THE ARCHIVES AS A STUDY OF MEANING, CHAOS AND COMPLEXITY
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.
We live at an exciting time in the history of human understanding. We have learned so much about who we are and how we live in this huge universe it is beyond awesome--how genes regulate each other, the beauty of star nurseries, how complex systems govern themselves and us and everything around us, yet remain unpredictable and utterly mysterious, why plants have thousands more genes than we do, how animals and birds develop cultures and communicate, how close we are in a continuum with other life yet so far we will never meet the other astronomers across the galaxy, and so much more.
Based on the economic theories of Herman Daly, the economics on Varok that are disrupted in "The Webs of Varok" depend on their being stable populations, those whose numbers remain unchanged. This requires a universal buy-in, an ethic that emerges from agreeing that replacement-only is the only humane option for a sustainable future. Universal recycling, localization, long-term manufacture of carefully selected technology, and a system of nonrenewable resource quotas provide the basis for a sustainable free market.
Complex systems are everywhere in existence, including our own. Our personalities are emergent phenomena. Most natural systems, including humans, self-organize in ways that reveal their true nature. Simple rules guide this process, but chaos and chance can intervene. As a result, very little is truly predictable, but anything that happens can be amplified in the future, often unpredictably.
As we accept our place in the greater universe and understand that our complex nature is sensitive to initial conditions--hence everything we do has long-range effects--we must carefully distinguish between information that comes from experiential, verifiable evidence and beliefs that direct our religious faith.
Indicators explored include fractals, power laws and the regularity of catastrophes, criticality, self-organization, emergence, and unpredictable amplification of small events into huge effects over time. Applications and examples come from the natural and social sciences.
Alien societal conflict on an aquatic world.
When the varoks discover Ellason and try to save the aquatic ellls from ecological disaster, they trigger violent reactions, as well as civil war. Not until a disabled young elll and an idealistic varok put their lives on the line do the two species give up enough of their self-importance to communicate effectively.