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

3.7 out of 5 stars 190 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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (190 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By M. J. Kimball on September 28, 2004
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
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
I bought Sawyer's Hominids because is won the Hugo award for best novel. I was even a good doobie and ordered it through SFReader, earning Dave a whopping 33 cents for his continued efforts on behalf of all speculative fiction fans. I should have waited until it showed up in a second-hand store.... (sorry Dave!)

While Hominids is a decent read, I don't think it was the best science fiction book published last year. There were several I enjoyed more, that I thought more adventurous and original in theme, and were better written. That said, I enjoyed Hominids, though I enjoyed it more the first time when it was Stranger in a Strange Land.

Ponter Boddit is a Neanderthal physicist who is accidentally transferred to our universe during an experiment in his. While he's stuck on our Earth wondering if he will ever be able to return back to his world, his partner, Adikor Huld, must face charges of murder because of Ponter's disappearance. Thus we have two main threads: Ponter's adventures on our world and his Adikor Huld's trial and attempts to prove his innocence in the other.

(...)I felt as though I were reading a manuscript by someone in a writing workshop at a convention.

Ok Lynn, you didn't like the writing, but what about the book? Glad you asked. The Neanderthals live in a perfect world. No pollution, no crime, at harmony with nature, etc, etc, etc. Basically they embody everything we don't. Which, of course, is the whole point.
Sawyer does raise (re-raise?) some interesting (though not original) questions about individual rights versus society harmony. At what point does an individual's right to be safe take precedence over an individual's right to privacy? Each Neanderthal is implanted with an electronic monitoring device called a Companion.
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