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.
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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 JohnsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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