NESFA Members' Reviews

Beast Master's Ark

by Andre Norton and Lyn McConchie

Tor, 2002, ISBN 0-765-30041-9

A book review by Elisabeth Carey

This is a sequel to The Beast Master and Lord of Thunder. Hosteen Storm and his team of genetically augmented animals are investigating a new threat on their adopted planet, Arzor, when the Ark arrives. The Ark is attempting recreate the lost species of Earth, which was destroyed in the war with the Xik, and they want as many genetic samples as possible. Their recent efforts have been complicated in part by the fact that Brion and Kady Carraldo, the scientists who head the Ark, although very good people, are perhaps not as flexible and open to other viewpoints and needs as they might be. Their diplomacy of late has included refusing to consider providing even sterile mates for the team of the last Beast Master whose team they wanted genetic samples from, and then capturing his team to collect the samples on the sly, injuring one of the animals in the process. It's not surprising that Storm is not delighted to learn of their arrival.

However, the new threat on Arzor is an unidentified animal that swarms and paralyses its victims and eats them alive. It was bad enough when it was killing only horses and frawns (the local cattle species); now it's killing humans. In addition to the direct loss of human life and economic costs due to animal losses, it's destablizing relations amongst the human settlers, the Norbies (settled, relatively civilized natives), and the Nitra (nomadic natives). Storm needs the genetic database resources of the Ark, and he's willing to consider a trade.

Unfortunately, when he attempts to go meet the Carraldos, the first person he encounters is their niece, Tani. Tani's a young and talented genetic engineer, and the daughter of a Beast Master, Bright Sky, who died during the war, when Tani was five years old. Tani\rquote s mother, Ailisha, spent two years telling Tani that all Beast Masters except her father were evil people who had total disregard for the lives of their teams. Then Ailisha got killed--doing something really stupid, but Tani doesn't recognize that.

So Tani is hostile to Storm before she even meets him, and goes to some effort to antagonize him when she does meet him.

But Tani has the Beast Master talent, too, and has her own unofficial team, an openness to new people who aren't Beast Masters, and a fortunate ignorance of what the human settlers and the Norbies "know" about the Nitra. A combination of spoiled self-indulgence and basic friendliness lands her in a situation where she and Hosteen Storm, working together, have a shot solving Arzor's newest problem. Enjoyable.

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