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Hominids: The Neanderthal Parallax 132

Posted by timothy
from the hey-those-are-like-me dept.
robinw writes: "Hominids is the latest novel by the accomplished Canadian science-fiction writer, Robert J. Sawyer. It is also the first book in a trilogy which he calls The Neanderthal Parallax. While far from his best offering, Hominids is consistent with the quality we've grown to expect from Mr. Sawyer, and is a worthwhile addition to any science fiction fan's library."
Hominids: The Neanderthal Parallax
author Robert J. Sawyer
pages 448
publisher Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
rating 8
reviewer Robin Ward
ISBN 0-312-87692-0
summary When worlds collide, and one of them is full of Neanderthals ...
The book is centered on the Many-Universes Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. In layman's terms, for every possible decision that can be made, the universe branches out into many universes, one for each possibility. All decisions are therefore dealt with in some form, and the universes are identical except for the choice that has been taken one way or the other. Normally, the interpretation states that the parallel universes cannot communicate, but in the novel a failed experiment in Quantum Computing suddenly brings two such Universes together. The first is our modern day society, and the second is a parallel universe where Neanderthals and mammoths prospered while we perished.

The story of the two universes, and their interactions are told in parallel. After the failed experiment, a Neanderthal named Ponter finds himself in rural Ontario, in the world famous Sudbury Neutrino observatory. Back in the Neanderthal universe, his partner Adikor is blamed for his absence, and is put through an extensive trial.

Sawyer has obviously done his research. The alternate version of Earth where the Neanderthals exist is amazingly well thought out. Everything from the social ramifications of an enhanced sense of smell to the 1984-esque communicators that monitor everything the Neanderthals do is integrated into the story perfectly.

There is very little action to be found in the novel, but it remains exciting nonetheless. Personally, I was fascinated with the dialogue Sawyer presents between the character Mary Vaughan and Ponter the Neanderthal. Although I believe that Sawyer has a love for humanity and our technological prowess, he uses the conversations between the human and the Neanderthal as a way of exposing some of our atrocities in the thousands of years that have passed since we developed intelligence. You have to admire the honesty of the character Mary for willingly exposing things in our past that we'd rather forget, but towards the end of the book it almost becomes too much. In fact, I had a hard time believing that Ponter had anything good to say about us at all to his fellow Neanderthals.

The lack of privacy that the Neanderthal society lives with might be of particular interest to the Slashdot crowd. All Neanderthals are required to wear a communicator implant in their arm that transmits everything they do to a central recording center. Interestingly enough, Sawyer argues in favor of such technology, saying that it virtually eliminates crime (who would murder someone knowing fully well that it could be played back by the authorities?) and that we don't really have any privacy anyway. In fact, the book begins with a quote to that effect.

Sawyer's writing is simple and to the point. He has a way of explaining complicated concepts without being overly confusing or long and drawn out. The 400+ page novel is actually a fairly quick read. Unlike some oth-er authors that I'm familiar with, you don't have to go back and re-read passages to find details you might have missed. Don't get me wrong - although the book is easily digested, it manages to inspire. Also, despite the fact that this is the first novel in a series of three, it stands very well on its own. In fact, had I not known that there were two more novels dealing with the same characters being released over the next year or so, I would have been completely satisfied.

Hominids comes highly recommended. If you're at all interested in hard-SF, you owe it to yourself to head down to the bookstore and check it out.


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Hominids: The Neanderthal Parallax

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  • by GerberBaby (582642) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:36AM (#3652266)
    Where is Chuck Heston when you need him.
  • privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jucius Maximus (229128) <zyrbmf5j4x@sTEAnkmail.com minus caffeine> on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:39AM (#3652293) Homepage Journal
    "All Neanderthals are required to wear a communicator implant in their arm that transmits everything they do to a central recording center. Interestingly enough, Sawyer argues in favor of such technology, saying that it virtually eliminates crime (who would murder someone knowing fully well that it could be played back by the authorities?)"

    If a person is disturbed enough to make them commit a murder, putting a locator implant in their arm will not make them less disturbed. It will not lead to a happier society.

    Their anger will simply be manifested differently. Would you want to work in the same office with a person like this? Would you want to live in the same building? Treating the Symptoms != Solving the problem.

    • Re:privacy (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by bungo (50628)
      I haven't read the book, but I have read the novella - it was published in 3 parts over 3 months in Analog.

      You're correct that it won't change the person, but that doesn't matter.

      What they do is to sterilize anyone who shares 50% of the same genetic material as the person who commits the crime. In this way, the 'bad' genes are removed from the gene pool.

      • Oh, shit. My above post may have contained a spoiler.

        (a bit more explained below)
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .
        .

        It's been a months since I read the story, but I think you don't find out about the 50% DNA gene pool purge until later into the story.

        Sorry about that.

        At least I didn't say that the lone gunmen were killed.

        Which reminds me of the best spoiler I've ever seen. In the credits to, I think, Loaded Weapon, near the end, they had
        Gaffer - ...
        Best Boy - ....
        The secret to the crying game - The girl's a guy
        Property Manager - ....

      • Re:privacy (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DerekTheRed (579180)
        This is such a terrible solution to the crime problem and I can't believe that anyone knowledgeable about biology would ever discuss it without severe prejudice...

        Biology does not make people into criminals, for the most part. It's criminal law that does that. But that's not my main objection, and I don't care to argue the merits of it -- my main objection is that the human gene pool is dangerously homogeneous already, and we should not, at this point, be going out of our way to make it more so.

        Human beings have, since distant prehistory, slaughtered many millions of minority ethnic groups. "Parallax" does not shrink from that fact. What we are not acknowledging, however, is that their genes are gone forever. By committing so many atrocities, we have made ourselves incredibly (and nearly irreverseably) vulnerable to diseases that depend on common genetics. By killing people with different genetics, it leaves only those with similar genetics to reproduce with each other. It makes each of us genetic siblings, to a degree...and I shouldn't have to tell you why siblings can't reproduce...
        • You should say 'wuy siblings ought not reproduce', since it is clear that they can, and indeed, occasionally do.

          The genetic risks associated with interbreeding are, according to some studies, overblown. Interbreeding of closely related individuals also has benefits of bringing out other traits, which actually increases genetic diversity.

          In short, the situation is more complicated than 'incest=bad'. Animal breeders regularly interbreed their stock, usually with no problems at all.
          • Sorry, a matter of semantics...You are correct, it is better to describe it as "shouldn't" rather than "can't." Inbreeding is successful quite regularly, it's just that among individuals of similar genetics, it dramatically increases the chance of genetic defects. Say you are a carrier of the recessive gene that causes Crohn's disease; it's a strong possibility that your sister does as well, having inherited that gene from the same people. And if you and your sister have children, the chance of each of your children developing Crohn's disease has just increased to 25% from the usual less-than-1% they'd otherwise have.

            In addition to that, I should have also more explicitly explained that too little genetic variation makes us more vulnerable to infectious agents that depend on our genetics.

            For example: at some point along this path, a catastrophic disease that might have wiped out 10% of the world's population will be successful at wiping out 40% of it, because so many more people have the same genetic vulnerabilities. I am not merely bluffing about this, it is a statistical inevitability.

            Thanks for clarifying.

          • Interbreeding of closely related individuals also has benefits of bringing out other traits, which actually increases genetic diversity.

            Confirmed.

            Indeed interbreeding is very common in thoroughbred Horses, Pigs, Cattle and pretty common in Pedigree Cats and Dogs. That is why today we the most productive farm animals and most attractive pets in history. Typically interbreeding in not so bad when a very strong selection mechanism against defects is at work. In both these cases a only repeat winners (Races/Shows) are bred and very widely. Though this *can* result in a homogeneous group, it is not certain. Indeed it aid the development of new species, there is considerable genetic difference between the various type of horse, so much so that some types of horse can considered seperate species because they cannot interbreed successfully.

            The main issue is the accumulation of recessive genes and since breeders think in terms of breeding lines (not individuals), a strong selective mechanism is at work against recessive genes when they are defective.

            Interestingly in Humans almost the opposite mechanism is at work, modern medical science, indeed all social security diminish selective breeding and even legal prevents it. The obvious consequence is that Human species is moving from a qualitative nurturing strategy towards an quantitative nurturing strategy.
            • there is considerable genetic difference between the various type of horse, so much so that some types of horse can considered seperate species because they cannot interbreed successfully

              Facinating, I hadn't heard that before. I wonder if there are any examples of deliberate experimental speciation through selective breeding?

              True about Humans and recessive 'bad' genes. Its intersting to me that people in general value highly even exceptionally poor (genetically speaking) specimins of humanity (and allow them to breed). In the long term I expect that genetic therapies and technological implants will eliminate the 'disadvantaged' though. In normal societies there just isn't any other option, unless people start to realize that reproductive freedom has an impact on the rest of society.
      • What they do is to sterilize anyone who shares 50% of the same genetic material as the person who commits the crime

        Ummm... wouldn't that mean sterilizing everybody, then? IIRC, humans share a high percentage (well over 90%) with other mammals, let alone with other humans.

    • *MAY SPOIL*

      In the novel, though, people who commited horrible crimes such as murder, had to have their genetic code cleansed from the gene pool. It may sound to be an easy fix for crime just there, but to ensure that any of the "bad genes" would not be around, *ANYONE* who shared at least 50% of their genes (brothers, sisters, children), were ALSO sterilized.

      It makes it a little more involved to have your family ensure that you're an angel, knowing that their crimes can end your ability to have a family.
      • "*ANYONE* who shared at least 50% of their genes (brothers, sisters, children), were ALSO sterilized."

        I seem to recall a similar practice carried out by some tribe or other here in our own, pleasant little universe. Fo a particularly egrigious crime, you, and anyone related to you within one degree (parents, children, aunts, uncles, first cousins, neices and nephews) were all put to death. This was, as I recall, supposed to prevent a single crime from turning into a generations-long clan feud, by the simple expediency of eliminating anyone who'd care enough about you to go to war for you, so nobody has any interest in perpetuating a cycle of revenge.
    • If a person is disturbed enough to make them commit a murder, putting a locator implant in their arm will not make them less disturbed. It will not lead to a happier society.

      Exactly. The disturbed-but-clever people will just find better ways to make it look like an accident or a natural death.

      Oh well. It's fiction, so I suppose it's okay. Better that we devote our efforts to combating real abuses rather than fictional ones.
    • It would not eliminate 'crimes of passion' or accidents. It would eliminate 'serial murderers' by virtue of being caught the first time. It would also eliminate the whole 'tracking down the criminal', but not the investigation of the crime itself.

      A symptom of being deranged could be a strong desire to kill people. Catching the person after the first time allows you to treat the disease, and stop the symtoms.

      I would be happier if I knew that multiple-homicides were far less likely. Wouldn't you, or are you just scared you'd get caught ?
      • "A symptom of being deranged could be a strong desire to kill people. Catching the person after the first time allows you to treat the disease, and stop the symtoms. I would be happier if I knew that multiple-homicides were far less likely. Wouldn't you, or are you just scared you'd get caught ?"

        No. I think this cost of catching serial murderers that you propose is too high. It forces the assumption that the majority of people will commit a crime worthy of pursuit by law enforcement. I do not want to live in a society like this.

        "Those who would trade a little freedom for a little security deserve neither." -Benjamin Franklin

      • You're making the assumption that such a technology would only be used to stop behaviors we (almost) all agree are bad, such as murder. But it wouldn't be very long before the Powers That Be would start to apply it to anything that didn't fit their personal agenda.

        First would come sterilization of those who took drugs or looked at pr0n. Next comes those who are too liberal, or too conservative. Then those who ever voted for the other party, or who don't worship the same God. Finally comes execution of those who favor baptism by sprinkling rather than dunking.

        Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

        Garg
    • > (who would murder someone knowing fully well that it could be played back by the authorities?)"

      Didn't seem to stop 19 jerkwads from pulling off 9/11, did it?

  • Murder (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JJ (29711) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:41AM (#3652305) Homepage Journal
    While absolute certainty of punishment would drive down random murder rates, it would not eliminate murder. A majority of women murdered are murdered by someone they know, normally a male.
    • Genetic elimination should solve this over a period of time. I am glad the author has suggested it.

      It has solved it for many societies on Earth after all. If you give it a thought in some societies things like pe**philia are almost unheard of.

      Which one is a different matter. There are many statistic handbooks on crime - look into them and find out for yourself. This data also gives a very nice perspective on the idea of the effect "tough stance on crime - more jails and more police" and the real effect it has on crime.

      • I disagree for two reasons. You seen to imply that if we purge negative genes from the pool, we cleanse the pool. In other words, kill or sterilize the murders and their kin and we put an end to murder. You seem to propose genocide with no apparent justification.

        Firstly, your view presupposes that we act on our genes. While it may be the case that each of us has genetic predispositions, those dispositions are not an absolute predictor of action. Take, for example, a person who is predisposed to alcoholism. He drinks too much and becomes addicted to alcohol but later decides to stop. Succeeding in stopping, he is now acting in opposition to his predisposition, which still encourages him to drink to excess. The same might be said for a depressive person who never kills himself. He may very badly want to do so and may be predisposed to the mental condition which produced that desire, but if he doesn't, he acts independently of his genes.

        Secondly, the end result isn't much of a solution. Where is the line drawn between crimes worthy of sterilization and those which need not be purged from the genome? Murder? Rape? Dishonesty? Breach of Contract? Active racism? Passive racism? Conscientious objection? A given disorder or disease?

        Further, once one has decided whom to purge, has one eliminated our negative tendencies? I say the answer is no. One has just seen to some of them. As Ghandi put it, an eye for an eye would leave the world blind. Remember also that ideas have inertia. Once one starts purging, the purge may stop only because there is no one left to be purged. Eventually, that line of thought - purge from the gene pool the capacity for [insert crime here] - would drive the race to extinction. We would all be dead or sterile. Then we would all be dead. Or, in pseudo-XML:

        <human race>
        <crime>
        </genocide>
        <crime/>
        <human race/>
        • Secondly, the end result isn't much of a solution. Where is the line drawn between crimes worthy of sterilization and those which need not be purged from the genome? Murder? Rape? Dishonesty? Breach of Contract? Active racism? Passive racism? Conscientious objection? A given disorder or disease?

          It is a question of the actual society model. You are judging the idea of applying genetic selection based on social criteria by our own rules and that is where your mistake comes from. First, your rules may be correct for your society. They are definitely incorrect for the society described in the book.

          In btw, application of genetic selection to intelligent species based on social principles is not such a novell idea. This book is not revolutionary by any means. Let's take for example David Brin's Uplift series. There this idea is most prevalent.

          Cutting a long story short this is nothing but the general theory of evolution applied where the society requirements are the actual evolutionary pressure.

          Myself I am not sure that is right. But looking at the frequencies of certain crimes in some of the human societies it suddenly starts gaining a considerable appeal.

          • It is a question of the actual society model. You are judging the idea of applying genetic selection based on social criteria by our own rules and that is where your mistake comes from. First, your rules may be correct for your society. They are definitely incorrect for the society described in the book.

            Granted. In that society, it might work. I haven't actually read the book, or the David Brin series. How were those societies able to contain the purge effects or set limits on who would and would not be purged?

            Again, however, the questions to be raised are "What are the requirements? Who sets them? Who has the right to set them?" Remember that the Nazi purges had societal underpinnings. Those in power wanted a pure race, so they killed or sterilized those who were impure or could introduce impurities to their supposed master race. To a lesser degree, so did the Stalinist purges have societal goals, though those may have had less to do with ideology and desirable citizens than the need to populate the GULag and rapidly industrialize an agrarian socity. The same can be said of the Killing Fields of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge was trying to achieve a certain kind of society - one made up of Workers. The intelligentsia were an impediment, so they were removed. Millions died in each case.

            To me, the idea has no appeal. The work of fiction that kickstarted this discussion is just that - fiction. If one tries to apply those ideas here on Earth, one gets another result entirely. History is already witness to what kinds of things happen when one group decides whether another is worthy to live or not. I don't accept the theory of macroevolution and I certainly don't accept the idea that a government is entitled to dub itself the agent of that evolution.

      • pe**philia was practically unheard of in the US until 10 years ago.

        It happened, it's just that no-one talked about it.
    • Actually, most murder victims of either sex are murdered by someone they know, very often a family member, and that someone is usually male. The circumstances are often different, of course, but this fact holds true.

      Note also that rates of murder conviction among women are rising rapidly; this may be an unintended consequence of the success of feminism (equal rights => equal access to and willingness to use the tools of deadly violence) or it may be simply that juries are now more willing to convict women of serious crimes, being less blinded by the belief that A Poor Little Innocent Woman Could Never Do Such A Horrible Thing. IIRC, the rates of murder convictions have been traditionally been about 90% male / 10% female but are now around 80%/20%.
      • Re:Murder (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Actually, most murder victims of either sex are murdered by someone they know, very often a family member, and that someone is usually male. The circumstances are often different, of course, but this fact holds true

        No, it just looks to hold true because of the way the statistics are gathered. The first part ("most murder victims are murdered by someone they know") is true. But this includes things like prostitute/pimp, drug dealer/user, and other criminal relationships. The number of females (or males) that are murdered by a "family member" is much lower when "family member" means a relationship by blood or marriage.

        This myth (most people are killed by family members) was started by a bogus study done by Arthur Kellerman. One of the "statistics" that he came up with was the often repeated (and completely incorrect) "you are 43 times more likely to be killed by a family member". But if you look at the actual study (and the data) the real number is only about 5 times. And even that number includes the previously mentioned (criminal relationships) familiarity.
    • A majority of women murdered are murdered by someone they know, normally a male.
      Yeah but when "the two become one" they are too randy to have murder on their mind. Time apart probably makes most relationships idealized and smooths over the rough points. A neat world.

      As for random murder, it is reduced via genetics (the sterilization), peer influence & perhaps medication (pg 296-7 mentions family role and Mary mentions a biochemical role) and counseling which Ponter goes to control his temper. Nature & Nurture are both important.

      The only person who supports sterilization in strong terms is Mary (pg 304) for obvious reasons. She may be the character used to advocate extreme views in the later books (I wonder what will become of the sample she took).

      The interplay between both worlds and the reflection of our own is imaginative and stimulating. Great entertainment.

      I recommend this book, "Golden Fleece", "Iterations" and "Illegal Alien". From Iterations the short story " Above it all" still gives me chills, I cannot look at the ISS in the same light now. "Iterations" has a neat idea for why SETI hasn't found anything yet (I haven't yet proved to myself yet that the idea is valid but it warrants further examination).

    • More to the point: nearly half of all murderers (in the USA) either turn themselves in, kill themselves on the scene, or don't even try to conceal obvious clues leading straight to them. I think that back in the 1950's this was more than 2/3, and it still is in many rural areas. (Of course, the Nicole Simpson murder appears to be one of those obvious cases, and the LAPD managed to blow it. The cops in my rural county have never cracked a non-obvious case, and I'm sure they would do much, much worse against Johnny Cochrane.) So, yes, lots of murders are committed by people with no real hope of getting away with it. Some (especially the gang type murders) might be deterred, but now and then you'd have the gang controlling the police...
  • Hmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Kredal (566494) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:43AM (#3652326) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone besides me have a hard time suspending disbelief long enough to get over the idea of "modern neanderthals"? I can't get the image of a guy with a big forehead and a deer leg club going around smashing traffic lights and computers out of my head.

    Either that or the Flintstones... *shrug*
  • I second this review (Score:5, Interesting)

    by caesar-auf-nihil (513828) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:44AM (#3652336)
    Perhaps this may be modded as redundant, but I'll say it anyway. I read this series when it first came out in Analog this year. I looked forward to each issue that came out and read it rapidly.

    What struck me the most about this whole series was the striking differences in our culture and the one developed by the Neanderthal alternate universe culture. Yes, it's fiction, but it did an excellent job pointing out how historical changes can influence generations of culture, beliefs, and technology. For example, the Neanderthals decided to have everyone monitored with personal monitoring devices, so in the event of a crime, there was a 100% chance of proving or disproving who did the crime. The ultimate in police state monitoring, and yet, the entire Neanderthal culture agreed to not abuse this monitoring, and had it set up in such a way that the monitoring would only be accessed during the event of a crime. Privacy wasn't an issue with this culture, so it came as quite a shock to the main Neanderthal when he was transplanted to our universe that we had such issues.

    The parallels and contrasts between such two entirely different, and yet very possible cultures that could have happened here on earth make this series well worth reading. I'm looking forward to more work from the author.

  • And Canadian to boot!

    At CAN-CON, we have had Rob and his wife Carolyn as guests many times, and they are wonderful people. Take the time to listen to either of them if you ever get a chance at a Science Fiction convention.

    And, of course, read his books!

    ttyl
    Farrell

    co-founder of CAN-CON, a conference promoting Canadian SF Writers, Poets, Artists and other creative people for over a decade!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This was serialized in Analog or Asimov's. It was great! The Neandertal's had a much nicer universe in my opinion.

    The "permanent record" non-privacy angle really irked me at first. Then I realized that there were strong safeguards and oversight in place.

    ...Which is what we in the US could benefit greatly from these days. Where's the oversight to all the new ways of watching in the US?
    • Another interesting take on privacy issues as well as copyright issues re: the Internet is David Brin's _Earth_. This isn't my favorite Brin book, but it explores a lot of interesting issues in a new-future basically-our-world setting.
    • i read it in ebook form when it was serialized in analog. i couldn't wait for each month to come out.
    • Those who desire to give up liberty in exchange for security, will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.
    • I also read the serial version (it was in Analog) and found it to be mostly crap. The Neanderthals are all bisexual. They control their population buy allowing opposite sexes to meet only a few days each month. All the Neanderthal women ovulate (and menstrate) at the same time.

      And of course, they live in an eco-paradise. The Neanderthal homes are some kind of biologically sculpted trees. They have a dangerously small population that has somehow survived millenia without being wiped out by disease (apparently the Black Plague missed their quantum reality. It killed 25% of the world's population in ours). They won't eat carbohydrates, only meat (I think) and "fresh fruit and vegetables".

      In short, it's a laughable and completely implausible fantasy about all the things that a far-left hippie imagines would make a better life. That includes the selective breeding program that has (almost) removed violent tendencies from the Neanderthal race.

      Did I mention the homo sapiens female characters in the story? One is a French bombshell and the other is a rape victim. The rape victim requires a total of perhaps 1 week to develop a strong interest in screwing a particular Neanderthal.

      The whole thing is really a pile of junk. If it presented a more realistic culture with some internal consistency, if it presented a believable or appealing cast of characters, and if it it wasn't sodden with "free love", "eco-harmony", and eugenics, it could have been an interesting idea.

      Am I the only one who feels that sci-fi is running out of ideas? We get so many alternate-history and alternate-reality stories these days. How about a story from a future version of *this* universe?
  • by DragonMagic (170846) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:47AM (#3652355) Homepage
    To read more of Sawyer's stories and order autographed copies direct from him, visit:

    http://www.sfwriter.com/ [sfwriter.com]

    Best way to support an author is a direct sale. (:
  • "(who would murder someone knowing fully well that it could be played back by the authorities?)"

    How many here would willingly fight to their own deaths to start a revolution against such an authority? I would.


    • I have to agree. To put monitoring devices on every person, no matter what the safe-guards, is to be one step away from a society without any freedoms at all. Whoever can control and manipulate the implants and the data from the implants can control everyone's lives.



      Unfortunately, the price of freedom is to endure a certain amount of criminal violence. It's great for the Neanderthals that they belong to such an ideologically homogenious population (I assume it is, since they all agree with the monitoring). However, I think it's better to live in an ideologically diverse population, where people are willing to endure freedom and its dangers, as well as its blessings.



      PS, the most heinious violent crimes are performed by people who don't care if they are caught and end up killing themselves afterwards.

  • My little 2c review (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SetarconeX (160251)
    For those who didn't know, the novel was serialized in Analog, starting January 2002, and running for about three issues.

    I know the concept sounds goofy. I wasn't all that keen on reading a "Neanderthals run around Toronto" story either, considering the crap that's been made using plotlines like this in movies.

    Nevertheless, the book's well researched, well written, and altogether enjoyable. You do owe it to yourselves to at least thumb through this one.

    I mean, we all know someone with an Analog subscription, right? Just go bug them for a couple of back issues.

  • by EvilBastard (77954) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @09:53AM (#3652395) Homepage
    It was serialized in the Jan 2002 - Apr 2002 issues of Analog [analogsf.com]

    Not a bad story, but I found it to be a bit too much "Humans Bad, Neanderthals Good" to really accept it. Basically, neanderthals have no Crime, Rape, Theft, Pollution, Overpopulation, and they have far more advanced in many physical sciences.

    The sole good thing he had to say about Humans was we landed on the moon,and then he figured out a way to make us look bad over that.

    Hopefully the future books become a little less one-sided
  • Why is it that every book review featured on Slashdot reads like it was written by an 8th grader following the teacher's "How To Write A Book Report" outline?

    There are never any real opinions or insights in the reviews. They're completely devoid of personality. I might as well read the blurb on the back of the cover.

    • Most books reviewed are either technology books or SF, and they seldom (ever?) reach any level of literary accomplishment.

      The people writing the books don't read magazines like the Atlantic, New Republic, New Yorker, or the NYTimes Review of Books and have no idea what a real book review looks like.

      That being said, the reviews here are occasionally interesting because they tend to summarize what's interesting about the book (SF plot, technical details from tech books).

      I've read plenty of literary reviews that spend half their time describing the review subject's rumored anal sex experiences and how they might have influenced their writing, and that's not always helpful or insightful, either.
  • "Your Honor, I'm just a caveman. Your world frightens and confuses me..."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Wow. I'm an avid fan of Sawyer having read about a third of his work and this is the second book which places a neanderthal in contemporary society. Someone must have mentioned this already, but he must have seen the "I'm just a caveman..." sketches on SNL one too many times.

    For another interesting read on this topic check out his book Frameshift.

    Not only does it include neanderthals, but it also has telepathy, genetic manipulation by a Hunntington's disease patient, and an OSI agent chasing Ivan the Terrible. What else could you want in a Sci.Fi novel...

  • by Buran (150348) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @11:11AM (#3652926)
    I hope this isn't too off-topic. :) But hopefully I can recommend my own favorite (so far) Sawyer novel.

    I've thoroughly enjoyed his Far-Seer [sfwriter.com], which retells the story of Galileo using another planet and society (intelligent dinosaurs, anyone?) to educate. While there are changes in the empirical evidence available, done to compensate for the radically-different setting, the issues presented are the same.

    While I'm already familiar with Galileo's story from reading other accounts of his life, Far-Seer put it into a personal perspective. The wonder of discovery, the process of reasoning how the solar system actually worked (including building on what others had written before) and the shock of being put on trial by society for upsetting the prevailing, comfortable world-view -- they are all here. So, too, is the punishment (again, changed, though I will not spoil it here.)

    The Church didn't apologize to Galileo for 300 years. Give that some thought ...
  • after reading hominids you will realize that it purposefully leaves a lot of loose ends, since it quite likely sets the scene for something big bound to happen on the next two books on the series. So while by itself hominids might not seem like robert sawyer's best (a notion with which i disagree, so far i haven't read a rjs book i didnt like and i prefer not to rate them against each other), do keep in mind that its just the beginning of something that could be good.
  • "Hominids: The Neanderthal Parallax"

    The only word I understood in that sentence is 'the'.
  • by gdulli (177638) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @11:42AM (#3653124) Homepage
    For what it's worth, I've read four of Sawyer's novels and I'd recommend the other three far above this one:

    1. Flashforward [amazon.com]
    2. Calculating God [amazon.com]
    3. Factoring Humanity [amazon.com]
    4. Hominids [amazon.com]
    • Having read all you mentioned except this latest one, I would recommend Illegal Alien as my favorite. It's one of the best legal thrillers I've read in or out of Sci-Fi and Sawyer demonstrates better knowledge of the American legal system than a Canadian should be allowed to possess :).

      The quick synopsis is that aliens crash land on earth and while we attempt to help them repair their ship, a murder is committed and one of the aliens is the prime suspect. Most of the book focuses on the trial.

      K.C.
  • My bad review (Score:3, Informative)

    by HeghmoH (13204) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @01:04PM (#3653604) Homepage Journal
    I'm going to add another dissenting opinion to the mix. I read it serialized in Analog this winter/spring. I enjoyed it enough to finish it, but really not very much.

    First, the good points. The parallel universe is nicely done, well thought-out, and interesting. That's the main reason I continued on. And, um, I guess that's about all.

    Bad points, wooden characters, horrible dialog, the "points" about humanity all boil down to "we're really pretty horrible" and they're made with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

    This is the first Sawyer book I've read. I hope the reviewer isn't right about it being consistent with his usual quality, but I probably won't be hunting out any more of his books any time soon.
  • by eagl (86459) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @01:05PM (#3653613) Journal
    This novel was published in a multi-part format in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine just a few months ago. It definately kept me waiting for the next issue.

    Warning - minor spoiler

    One issue dealt with the book was what happens when the all-knowing personal monitoring system is compromised or degraded. The ultimate ramifications were not completely explored by the end of the novel, but the chink in the armor was exposed.

    Recommended.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Thursday June 06, 2002 @01:33PM (#3653761) Homepage Journal
    If you knew that you were constantly monitored against your will you would commit just as many crimes. Because you would be slowly be degraded to sub human state and in short order you would come to believe that there is nothing in your life that is under your control. As a result you would simply go out and do whatever the fuck you wanted anyway. Might as well have a good time doing bad things.
  • Here [kurzweilai.net] is Sawyer's keynote address at a recent conference. He has a great grasp of the sci-fi landscape, and I'm interested in reading a few of his novels.
  • Correct spelling is Neandertal, not Neanderthal.

    Also, physical charicteristics of Neandertal are no chin, large jawbone (So that excludes Jay Leno), a sagital keel (think like a small bump that runs on the top of your head, where your jaw muscles would attach to), an Supra-Orbital Torus (eyebrow bone. It'd look like it were jutting out quite a bit), as well as strong, big neck muscles (charicterized by an Occipital bun on the back of the head.)

    It is shown that Neandertal and Archaic Homo Sapiens lived during the same time, hell, evidence suggests that they lived close to each other. Campsites, tool kits (shared traits in those tool kits - i.e. Blades, Lavolla flaked hand tools like awls and needles)... It's possible that Neandertal did survive (according to my biological anthropology class) but rather unlikely. Neandertal is a different species and unable to produce viable offspring w/ Homo Sapiens Sapiens (see definition of species [dictionary.com]). So I wouldn't worry too much about them trying to score the chicks with their hairy basketball player looks (Hack a Shaq indeed)
  • just like any other artform, the most relevant and hard core performers of Science Fiction are the least visible. Now people who get pushed onto bookstore shelves like crichton and sawyer and clark all used to write damn good sci fi, but after years of being placated have grown soft and lossed the edge that allowed them to write competantly in the passed. if you like the multi-universe quantum stories than may i recommend Greg Egan

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

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