H.J. Ralles
Character Analysis Interview Conducted By: Jo Rogers

This month, the science fiction pick is the latest release from the pen of teen and young adult author, H. J. Ralles. DAROK 9 is a mystery and spy thriller set on the near future on our own moon. Released in late January, it fulfills the wishes of all parents -- an engrossing story where violence is held to a minimum, and the language is clean and free of sexual content. The characters are quite interesting. Let's talk to them and see what makes them tick.

JR: Hank, what do you believe your role as a scientist is in relation to humanity?

Hank: As I am sure any responsible scientist would probably answer, my duty is to use my research and results to benefit humankind first and foremost.

JR: Do you feel a scientist has a right to pursue an avenue of research for the sake of the knowledge or should all research have a beneficial purpose?

Hank: All scientists start with the search for knowledge. You cannot progress without knowledge. A scientist cannot always determine the benefits or adverse effects of his research at the time that he initiates experimentation, but an ethical scientist will apply the knowledge gained, positively. Many scientists will make the same discoveries simultaneously. From the global perspective at the turn of the millennium, it was important that the USA maintained its lead in scientific research, so as to remain the superpower. Many of the great advances of the 20th Century were fueled by the desire for greater military power. Rockets that put men into space were originally developed as a military weapon. Even research initiated for the
wrong reasons can generate good results. The same conditions now exist here on the moon a century later. If I don't continue with my research for fear of possible adverse effects of SH33, Fourth Quadrant will certainly continue and gain the knowledge. With no understanding of the drug's capabilities First Quadrant will be at a distinct disadvantage and could potentially be placing its population at risk.

JR: How many scientists do you feel are ready to sacrifice ethical principals and integrity for personal gain and notoriety?

Hank: If you had asked me that question two months ago, I would have said none. After all, what is there to gain on the moon? That was naive of me. Lydia has caused me to look at all my colleagues in a different way. The open trust has gone. The human mind is complex and life here is hard. One could argue that an existence such as this could drive any rational person to sacrifice ethical principals for what they see as personal gain.

JR: Do you feel the benefits of any research, human cloning for example, will ever outweigh the laws and ethics that prohibit such research?

Hank: We must all abide by the law, but times change, governments change, and circumstances change. The laws initially banning research on human cloning were lifted and my great grandfather was able to continue successfully. Laws are there to protect humankind and a scientist must respect those laws. Without laws, there will be more Lydias to take advantage of the population.

JR: Lydia, why are you so willing to sacrifice lives for your own personal gain?

Lydia; As I said to Hank's sniveling sister -- does a person have to have a perfect reason? Sacrifice lives? I offered Hank and Will the chance of a lifetime! They should have thanked me -- fame and fortune over night. What more could a person want?

JR: Are you really worth more than another human's life?

Lydia: What I had on offer was worth more than one human life! People would have thanked me for that. If one or two lives are sacrificed for the good of the general population, so be it. Hank was too cautious. His research could have assured an immediate improvement in lunar life, but he was too weak to take the risk.

JR: Will, when your Uncle Hank asked for your help, did you ever think you or your Mom would be in any real danger?

Will: My Uncle Hank is a neat guy. He would never have knowingly put us at risk unless he had no alternative. I don't think when he came asking for help that night, he had any idea what he was getting us into, or even what trouble he was in. Even I didn't realize what trouble I was getting Maddie into when I asked her for help.

JR: But you would still choose to help your uncle if the same situation arises again, wouldn't you?

Will: Sure! It was one great adventure that I wouldn't have missed. But, if I was to be serious about the situation, it is kind of neat to think that I had a hand in saving the First Quadrant.

JR: Rachel, did you know the risks when Hank came to you?

Rachel: No, not initially. I know my brother. I could see he was very worried that night and I would have done anything to help him. It wasn't until the David section raided our home that I got a true sense of what we were all involved in.

JR: You also knew Hank wouldn't risk his family's safety unless it was vitally important. Were you surprised at how ugly the situation turned?

Rachel: Naturally. Who could have foreseen someone so evil? You have to remember that life in the Daroks is relatively peaceful with little crime. This whole situation came as a complete shock. Perhaps we all naively thought that the lessons of our ancestors on Earth would always serve as a constant reminder. Had it been an attack by someone from Fourth Quadrant it would have been easier to accept, but someone in our own Darok . . .. I guess there is no accounting for the insane.

JR: Hank, were you surprised at the identity and purpose of your enemy?

Hank: Even in hindsight, I am totally amazed. I worked with Lydia for years. She was a wonderfully able and gifted scientist. Never did I see any sign of resentment towards me. She behaved rationally and I considered her a true friend. For me this is the most upsetting part. I keep wondering what I missed. Was I so absorbed in my work that I failed to see the signs? Could I have prevented this whole nightmare and the death of General Andorf? Trusting colleagues is going to be very hard for me from now on.

JR: Maddie, you are a wizard at computers. Do you always find working at a computer interesting, or do you find routine work boring?

Maddie: I love computers - but I guess that's obvious. I like a challenge. I'm never happier than when someone's computer has a virus or a problem that needs sorting. Schoolwork's pretty boring. How do you tell your teacher that you know more than she does? I just go through the motions of webmastering and keyboarding to get the necessary credits. I'd love to show her a thing or two!

JR: Do you find you are happiest when challenged with a difficult computer task, such as making the machine do something it isn't supposed to be able to do?

Maddie: If I told you that my perfect job would be to create the next generation of interactive computers, then I'm sure that answers your question. This whole situation with Will and his Uncle Hank was the best thing that has happened to me all year! You really find out what you are capable of, when a friend's life is in danger!

JR: Do you simply use the current programming, or do you prefer to create new programs for difficult tasks?

Maddie: I think my Network School teachers would be horrified if they knew how I spent my time. That's the beauty of video-link lessons. I'm usually done with schoolwork before lunch and then I can spend the rest of the day writing new programs.

JR: What about you, Will? Do you like to create your own programming,such as a program to hide your uncle's work?

Will: Sure! The new optical computers are really cool. I'm still learning how to use mine. On Darok 9, where us kids don't have much to do, computers are the thing we do best and most.

JR: This question is for Hank and Rachel. Do you think there is another Lydia out there waiting to strike again?

Hank: Sadly, yes. I am under no illusions that highly classified material will always attract unscrupulous individuals. Hopefully next time I won't be too self-absorbed to see the warning signs.

Rachel: I like to think that people are essentially good. Over the centuries one or two insane individuals have altered the course of history. I don't suppose that we have seen the last of the Lydias even on the moon.

JR: Do either or both of you think there will be peace between the quadrants so that another Lydia can be stopped before things go as far as they did this time?

Hank: Peace is what we all pray for, but until the way of life in all of the four quadrants is equal, I cannot see it happening. Unfortunately the government of the Fourth Quadrant places a higher value on lunar military supremacy than on research to ensure the survival of its people. As long as our goals differ, I think that peace is a long way off.

Rachel: I agree with Hank. But, even if there is peace between quadrants, I am sure that we will not be safe from another Lydia. We all learned a hard lesson. The enemy is not always whom you suspect or where you anticipate he may be from.

Book Review
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 research 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!

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