Humans (Neanderthal Parallax Series #2)

Humans (Neanderthal Parallax Series #2)

by Robert J. Sawyer


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Neanderthal physicist Ponder Boddit, a character you will never forget, returns to our world and to his relationship with geneticist Mary Vaughn, in this sequel to Hominids, winner of the Hugo Award for best novel, as cultural exchanges between the two Earths begin.

Robert J. Sawyer, an award-winning and bestselling writer, hits the peak of his powers in this trilogy about our world and a parallel one in which Neanderthals became the dominant intelligent species. This powerful idea allows Sawyer to examine some of the deep-rooted assumptions of contemporary human civilization, by confronting us with another civilization, just as morally valid, that made other choices. As we see daily life in a present-day world that is radically different from ours, we experience the bursts of wonder and enlightenment that are the finest pleasures of science fiction.

Humans is a 2004 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765326331
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 07/06/2010
Series: Neanderthal Parallax Series , #2
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 307,030
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About 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.

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.

Table of Contents

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Humans (Neanderthal Parallax Series #2) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 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.
bethlea on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Hominids interact with humans. Compares different societies.
MSWallack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Humans wasn't quite as good as Hominids, probably because the situation was no longer quite so new. However, Humans was still a terrific book that took the characters and ideas from Hominids and explored their relationships and concepts with ever greater depth and passion. Another excellent read.
iftyzaidi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Humans turns out to be a somewhat tepid follow-up to the fascinating Hominids. The story picks up where it left off in the previous book and revolves around the growing relationship between the Neanderthal Ponter and the human Mary (technically Neanderthals are also human, but for brevity¿s sake I'm using the term to stand for Homo Sapiens). Mary travels with Ponter to her world as the portal between the two alternate Earths is opened up for trade. There we get a closer look at Neanderthal society as Mary tries to adjust to its norms. Ponter also finds that he has to come to term with how his time on our Earth and his love for Mary has changed him.In terms of plot structure and inventiveness, Humans is inferior to its predecessor. Ponter and Mary aside, the other supporting characters don¿t develop at all and seem to recede into the background. None of the new characters take on three dimensions. We don¿t see much of Neanderthal society that we haven¿t already seen before. Even the social and political ramifications of the establishment of links between the two worlds is avoided altogether. The only plot threads with any weight are those of the love between Ponter and Mary and Ponter¿s growing ambiguity about religion ¿ a concept he had initially dismissed as illogical and even detrimental to the functioning of a well-adjusted society. These are interesting themes but neither are handled well enough to give the book the kind of depth and pull of Hominids.This is not to say that Humans is a poor read. Sawyer¿s prose is as fluid and easy on the eye as ever, and our interest in this interweaving of the two Earths carries over from the first book. The urge to discover what happens next provides a powerful incentive to keep reading. All in all, it¿s a decent read and forms a bridge to the third book that is sufficiently entertaining, for the reader to want to complete the journey.
angharad_reads on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second book of three in the "Neanderthal Parallax" series, which begins with Hominids. Most of the action takes place on "our" earth.
laileana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just read a fantastic book trilogy by Robert J. Sawyer. It is sci fi and works on the premise of multiple universes-kind of the same idea as that tv show Sliders. Well, the two universes in this triligy are both on earth-one earth is the world as we know it today-the other earth is populated in a reality where Neanderthals became the dominate species and man died out. During an experiment in the Neanderthal world-they are more technically advanced than us- a member of that world is transfered into ours. His name is Ponter Boddit and he is as surprised to be here as we are to have him here. The first book introduces him and his society. Neanderthals are environmentally friendly-no gasoline powered anything, no agriculture-which means little disease as we know it, very clean, sparsely populated the planet-do not even live all over the planet, peaceful, loving, kind, totally cool society. They are bisexual. Each adult takes a same sex and opposite sex mate-not everyone but most. To control population children are born only every ten years. To ensure that, men live with men and women live with women and only come together for 4 days a month when "two become one". Violence and many forms of inherited disease have been bred out. A violent criminal is sterilized-so is eveyrone else containing 50% of his DNA-that means parents, siblings and children. Scary, yet effective.It is fascinating and light sci fi-for those non-technical people-such as myself. the characters are fantastic-definetely fully dimensional, life like and well realized. The story is implausible but definetely makes you think about where our species is headed.
john257hopper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A generally pretty good sequel to Hominids. There are some further interesting discussions between characters about differences in human and Neanderthal customs, attitudes and technological development. However, unlike its predecessor, there isn't a great deal of action throughout much of the book, the main focus being on Ponter Boddit's growing relationship with Mary and the conundrums and tensions this throws up. The ending was rather unpleasant. Given the sex scene in this novel, and the fact that the third one is called Hybrids, it's fairly obvious what that will be about!
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.
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