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Hominids (Neanderthal Parallax) Mass Market Paperback – February 17, 2003

3.7 out of 5 stars 183 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this polished anthropological SF yarn, the first of a trilogy from Nebula Award winner Sawyer (The Terminal Experiment), Neanderthals have developed a radically different civilization on a parallel Earth, as both sides discover when a Neanderthal physicist, Ponter Boddit, accidentally passes from his universe into a Canadian underground research facility. Fortunately, a team of human scientists, including expert paleoanthropologist Mary Vaughan, promptly identifies and warmly receives Ponter. Solving the language problem and much else is a mini-computer called a Companion implanted in the brain of every Neanderthal. A computerized guardian spirit, however, doesn't eliminate cross-cultural confusion permanent male-female sexuality, rape and overpopulation are all alien to Ponter nor can it help his housemate and fellow scientist back in his world, Adikor Huld, when the authorities charge Adikor with his murder. Ponter's daughter Jasmel believes in Adikor's innocence, but to prevent a horrendous miscarriage of justice (Adikor could be sterilized), she must try to reopen the portal and bring her father home. The author's usual high intelligence and occasionally daunting erudition are on prominent display, particularly in the depiction of Neanderthal society. Some plot points border on the simplistic, such as Mary's recovering from a rape thanks to Ponter's sensitivity, but these are minor flaws in a novel that appeals to both the intellect and the heart.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Ponter Boddit, a physicist in a world in which Neanderthals are the dominant primates, is performing a quantum computing experiment in a Canadian mine, where cosmic rays won't disturb the test's delicate parameters. Suddenly, he is transferred into a heavy water tank in the same mine, but in the universe in which humans predominate. Human scientists are alarmed, then amazed by the spluttering Neanderthal in modern clothing with a curious AI implant in his wrist. Ponter's scientific partner, Adikor, is equally shocked, but what's more, he now faces an inquiry into his best friend's disappearance and suspected murder. Ponter is a most winning creation--thoughtful, brave, and charming as, facing the loss of everything he loves, he befriends a wounded female scientist in the strange human world. The smaller-scale, peaceful, environmentally savvy world of Ponter's people is equally well realized, though Sawyer loses a little steam trying to pin humanity's woes on organized religion. An engaging, thought-provoking story to read after either The Clan of the Cave Bear or Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio (1999). Roberta Johnson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Neanderthal Parallax (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; 1st edition (February 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765345005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765345004
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 1.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (183 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer -- called "the dean of Canadian science fiction" by the OTTAWA CITIZEN and "just about the best science-fiction writer out there" by the Denver ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS -- is one of eight authors in history to win all three of the science-fiction field's highest honors for best novel of the year: the Hugo Award (which he won for HOMINIDS), the Nebula Award (which he won for THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT); and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (which he won for MINDSCAN).

Rob has won Japan's Seiun Award for best foreign novel three times (for END OF AN ERA, FRAMESHIFT, and ILLEGAL ALIEN), and he's also won the world's largest cash-prize for SF writing -- the Polytechnic University of Catalonia's 6,000-euro Premio UPC de Ciencia Ficcion -- an unprecedented three times.

In 2007, he received China's Galaxy Award for most favorite foreign author. He's also won fourteen Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards ("Auroras"), an Arthur Ellis Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, ANALOG magazine's Analytical Laboratory Award for Best Short Story of the Year, and the SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE Reader Award for Best Short Story of the Year.

Rob's novels have been top-ten national mainstream bestsellers in Canada, appearing on the GLOBE AND MAIL and MACLEAN'S bestsellers' lists, and they've hit number one on the bestsellers' list published by LOCUS, the U.S. trade journal of the SF field.

Rob is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences, teaches SF writing occasionally, and edited his own line of Canadian science-fiction novels for Red Deer Press.

His novel FLASHFORWARD (Tor Books) was the basis for the ABC TV series of the same name. He enjoyed spending time on the set and wrote the script for episode 19 "Course Correction."

His WWW trilogy, WAKE, WATCH, and WONDER (Ace Books), is all about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness.

RED PLANET BLUES is Rob's noir detective novel about the only private detective working the mean streets of Mars. It's his most-recent novel in paperback.

Next up is Quantum Night (Ace Books), March 2016. Set in the present day, QUANTUM NIGHT is an exploration of the concept of the Philosophical Zombie: someone whose lights are on but no one is home. Sawyer posits that our population is dominated by these easily led, emotionally vacant followers. And who leads this vast mob? Psychopaths.

For more information about Rob and his award-winning books, check out his web page: http://sfwriter.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you're interested in what an anthropologist has to say about this book, read on.

This book asks the questions, What if there were a parallel universe in which Neanderthals, instead of Homo sapiens sapiens, had survived and developed civilization? What would their world be like? How would their society be different from our own? How might they interact with us?

I think these are interesting questions and worth the effort to try to answer them via the sci-fi genre. Through much of the book, Sawyer presents in an entertaining way current thinking on and debates about Neanderthal anatomy, physiology, behavior and social structure. Unfortunately, in his attempt to explain why Neanderthals eventually achieved civilization (and why, in our world, our species did the same), Sawyer reveals a fatal flaw in his thinking that demonstrates a distinct lack of careful research and, in my view, undermines his entire project. That is, unless his project is to write a romance novel.

Toward the end of his book, two of Sawyer's protagonists, Louise, a post-doc quantum physicist who happens to be a brunette bombshell "wearing tight-fitting denim cutoffs and a white T-shirt tied in a knot over her flat midriff" (p. 369 in the hardcover version), and Mary, a plain Jane geneticist who happens to be a devout Catholic, engage in a one-sided discussion about the origins of consciousness. Louise has had an epiphany that she shares with Mary after carefully testing her idea on "some guys...in the physics department" (370). It's all become crystal clear to her: the reason humans were able to develop civilization was because, forty-odd thousand years ago, they became conscious through the "quantum superposition of isolated electrons in the microtubules of brain cells" (380).
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Hominids is an intriguing speculative fiction book. The main premise is based on Quantum theory. Parallel to our world are many other worlds. Some very close to ours and some not. In our story, Ponter Boddit, often referred to as Scholar Boddit, is one of our main characters. He is a Quantum Physicist from a parallel world. While working on a Quantum computer, he is translated into the same location in our Universe; unfortunately it is the center of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory. Then the true adventure begins.

Ponter is given Canadian Citizenship, which is unusual because he is a Neanderthal. One could argue however, that a Neanderthal emerging from an INCO mine in Sudbury might not be that far out of the question. Many around the world believe it is a hoax - some believe it is true and a Ponter cult begins. Some want to control him and his knowledge.

In our sister earth, they have not ever had a global war, not developed nuclear weapons, or destroyed the environment the way we have. There is much we could learn from our cousins in this world.

Follow Ponter as he develops friendships, experiences religion and learns that we don't have to be homo sapiens to be human.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the second Sawyer novel I have read and after all the rave reviews, good press and a Hugo award to boot, I was excited to get my hands on a copy. But I have to say when I was reading the book, I became quite angry.

Briefly the plot: There is a parallel universe where neandethals survived and we became extinct. During a failed scientific experiment using quantum computers, one of the neanderthals is transported into our world.

This book is a light, quick read despite being over 400 pages. There are two parallel stories, one of the neanderthal in our world, the other of the neanderthal world where on man is being trialled for the murder of the missing neanderthal. Of the two plots, the story set in the neanderthal world is the far more compelling.

So let's get to the meat of it, why did this book make me angry?

Firstly, the author uses incredibly cheap plot devices that really stretch the realms of plausability. For example, four characters (including the neanderthal) are quarantined in a house. To push the romance element of the story, the author decided that Mary and the neanderthal needed to be alone. So how does he get them alone in the house? The other two character lock themselves in their own room to have sex, that's how. Think about it, there is a man from another dimension who could quite possibly be the most amazing experience in your life, but instead you lock yourself away from him to have sex? Yeah right.

The second thing that made me angry was the so called "social commentary". This term can hardly be used to describe what is a sneering, down the nose look at man's history.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The idea of this book, in which there is contact between our universe and an alternate one in which the Neandertals inherited the earth, is promising. Unfortunately, that's the most I can say for this book. Turns out the Neandertals are all a bunch of Sensitive New-Age Guys, and I just couldn't get past their cloying sweetness. Yes, they're sexually egalitarian, and non-violent, and they don't pollute, and they are just generally too damn nice to be real or interesting. Our universe, on the other hand, is fraught with conflict, but it's rendered so one-dimensionally as to make it equally boring. Early in the book a woman is raped (in the Homo sapiens universe, of course) and while the assault is in progress, she's thinks "It's not about sex...It's a crime of violence." No doubt true, and maybe someone being attacked might choose that moment to review some pamphlets from the local women's center, but it seems to me that some original or individual response might make her seem more like a real person.
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