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Humans (Neanderthal Parallax Series #2)

Humans (Neanderthal Parallax Series #2)

4.4 27
by Robert J. Sawyer

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Robert J. Sawyer, the award-winning and bestselling writer, hits the peak of his powers in Humans, the second book of The Neanderthal Parallax, his trilogy about our world and parallel one in which it was the Homo sapiens who died out and the Neanderthals who became the dominant intelligent species. This powerful idea allows Sawyer to examine some of


Robert J. Sawyer, the award-winning and bestselling writer, hits the peak of his powers in Humans, the second book of The Neanderthal Parallax, his trilogy about our world and parallel one in which it was the Homo sapiens who died out and the Neanderthals who became the dominant intelligent species. This powerful idea allows Sawyer to examine some of the deeply rooted assumptions of contemporary human civilization dramatically, by confronting us with another civilization, just as morally valid, that has made other choices. In Humans, Neanderthal physicist Ponter Boddit, a character you will never forget, returns to our world and to his relationship with geneticist Mary Vaughan, as cultural exchanges between the two Earths begin.

As we see daily life in another present-day world, radically different from ours, in the course of Sawyer's fast-moving story, we experience the bursts of wonder and enlightenment that are the finest pleasures of science fiction. Humans is one of the best SF novels of the year, and The Neanderthal Parallax is an SF classic in the making.

Humans is a 2004 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this solid sequel to Hominids (2002), the much-praised first volume in Sawyer's Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, which introduced an alternate Earth where for reasons unknown our species, Homo sapiens, went extinct and Neanderthals flourished, Neanderthal physicist Ponder Boddit brings Canadian geneticist Mary Vaughan back to his world to explore the near-utopian civilization of the Neanderthals. Boddit serves as a Candide figure, the naive visitor whose ignorance about our society makes him a perfect tool to analyze human tendencies toward violence, over-population and environmental degradation. The Neanderthals have developed a high artistic, ethical and scientific culture without ever inventing farming-they're still hunters and gatherers-and this allows the author to make some interesting and generally unrecognized points about the downside of the discovery of agriculture. Much of the novel is devoted to either the discussion of ideas such as these or to Boddit and Vaughan's developing love affair. Sawyer keeps things moving by throwing in an attempted assassination, his protagonists' confrontation with a rapist and, on a larger scale, the growing danger of what appears to be the imminent reversal of Earth's magnetic field. As the middle volume in a trilogy, this book doesn't entirely stand on its own, but it is extremely well done. When complete, the Neanderthal Parallax should add significantly to Sawyer's reputation. (Feb. 26) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this sequel to Hominids (p. 712), Sawyer sends a Neanderthal physicist from an alternate Earth back to our Earth only to discover what rotters Homosapiens really are. Umpteen years ago, Neanderthals evolved into the dominant primate species on Earth, displacing humans entirely. They’re now a tightly controlled, relatively small species that prizes rationality, control, and science above all. When physicist Ponder Boddit returns to Earth through a wormhole-like interdimensional portal, he’s not just fascinated by the crowded, smelly chaos that humans have made of it, but also wants to meet up again with geneticist Mary Vaughn. Herself oddly attracted to the brilliant, hairy, ridiculously muscled, heavy-browed Boddit, Vaughn wonders: If the two of them made love, would it be considered bestiality? Ultimately, more Neanderthals come through the tunnel and are paraded before the United Nations, while Vaughn goes to the Neanderthal Earth and learns of their ways. Boddit, like all the males, has a same-sex lover, and both are baffled by Vaughn’s jealousy. Veteran author Sawyer certainly knows his way around anthropological debates, but he’s less skilled as a dramatist. Events unfold in a jumbled, random manner, and little tension or interest in the story gets developed. The last of this trilogy is promised, but it’s hard to imagine why.
From the Publisher

“The biggest job of science fiction is to portray the Other. To help us imagine the strange and see the familiar in eerie new ways. Nobody explores this territory more boldly than Robert Sawyer.” —David Brin on Humans

Hominids is anthropological fiction at its best.” —W. Michael Gear & Kathleen O'Neal Gear, USA Today-bestselling authors of Raising Abel

“A rapidly plotted, anthropologically saturated speculative novel . . . [with] Sawyer-signature wide appeal.” —The Globe & Mail on Hominids

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Neanderthal Parallax Series , #2
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

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Read an Excerpt


By Sawyer, Robert J.

Tor Books

Copyright © 2003 Sawyer, Robert J.
All right reserved.

Chapter One
It was Mary Vaughan's final evening in Sudbury, and she was experiencing decidedly mixed feelings.
She had no doubt that getting out of Toronto had done her good. After what had happened down there--My God, she thought, had it really only been two weeks ago?--leaving town, getting away from all the things that would have reminded her of that horrible night, was surely the right course. And although it had ended on a melancholy note, she wouldn't have traded her time here with Ponter Boddit for anything.
There was an unreal quality to her recollections; it all seemed so fantastic. And yet there were countless photographs and videos and even some X rays to prove that it had really happened. A modern Neanderthal from a parallel version of Earth had somehow slipped into this universe. Now that he was gone, Mary hardly believed it herself.
But it had happened. Ponter had really been here, and she had indeed...
Was she overstating it? Magnifying it in her mind?
No. No, it was indeed what had occurred.
She had come to love Ponter, maybe even to be in love with him.
If only she'd been whole, complete, unviolated, untraumatized, perhaps things would have been different. Oh, she'd still have fallen for the big guy--of that she was sure--but when he'd reached out and touched her hand that night while they were looking up at the stars, she wouldn't havefrozen.
It had been too soon, she'd told him the next day. Too soon after...
She hated the word; hated to think it, to say it.
Too soon after the rape.
And tomorrow she had to go back home, back to where that rape had occurred, back to the campus of Toronto's York University, and her old life of teaching genetics.
Her old life of being alone.
She'd miss many things about Sudbury. She'd miss the lack of traffic congestion. She'd miss the friends she'd made here, including Reuben Montego and, yes, even Louise Benoît. She'd miss the relaxed atmosphere of tiny Laurentian University, where she'd done her mitochondrial DNA studies that had proven Ponter Boddit was indeed a Neanderthal.
But, most of all, she realized, as she stood at the side of the country road looking up at the clear night sky, she'd miss this. She'd miss seeing stars in a profusion beyond counting. She'd miss seeing the Andromeda galaxy, which Ponter had identified for her. She'd miss seeing the Milky Way, arching overhead.
She'd especially miss this: the aurora borealis, flickering and weaving across the northern sky, pale green sheets of light, ghostly curtains.
Mary had indeed hoped to catch another glimpse of the aurora tonight. She'd been on her way back from Reuben Montego's place out in Lively (hah!), where she'd had a final barbecue dinner with him and Louise, and she'd pulled over at the side of the road specifically to look up at the night sky.
The heavens were cooperating. The aurora was breathtaking.
She'd forever associate the northern lights with Ponter. The only other time she'd seen them had been with him. She felt an odd sensation in her chest, the expanding feeling that went with awe battling the contracting sensation that accompanied sadness.
The lights were beautiful.
He was gone.
A cool green glow bathed the landscape as the aurora continued to flicker and dance, aspens and birches silhouetted in front of the spectacle, their branches waving slightly in the gentle August breeze.
Ponter had said he often saw the aurora. Partly that was because his cold-adapted people preferred more northerly latitudes than did the humans of this world.
Partly, too, it was because the phenomenal Neanderthal sense of smell and their ever-vigilant Companion implants made it safe to be out even in the dark; Ponter's hometown of Saldak, located at the same place in his world as Sudbury was in this world, didn't illuminate its streets at night.
And partly it was because the Neanderthals used clean solar power for most of their energy needs, rendering their skies far less polluted than the ones here.
Mary had made it to her current age of thirty-eight before seeing the aurora, and she didn't anticipate any reason to come back to Northern Ontario, so tonight, she knew, might well be the last time she'd ever see the undulating northern lights.
She drank in the view.
Some things were the same on both versions of Earth, Ponter had said: the gross details of the geography, most of the animal and plant species (although the Neanderthals, never having indulged in overkilling, still had mammoths and moas in their world), the broad strokes of the climate. But Mary was a scientist: she understood all about chaos theory, about how the beating of a butterfly's wing was enough to affect weather systems half a world away. Surely just because there was a clear sky here on this Earth didn't mean the same was true on Ponter's world.
But if the weather did happen to coincide, perhaps Ponter was also looking up at the night sky now.
And perhaps he was thinking of Mary.
Ponter would, of course, be seeing precisely the same constellations, even if he gave them different names--nothing terrestrial could possibly have disturbed the distant stars. But would the auroras be the same? Did butterflies or people have any effect on the choreography of the northern lights? Perhaps she and Ponter were looking at the exact same spectacle--a curtain of illumination waving back and forth, the seven bright stars of the Big Dipper (or, as he would call it, the Head of the Mammoth) stretching out above.
Why, he might even right now be seeing the same shimmying to the right, the same shimmying to the left, the same--
Mary felt her jaw drop.
The auroral curtain was splitting down the middle, like aquamarine tissue paper being torn by an invisible hand. The fissure grew longer, wider, starting at the top and moving toward the horizon. Mary had seen nothing like that on the first night she'd looked up at the northern lights.
The sheet finally separated into two halves, parting like the Red Sea before Moses. A few--they looked like sparks, but could they really be that?--arced between the halves, briefly bridging the gap. And then the half on the right seemed to roll up from the bottom, like a window blind being wound onto its dowel, and, as it did so, it changed colors, now green, now blue, now violet, now orange, now turquoise.
And then in a flash--a spectral burst of light--that part of the aurora disappeared.
The remaining sheet of light was swirling now, as if it were being sucked down a drain in the firmament. As it spun more and more rapidly, it flung off gouts of cool green fire, a pin-wheel against the night.
Mary watched, transfixed. Even if this was only her second night actually observing the aurora, she'd seen countless pictures of the northern lights over the years in books and magazines. She'd known those still images hadn't done justice to the spectacle; she'd read how the aurora rippled and fluttered.
But nothing had prepared her for this.
The vortex continued to contract, growing brighter as it did so, until finally, with--did she really hear it?--with what sounded like a pop, it vanished.
Mary staggered backward, bumping up against the cold metal of her rented Dodge Neon. She was suddenly aware that the forest sounds around her--insects and frogs, owls and bats--had fallen silent, as if every living thing was looking up in wonder.
Mary's heart was pounding, and one thought kept echoing through her head as she climbed into the safety of her car.
I wonder if it's supposed to do that...
Copyright 2003 by Robert J. Sawyer


Excerpted from Humans by Sawyer, Robert J. Copyright © 2003 by Sawyer, Robert J.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Robert J. Sawyer is the author of the Neanderthal Parallax series, including the Hugo Award-winning Hominids. He won the Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment and the Aurora Award for FlashForward, basis for the ABC TV series. He is also the author of the WWW series—Wake, Watch and Wonder—and many other books. He was born in Ottawa and lives in Toronto.

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Humans (Neanderthal Parallax Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm delighted to report that Humans did pick up where Hominids left off. Volume II relies less on technical and scientific data - although that ground is covered in effective and interesting ways - and more on Neanderthal interaction with Homo Sapiens and their two very different worlds. Ponter Boddit, the Neanderthal physicist, is reunited with the paleoanthropologist Mary Vaughan and made an official envoy to the parallel world she lives in. Despite polluted air, filthy cities, and human over-population, Ponter sees a goodness in his Homo Sapien counterparts. He believes there is hope for their world, and that both Mary's people and his can benefit each other with their knowledge. To that end, he and his friend Adikor create another portal and figure out a way to keep it open, more or less permanently. To Mary's way of thinking, Ponter is a gentle hearted man, quite appealing in his guileless fascination with her world. This time around, Ponter learns a great deal more about Homo Sapiens and their history. He's shocked to witness the results of terrorism and war, horrified to learn that millions died in battle, and infuriated to know that Mary's rapist has thus far gone unpunished. And Two finally become One - Ponter's euphemism for making love - on a night that both he and Mary find educational and immensely satisfying. New relationships are formed and old ones shattered as Ponter accepts that he's in love with a female not of his species. Jealousies and very human failings are acted out on both sides of the portal. Mary visits Ponter's world, enthralled by the peace and untainted atmosphere she finds there. And Ponter demonstrates Neanderthal justice in a way no rapist could ever forget. All in all, it was a fascinating read as explorations and information gathering between the worlds begins. As is Mr. Sawyer's hallmark, Humans is well-researched and written with panache. The Neanderthal Parallax is fantasy that reads as very real. I strongly recommend it to mature adolescents and adults. (There is some strong sexual content in this book.) Volume III is due out in September. That's too long to wait. The name alone promises an exciting finale - Hybrids.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Scotman55 More than 1 year ago
Volume 2 of Sawyer’s Neanderthal trilogy was pretty good. I think where it fails is in its making this reader curious about the events of the two cultures clashing nicely and then shifts over to a soap opera of sorts. That, I was not thrilled with! The book picks up where Volume 1, Hominids, left off. Humans could somewhat stand on its own, but go ahead and read Hominids first. It was fun to read about Ponter and the new ambassador and how they deal with the alternate Earth (us). As the story goes on, there is an assassination attempt (which fails) and the solution the ambassador has for the assassin is surprising to say the least. Instead of shutting down the “portal” between the two worlds, the ambassador brings over the best and brightest of their generation to our Earth for further cultural exchange. She guesses rightly that the High Gray Council would not shut it down and leave them stranded. This was great! I could hardly wait to see how our Earth scientists, sports fiends, artists and so on deal with the new and exciting world of the Neantherdal. And then he drops it. Sawyer drops it. Oh my! Throughout the narration we have Ponter talking to his shrink (“personality sculptor”) which I thought a good vehicle from which we could quickly move through the story. The rest of the book however deals with Mary’s frustration and guilt she feels over a rape that happened back on Volume One, and Ponter’s response to it. We also have Mary falling madly in love with our caveman with a somewhat explicit sex scene in a hotel room. But the love triangle of sorts – man-mates, woman-mates, Mary, her lover, and what about the rapist and her ex, all come together. Hey, what happened to all those artists and scientists? Bottom Line: The book flows well, easy to read and Sawyer sets us up to get the skinny on the relationships between a human and a Neanderthal. But why keep us guessing on the other stuff? Plot points dropped, questions lay waiting for answers. Recommended for only the most rabid of Sawyer fans. But hey, I’ll read Hybrids anyway. I want to see what happens next!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent continuation of Hominids. The characters and the Neanderthal society are very well done. Mary Vaughn's reactions to that society and Ponter are very believeable. The Neanderthals do seem a bit too good to be true, but that's O.K. in this sort of book, which is intended, I think, to have us thinking about ourselves.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The baseline plot for this series is a great idea with vast potential. That is the reason that I, and I'm sure many other, SF buffs decided to read it. However, the author has contaminated this series with environmental ideals, political agendas, criminality critiques, racism rationalities, sexist views, and any other contraversial opinion you can think of. When your done with all the pontification your left with a couple of pages of real science fiction. If your a white male this book is certain to make you feel inadequate if not criminal. This book gets two stars only for the storyline.