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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pedestrian and Repetitious; Reads Like a Fiction Novel, February 15, 2012
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This review is from: Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans (Paperback)
This review is based on an incomplete reading of the book, as I just could not finish it. If you feel this invalidates the review, then please disregard. If you'd like to learn why I could not finish this book, please read on.

CRO-MAGNON is a work about early humanoid species, and the first part is devoted to the Neanderthals. The author engages in fanciful text that contributes little to the reader's understanding other than to highlight that there is a lot of conjecture going on here. There are nuggets of scientific data scattered throughout, so I latched onto these in the forlorn hope that Fagan would lead his narration to new and intriguing areas, but sadly he does not. Instead, he repeats the same concepts over and over and over again, to the point that I actually became somewhat irritated.

For example, Fagan concludes Chapter 5 (pg 102) with the following sentence: "Within a remarkably short time, some of their descendants moved out of the Near East into Eurasia and Europe - to a completely different world." Then, just a mere 9 pages later (pg 111), he gives us a new chapter break that reads, "Within a few millenia, some of their descendants moved out of the Near East into Eurasia and Europe - to a completely different world."

Now I don't know about you, but I certainly expected *much* better from a college-level professor who is so well-known in the field. Introducing general audiences to the subject matter is one thing, doing so in such a plodding and pedestrian manner is another.

Indeed, I can summarize in one paragraph what the author egregiously stretches into a handful of chapters: The Neanderthals were not the brutes us moderns have stereotyped them as. They were patient and skillful hunters who used long spears to bring down their prey at very close range. They lived in a predatory environment and shifting climate. They were a quiet people whose way of life went virtually unchanged for two hundred thousand years. At one point they became extinct, and we don't quite know why.

There are other problems with this book, like the illustrations. For one example, look on page 65 where various hunting instruments are presented, labeled a through e, yet the caption only explains a through c.

I'm not claiming that Fagan is a poor writer; indeed, some of his imagined tales are quite vivid, but after enduring multiple descriptive variations on the exact same theme, it became rather tiresome (I'm pretty sure one of the author's favorite words is "flourished", and one of his pet phrases is "Thin on the ground"). And good grief, could he possibly having milked the ancients' tool kits any further? Fagan didn't re-visit the proverbial well once too often, he goes there a hundred times too often.

Overall, one has to wonder if there was an editor even assigned to this mishmash publication.

The author attempts to attach credibility to his insights by inserting certain tidbits here and there, like how he once entered the bush with an African hunter who missed an impala at ten feet range with an antique flintlock musket. In truth, I imagined how he stumbled through the hunt that required hours of patience only to fail, just like how Fagan forces the reader to stumble through his juvenile narrative that tries our patience, only to fail.

As another reviewer has noted, this work lacks any intellectual spark. Instead of expanding my curiosity, each subsequent chapter of CRO-MAGNON slowly drained all my interest, and thus I am setting the book aside unfinished.

In sum, the first part of CRO-MAGNON reads like a 'formula' work where the author had to meet a certain word count for his publisher. I hope that he does a much better job presenting the Cro-Magnons than he did the Neanderthals, but for now my patience is exhausted. If so, I will gladly update this review if I return to the book at some point in the future, but that remains in doubt.

For the time being, this is my first - and will be my last - book by this author.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 10, 2012 10:53:10 AM PST
Desalegn says:
Yes, you get it. I was mesmerized how this book could get these all 5 stars while it is full of tiresome repetitions. I also didn't finish it.
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