ARTICLES IN MEDICAL MICROBIOLOGY:
C. A. Neeper and C. V. Seastone, "Mechanisms of Immunologic Paralysis by Pneumococcal Polysaccharide IV. Comparison of Polysaccharide and Whole Organisms," J. Immun. 93, 867-871 (1964).
C. A. Neeper, "Mechanisms of Immunologic Paralysis by Pneumococcal Polysaccharide III. Immunologic Paralysis in Relation to Maturation of the Immunologic Response of Mice," J. Immun. 93, 860-866 (1964).
C. A. Neeper and C. V. Seastone, "Mechanisms of Immunologic Paralysis by Pneumococcal Polysaccharide II. The Influence of Nonspecific Factors on the Immunity of Paralyzed Mice to Pneumococcal Infection," J. Immun.91, 378-383 (1963)
C. A. Neeper and C. V. Seastone, "Mechanisms of Immunologic Paralysis by Pneumococcal Polysaccharide I. Studies of Adoptively Acquired Immunity to Pneumococcal Infection in Immunologically Paralyzed and Normal Mice," J. Immun. 91, 374-377 (1963).
D. J. Buchanan-Davidson, M. A. Stahmann, C. A. Neeper, C. V. Seastone, and J. B. Wilson, "Action of Synthetic Polylysine on Experimental Infections in Animals,: J. Bact. 80, 595-599 (1960).