BONUS AUDIO: Author Robert J. Sawyer explains why one particular chapter of Humans is his very favorite.
Hunt and gather: listen to more in the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy.
©2003 by Robert J. Sawyer; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.
"Sawyer is a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation." (The New York Times)
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"Humans Bad Neanderthal Good"
The first book was better. This book the author decided the political statement was more important than the story. Thus everything Neanderthal is good and everything Human is bad. We ruined the planet, we are violent and constantly at war while the Neanderthal has done away with violence and war. Of course they have no privacy because their every move and even thought is recorded and stored in the alibi archive for the government to use against the Neanderthal if something happens.
So take you pick our over crowded, violent, dirty world with no mamoths and free will and privacy, or theirs in which everyone is in tune with nature, resources are plentify, violence has been bred out of the population and your every move is monitored by the government.
It is clear that the author intended to write another book. The ending is left hanging.
Obviously it needs one to close up all the loose ends.
"Entertaining AND Educational!"
I've always been interested in Evolution and have enjoyed fiction focusing on Neanderthals and our relationship with them way back when. I really debated whether or not to take a chance on these books (I'm half way thru the 2nd book, Humans, as I type) and I'm so glad I did. I love the actual science and feel like I'm learning so much. I love the characters too. Ponter and Mary are carrying the story so well. This idea of what could have happened or might still happen has me "thinking" so much about religion and politics and life in general. I love it when a book makes me think like this. Can't wait to finish Humans and then start on Hybrid. This author, Mr. Sawyer, must be one fascinating MIND.
Bottom line is... Go for it! Take a chance. Not many will regret the opportunity to think outside the box. It's really a treat to be so entertained while learning so much.
"Missed the Mark"
Sadly Mr. Sawyer completely misunderstood what made volume one of his series excellent. I say sadly because volume one did not try to feed opinions down the reader's throat but instead presented two civilizations each of which was equally flawed, and most importantly Mr. Sawyer did not make it obvious what their flaws were. He didn't tell me what to think; he let me decide. Book one was quite simply good science fiction; it made its point by creating likable characters and creating a plot written for adults.
Book 2 of the series, Humans, lacks everything the first had. As I listened to the audio book I was tortured by long periods of time where I felt the author was insulting my intelligence, and the times he wasn't insulting he was quite simply boring. And gosh almighty he made the heroine a stupid dimwit in book two. Also, if I wanted to listen to long sermons on atheism I'd rather listen to more eloquent authors such as Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion. Mr. Sawyer can't even preach to the choir convincingly.
Book one compared fictional society with specific people; and book two tried to tell me stuff about human society that made me feel it was being told by a thirteen year old who thought I would be shocked because he was shocked, but instead bored me to misery.
Worst of all for the author he had an introduction to the audio book where he told me that this book two was his best book he ever wrote and that it had the best sex scene in science fiction. First nobody should tell me what to think of a book before I read it, and second only a fool would try to sell his book saying it had a good sex scene.
And as someone who's been reading science fiction for at least three decades I'd have to say this book had the most boring and immaturely told sex scene I've ever read.
Audible.com has delighted me with wonderful trilogies such as Hyperion, Ender's Game and more. But for Hominids I do wish I'd have stopped after book one.
"Enjoyable and Engaging!"
A fast-paced story with an interesting premise, the Neanderthal Parallax (set largely in Canada... Huzzah!) is an easy and engaging read. The narrator of the audio version brings the characters to life well, and the hours pass quickly. My choice to give it four stars is only in comparison to the first book in the series, but all three are definitely recommended.
"Un-ending social commentary, not sci-fi"
This first book in this series was very good. I love books about alternate timelines and this story about an alternate universe with Neanderthals as the dominant species was a great premise. However, the second and third books give up the science fiction and become social commentary books. In both the second and third installments are long dialogs about what I assume to be the author's pet peeves. Among the things the author seems to dislike are Americans, males, religions (especially Catholocism), conservative viewpoints, and personal ownership of vehicles and property, to name a few. His likes are women, Canadians, gays, lesbians, athiests, and environmentalists. SPOILER ALERT He also seems to come down heavily in favor of castrating rapists, which fits into his "woman are good, men are bad" mantra that he cyles over and over and over in his second and third installment. END SPOILER ALERT. Unfortunately, even if you agree with his viewpoints, his story is boring. There is not enough action, far too much commentary, and the main character, Mary, while competent in the first book, becomes shallow and vapid as the series progresses.
"Great Science Fiction!"
Let your imagination carry you to a world based upon...hunting/gathering, a stable population, the rhythm method (don't frown, they have lots of sex), long term contribution to society, experience prized over strength, science moves forward thru cooperation and without prejudices, violence is not tolerated, crime is very rare yet there is tremendous freedom for all, all life is precious, a very green world. Wait, don't think this is utopia; there are problems, big ones; but what interesting notions thru which to examine our own world. These books examine many foundational ideas/beliefs/principles that we take for granted; stand them on their heads and paints one (of the many possible) picture of what may fall out. The narration is excellent; distinct character voices, perfect pace, and precise pauses to let your mind extrapolate on the image/ideas. I have never written a review but was compelled to write this to give some balance to the reviews of this great trilogy. I agree Hominids was the best and I give it 4.4 stars with Humans and Hybrids close behind with 3.8 stars each (of course I have to fit into the !format! given and round all to 4); but they should really be all taken together as a whole. It probably would have been a really great but long single book. But I understand Sawyer has to pay his bills (and I want him to eat so he writes more books) also there is some suspense in breaking up a good tale. Lastly I have been listening to audio books for over 25 years and what you will enjoy is very personal, highly dependent on where you've been, where you are in life and what happened yesterday and today. So take all the reviews with a bucket of salt; listen/read to lots of different authors/narrators/genre/old books/new books/fiction/nonfiction and determine for yourself what You like/believe/and want to expand upon.
I know there have been quite a few somewhat negative reviews here. They think the story is too preachy about God, religion, guns, and perhaps law. Because this story involves two cultures discovering one another I think those are appropriate discussions. I enjoyed there discoveries. I would recommend you get this continuation- book 2. I will be downloading book 3 now. Enjoy!
"Wanted to love it, but..."
A lot of people have commented on the politics and religion in this series. My dislike isn't at all due to the inclusion of controversial topics, but rather due to the heavy-handed approach the author took to those issues. Among other problems, he apparently has not learned the show-don't-tell maxim regarding writing, which is what makes his coverage of ethical issues feel so preachy and off-putting (and as a politically-liberal female scientist, born in the US and raised in Canada, and a sexual assault survivor, I'm probably the choir he thinks he's preaching to). Benign example: cop is shouting/yelling at Ponter and then Sawyer writes "two more cops had appeared at the entrance to the interrogation room, presumably coming in the response to the shouts." The bit about presumably coming in response to the shouts is unnecessary. And since Sawyer does that with ethical issues - instead of just describing the responses and actions of the characters and letting the reader think about them, he "explains" them- it gets old fast. His characters are also incredibly stereotyped and one dimensional. He doesn't address the various nonsensical aspects of his characters either (ie. violence supposedly having been bred out of the neanderthals and yet in the only two current-day examples included in the books, they choose violence).
The premise is intriguing, which is what got me to halfway through book 2 before giving up, but that's about all I can say as a positive, aside from the narrator, who is fine.
"Neanderthals and Humans Unite!"
Similar to its preceding book, Humans is a technically smooth novel with a pleasing style. Unlike its preceding book, Hominids, this installment mixes it up a bit. The running plot is framed by Ponter's session with a personality sculpture (what we would call a shrink in our universe)
At first the story focuses primarily on Ponter Bonditt and Tukana Pratt, who are Neanderthals from Earth from a parallel universe visiting Earth from the universe we know. With the portal between the Neanderthal world and ours is permanently reopened, Tukana works to build trade and information exchange between our two societies.
Running midway through the story, about a hundred pages in, the pacing changes and focus shifts to Ponter Bonditt and Mary Vaughn. Accompanied by Ponter, Mary travels to the Neanderthal universe and navigates the cultural and ideological differences between the peoples of the two universes.
things I especially liked:
- The various technologies from the parallel world; alibi archive, companion implant, transportation cube, and personal shield.
- The Neanderthals lack of sexual discrimination.
- The world-building of the Neanderthal universe; identical to Earth yet different.
- The concept, explanation, and examples of man-mate and woman-mate.
- The idea of sterilization as the form of punishment for serious crimes, not just for the aggressor, but any family member who share more than fifty percent of their genes with the aggressor.
- Tukana the Neanderthal ambassador to Earth.
things I didn't mind:
- The religion aspect. Not that it was preachy or uninteresting.
- The personality sculpture was, at first, intrusive. Eventually, as we move past the second half of the book, he was less interruptive.
- Rape as drama.
- The Vietnam Memorial scene.
things I could have done without:
- The length at which religion was discussed and debated, particularly midway through the story.
things I didn't expect or made me shake my head:
- Although I expected the (male-to-female) rape was to be covered, the (male-to-male) rape caught me with, umm, with my pants down.
- All the steamy sex about halfway through the story. For a bit there, I thought I was reading a Harlequin romance novel. The scene was quite descriptive.
My rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)
"Wonderful story and a great listen"
I'm really enjoying this world created by Sawyer. It's complex, full of interesting people, and I can't wait to continue the adventure!
"ok book 1 better"
I did not find this quite so good as the first book in the trilogy but worth listening to and I liked it enogh to carry on with the third book.
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