The Alien Effect by Cary Neeper [Book Review]

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The Alien Effect

The Alien Effect (A novel from The Archives of Varok) by Cary Neeper is the third of her Varok novels and an entertaining addition to the series. The Alien Effect continues the epic story of first contact with aliens which the talented author, Cary Neeper, began with her first novel in the series, A Place Beyond Man, and continued in The Webs of Varok.

The Alien Effect, as well as the first two books of the series, carry a strong environmental message along with a solid, captivating plot. The beginning of The Alien Effect is set on the Jovian moon of Varok, the home of several sentient races as well as the adopted home satellite of Shawne, the daughter of microbiologist Tandra Grey.

Tandra Grey first met a member of one of the alien races, an elll named Conn, at a costume party in A Place Beyond Man. He became Tandra’s first from from Varok, but she also developed a strong friendship with a varok named Orram. Conn and Oram had been on a mission to help mankind get on the right course and practice zero population growth, sustainability, and managing of Earth’s dwindling resources better.

Both of these beings play an important role in the lives of Tandra and her daughter, Shawne, and together, they constitute a family unit on Varok with the surname elConn-Grey-Oran. Orram’s adult son, Orticon, also plays a role in the novels as a sort of step-son to Tandra and step-brother to Shawne.  The Alien Effect

Varoks have extrasensory perception and are very human-like in ways. They prefer to establish contact via their minds rather than through physical touch. The ellls, like Conn, are amphibious and have webbed hands and feet. They originally came from a watery world known as Ellason.

Tandra, Conn, and Varok journeyed back to Varok in the second novel of The Archives of Varok series, The Webs of Varok. Their initial efforts at getting the countries of Earth to change their ways had failed. Tandra decided to travel with her two alien friends and start up a new life with them and Shawne on Varok, though still maintain contact with her home planet.

They also try to, periodically, influence the decisions of Earth’s governments and hope that there is still time left for the people of Earth to change their ways, despite the population of the planet having already been greatly reduced due to starvation as the Earth’s resources kept on dwindling. Tandra even goes back to Earth and lives there for a while in The Webs of Varok, but

In The Alien Effect, the year is 2068, 17 years after everything that takes place in The Webs of Varok. Shawne has grown up and has become a biologist, like her mother. She has communicated to Earth via a base set up by the varoks and ellls on the moon, from which she sometimes broadcasts to the population of Earth and tries to teach them about how they should follow steady state economic principles. The plot of The Alien Effect has her journeying back to Earth with a team of researchers to get a school going in San Diego, California, to teach as many people as possible about the importance of practicing steady state economics.

The course of affairs, of course, does not run as smoothly as Shawne and her research team had hoped that it would. The group splits into two, one which sets up the school, and one which goes to the Great Barrier Reef to study things like the ocean currents there. The ellls and varoks find themselves, as author Cary Neeper put it, “dodging from one threat to another,” while Shawne falls in love for the first time in her young life. The one thing, or main thing, that Shawne does not like about the guy, though, is that he wants to start up a water import business.

While Shawne’s outside perspective sounds like perfect common sense to her, that is not how her ideas sound to her potential students and faculty members on Earth. They come from industrialized nations, and feel that industry is the way to progress and become more powerful as nations. Shawne has a lot of support for her ideas, at first; but, when the students and faculty members really begin to understand what Shawne is trying to teach, her following drops off. It is not what most of the people she would like to teach really want to hear, let alone, put into practice.

Shawne does have some success with some of the students, however, and also with orcas and grey whales. She gets the orcas interested in starting up a a cooperative sea-farming business and a few gray whales act as consultants and aid in organizing the school’s curriculum. While issues like sharing wealth, population growth, and stead state economics are written about in The Alien Effect, Neeper does not ever get “preachy” about the message. It is an important one she would like readers to take away with them when they read The Archives of Varok series; but, she has also made the book and the series eminently readable and entertaining.

The Alien Effect is an excellent addition to the series. The novel is filled with captivating characters and the main character, Shawne, has a noble goal she pursues, despite being met with people who do not always like the message she is trying to teach them. The Webs of Varok won a Nautilus Silver Medal for YA in 2013. It also was an adult scifi finalist for ForeWord’s Book of the Year Awards in 2012. Check out The Alien Effect today, though reading the first two books in the series is highly recommended, as they are both great, and will provide useful background to help understand and get into The Alien Effect quicker.

Written By Douglas Cobb

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