Beyond the Words Past
By Jo Rogers


Hello, and welcome to the first Beyond the Words of 2002. This time, we're taking a short trip out into the world of science fiction and into space. We're going no farther than our own Moon, the setting for DAROK 9, which will be released January 20, 2002. This is a story written for older teens and young adults, but its nonstop action and intrigue will appeal to readers of all ages. Let's take a closer look at DAROK 9.


Darok 9, by H. J. Ralles
Top Publications -- February, 2002
Young Adult / Science Fiction

Reviewed by Jo Rogers, MyShelf.Com

DAROK 9 is another wonderful science fiction book for young adults by H. J. Ralles, author of KEEPER OF THE KINGDOM. Filled with nonstop action and suspense, it tells the story of a young scientist, Hank Havard, and his quest to keep his big discovery out of enemy hands.

World War III has been fought, and has rendered the Earth uninhabitable. The surviving humans have divided the Moon into four quadrants, and each of these quadrants are divided into cities, called Daroks. All are dependent on large shipments of water from Earth, and this must be decontaminated before it can be used. Hank has developed a vaccine which eliminates the human body's need for water. But his research is incomplete, although he has discovered that he has to keep the vaccine at a temperature of no more than forty degrees Fahrenheit for it to work.

The Fourth Quadrant was the last one settled and is the poorest in resources. They frequently attack the others to take what they want or need by force. When they attack the First Quadrant's Research Facility, which is outside all the Daroks and underground, Hank and his assistant, Lydia Grant, pack the formula in an insulapak. Hank then downloads his research notes onto memory cards and erases them from the computer system. With this done, he and Lydia run for their lives.

Hank and Lydia get separated before they get to the subway Bullet, and Hank goes home to Darok 9, not knowing if Lydia survived the attack. He heads for his apartment, but before he arrives, he sees a light in the window there, and knows someone has broken in. The only thing he has of value is his research.

Hank turns to his sister and her son, and leaves two of the vials for his sister to hide, and leaves a copy of his reseach notes with his teenage nephew. Before Hank can get to a place of safety, he and his family find themselves caught up in a web of deceit and murder. They are on the run, and they don't know who to trust. Can anyone help them out of the mess and save Hank's research for the good of all?

The language in this book is clean, as it was in KEEPER OF THE KINGDOM, something I found refreshing. Also, the message that violence doesn't pay is strong. The characters are believable, and the plot is solid. DAROK 9 is a can't-put-it-down, go-away-and-let-me-read science fiction thriller, sure to please any reader of any age!

The Nuts and Bolts: A Creator's View
An Interview with H. J. Ralles
By Jo Rogers
January 2002

Jo Rogers: Welcome to Beyond the Words, and thank you for taking time to talk to us. Darok 9 is a fascinating story. Where did the idea come from?

H. J. Ralles: Even as a child I was captivated by the moon, and wondered if man would ever be able to live on the lunar surface without water readily available. I was staring at a full moon one night and made a comment to my husband about how a colony of humans might survive in such a hostile environment. I told him that I would call lunar towns 'Daroks'. He asked me what the word Darok would stand for. We played a word game and between us we came up with Domed AtmospheRic Orbital Kommunity. In my mind, life on the moon, as it might be in a century from now, began to take shape - the lack of water becoming the focus of man's existence.


JR: The idea of mankind being forced to settle off the Earth is both intriguing and frightening. Do you feel we should make a greater effort to colonize space before it becomes necessary?

HJR: Without a doubt. Whether or not man is ever forced to leave the Earth, the benefits of space colonization could be far reaching. As we develop new space technologies, scientific advances could improve the quality of life on Earth. Discoveries about the human body's reaction to space environments could lead to medical advances for example.


JR: Do you think the Moon will support a colony?

HJR: I believe that if man were forced to survive or die he would find a way to survive. If the Moon was the only place left for us as a human race, I am sure we would find a way to colonize. That is not to say that centuries might pass before the quality of life is acceptable.


JR: Solving the water need problem would open up the galaxy for exploration. Do you plan to use this book as the beginning of a series?

HJR: My sons are very keen to see a sequel. I have to admit that I do have a title and an idea in mind. With my Keeper series already very successful, it is probable that I will not be able to resist the urge to continue the story of Hank and his SH33.


JR: You do have some interesting characters here. How much of Hank's nephew, Will, was based on your sons?

HJR: I am sure that many of Will's traits are based on those of my boys. They are both very competent on the computer. Both are independent, generous, warm-hearted young men who I am sure would be as eager to help a family member if placed in the same situation as Will.


JR: Hank is a scientist, but he wants to help people with his research, the science is a tool to him. Is he based on someone you know?

HJR: Hank is how I hope a responsible scientist would act and feel. During the last decade, debates on biological warfare and cloning, amongst other scientific advances, have made me think a lot about the responsibility that a scientist has to mankind. I know I would sleep better at night if I thought that every scientist in Hank's position would make a responsible choice. Unfortunately, I am not naïve enough to believe that every scientist has the freedom to make those decisions about his work.


JR: Maddie is the kind of computer genius I'd like to be. Is she like someone you know, or more than one girl?

HJR: If I had a daughter, I would hope that she would be as resourceful and as competent with today's technology as Maddie. I realize that my computer knowledge is sadly lacking compared to that of my sons. They already design web pages and write really neat PowerPoint presentations. I hope that today's female teenagers are equally as competent and are given the same encouragement to excel in technology.


JR: Rachel, Hank's sister, is a strong and resourceful woman. Does she have a real-life counterpart?

HJR: Yes, my younger sister, Rachel. I have always been amazed by my sister's intellectual and practical abilities. Not only is she a wonderful mother of two, but she keeps abreast of what is going on in the world, can glaze a broken window-pane or sew curtains, negotiate her way through rush-hour traffic with two screaming children, make decisions on pension plans or stock options, and still be sane at the end of the day!


JR: Lydia is such a snake-in-the-grass. Though I would hope not, do you know a real-life duplicate of her?

HJR: Lydia is my worst nightmare. I hope that I never have the misfortune to meet a woman so evil!


JR: The lab here is fantastic! Have you seen a prototype of it?

HJR: At age 13, I had dreams of being a microbiologist. I loved working in the science labs using microscopes, dissecting equipment and chemicals. Hank's lab is purely in my imagination. If anyone is offering a guided tour of a similar facility . . .


JR: The lab's practice of using software to test medicine instead of animals is a desirable thing. How soon do you think we can see it become a reality?

HJR: Soon, I hope! While I am an animal lover, and hate the thought of animals being used for experimentation purposes, I realize that in many cases we currently have no other option. I believe in saving human lives first and foremost. In my ideal world, animals would not have to be used. With today's leaps in computer technology I see this as a definite possibility for the future.


JR: Hank changes people with a chemical shot. Does it change people genetically?

HJR: It would probably have to. With the mapping of the human genome, who knows what lies ahead for biological sciences in the next century?


JR: Do you think we should use genetic manipulation to adapt people to space environments or do you think it could create more nightmares than benefits?

HJR: Like any other scientific discovery the benefits and the nightmares created by genetic manipulation would be debated heavily. If genetic manipulation becomes the only way that the human race can survive, I would imagine that there would be no discussion.


JR: Do you feel we will fight World War III in the near future?

HJR: No, I do not. After two World Wars, I would hope that a third World War would be prevented at all costs. However, after recent events and those of the last two decades, it is obvious that there are many evil leaders with large followings in the world. I trust in my faith in God and my belief in the goodness of man that right will prevail over wrong and that the Earth and its inhabitants will survive.

JR: Thank you so much for visiting with us. I hope we can visit again soon.


It is time to leave the Moon and return home. Our journey is over for now, but we will take another trip next month. I don't know where we'll go, yet, but I suspect it will be somewhere we've never gone before. Until then, Happy Reading!

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