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Hominids: Volume One of The Neanderthal Parallax Mass Market Paperback – February 17, 2003
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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.
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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Top Customer Reviews
The Neanderthal civilization was not really fleshed out; some of its features seem to have been projected from some known characteristics of Neanderthals, but only details that had a direct impact on the plot. It felt simplistic and a little forced.
I was curious enough about what the author was planning that I finished the book, but I probably won't read the sequel.
The other Earth, us, is a recent future where a Canadian company, INCO, is doing heavy water experiments in an old mine, cleaned up and rocking with a few goofy, cardboard-cut-out scientists.
The main character in our Earth is Mary, whom Sawyer creates as a sympathetic character by having her raped. Sorry but I thought this was unnecessary and graphic. I think the reader could have had some sympathy for her without her being violated. Further, we hear nothing more about the rapist for the rest of the book! What happened to him?
Despite this tragic scene, nothing is made much of it. Mary is nervous around men but that's about it. When Ponter, the Neanderthal scientist, gets sucked into our world, Mary becomes infatuated with him. A touching scene at the end of the novel wraps that up a bit.
A third of the book is dedicated toward the trial of Ponter's best friend, who is being tried for the supposed murder of Ponter, since Ponter disappeared and the idea of falling into an alternate Earth is just beyond anyone's reality.
Last Thoughts: Decent pacing, good science. Love how the media is portrayed as a bunch of wolves after a story (same in the Neanderthal world - called Exhibitionists!). The relationship between Mary and Ponter could have been better explored, as well as further developing the scientist Louise and her new boyfriend.
So far I'm reaching for the next in the trilogy, "Human."
Have to say I purchased these because I enjoyed the TV series FlashForward quite a bit and had hoped to discover a great new author to read. I wasn't disappointed as much as other reviewers, apparently, because when I read SF I tend to suspend the reality of technical and philosophical opinions I hold and try to appreciate what the author is trying to tell me in the novels....these arent journals from the world of science folks...they are light fiction.
Sawyer, as an author, is not particularly quick and interesting when it comes to writing dialogue. Also, his characters could be developed more deeply in many instances. Louise, for example is supposed to be scientifically brilliant as well as beautiful. Sawyer focuses on her looks continually without allowing her to show her stuff when it comes to other aspects of her personality.
Mary seems flat, as a very religious Catholic genetics expert (which seems a bit of an oxymoron to me) and her religion is a large focus thru the trilogy to the point where it dictates much if the plot. It becomes cumbersome and frankly tedious to a non Catholic to have so much time spent on her internal religious debates-and her discussion of religion with Ponter is, frankly, totally aside from the main plot of the books. Like a poorly written sub plot, it takes up space in the trilogy where other more interesting aspects in the differences between human and hominid might be explored.
Additionally the love interest between Ponter, the neanderthal, and Mary...where she agrees to tinker with genetic material of their potential child -all the while stressing about the Catholic stance on birth control seems totally contrived.
OTOH the ideas behind the trilogy are truly fun to consider. I'd wish for a better writing style and more character development..after all...these are not thin space opera type books..they run over 300 pages in hardbound. A bit more fleshging out of main protagonists would make for better reads.
Can you suspend your belief? Not hold the author to exact science and accept flat characters? If so you might enjoy the concepts behind the trilogy.