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Humans: Volume Two of the Neanderthal Parallax

(Book #2 in the Neanderthal Parallax Series)

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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... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

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Modern humans and Neanderthals try to relate.

Humans, by Robert Sawyer, is volume 2 in his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy. In volume one, two parallel universes were discovered in which modern humans existed as normal, but in the other, Neanderthal became the dominant humans while we had become extinct. Neanderthal advanced to a very high level and, in a scientific lab accident, created a portal between our two parallel universes inadvertently sending one of their own into our world. The contact between him and us and the efforts made to return to his universe was the story line of volume one. In this volume, a dozen of Neanderthal’s finest scientists, artists, philosophers, government representatives, etc., pass through a device which they have created which keeps a portal open between their universe and our universe so the two worlds can pass between each other. This was in an effort to establish diplomatic contact and create a cultural exchange program of sorts to the mutual benefit of both worlds. The second volume of any trilogy is frequently not as good as the first volume and this one is no exception. The uniqueness of the story is established in the first volume and the climax comes in the third volume. So, what is left for the second volume? Character development? Not really much here. Plot thickening? I can’t really say so. There is a lot of human bashing going on in this volume, especially in conversations between Ponter Boddit, the Neanderthal, and Dr. Mary Vaughan, his human love interest. In these conversations everything from our exploitation of the environment to America’s involvement in Vietnam were criticized. One interesting point was discussed regarding humanity’s Agricultural Revolution. As the conversation went, one byproduct on it was overpopulation (in comparison to Neanderthal populations, who remained hunter/gatherers). Forests were chopped down for more farmlands, and animals were domesticated. A byproduct of this was various diseases associated with domesticated animals. Furthermore, a byproduct of agriculture was slavery, to provide the necessary labor force, in its various forms, such as sharecropping, peonage, feudalism, etc. The implication is such that we are destroying our world slowly but surely. This reminded me a lot of Elisabeth Kolbert’s book, The Sixth Extinction, in which she convincingly argues that we are, in fact, experiencing the world’s sixth mass extinction. If so, did our own Agricultural Revolution plant the seeds – sort of speak – of this mass extinction? I disagree with some of the harsh criticisms from other reviewers of this book, it is still an enjoyable read.

Every bit as good as its Hugo-winning predecessor

I picked up this book with great trepidation. HOMINIDS, the prequel, had been just fine on its own. I didn't think it needed a sequel and I was afraid that this book would somehow lessen the impact of that one. But my fears were misplaced. If anything, HUMANS is an even better book than HOMINIDS. It concentrates on the relationship between Ponter and Mary and so is a very character driven tale--almost a science fiction love story. But there's still plenty of science and big ideas. Not quite sure this one stands on its own, but it definitely is a worthwhile followup to HOMINIDS.

Bridging the divide

With HUMANS, the second volume in the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, Sawyer is drawing the reader deep into the parallel worlds of Mary Vaughan and Ponter Bobbit. Most people who delve into the story will have read HOMINIDS and understand the basic philosophical and scientific concepts presented. Those who have not would be well advised to pick up the first volume before getting too deeply into this one. Otherwise they may miss out on depth and complexity of what is presented.HUMANS is a very entertaining read, fast paced and engaging. There are also very funny moments. The two key representatives, Mary, from "our" Earth and Ponter, from the Neanderthals' universe, continue to explore their respective realities in a multitude of ways. Ponter `returns' to Canada and Mary has the opportunity to explore the `other side'. Their continuing dialogue and interaction form the centrepiece of the novel. Subjects range from such topical scientific questions as the impact of the possible collapse the Earth's magnetic field to the exploration of societal structures and human relationships. Above all, discussions return regularly to Mary's religious side of life. Ponter, having reflected on faith as a conundrum for a Neanderthal scientist ever since he left this earth, becomes more deeply drawn to the question of spirituality and morality on his return visit. Sawyer introduces new players to complement the set of characters well know from HOMINIDS. In particular, the Neanderthal women round off the depiction of life in their world. The global leadership in the Neanderthal's universe, the High Gray Council, deliberates at length whether to reopen the portal to the "Gliksin" world. The opportunities of this new kind of globalization are too tempting to miss. Tentative exploration of cultural, commerce and scientific exchange, however, does not turn out as easy as the proponents might have liked and even anticipated. But then, there is the last volume in the trilogy to clear up and explain all the "ox-uh-mor-ons" encountered. [Friederike Knabe, Ottawa Canada]

Great characters, great story

Sawyer's evolved Neanderthal Ponter Boddit, a quantum physicist and philosopher of all things, is one of the most memorable characters in recent sci-fi. This book is part love story, part big-concept sci-fi. You can read it as either a tour de force of world building or as delicious social comment, and it succeeds either way (unlike, say, PLANET OF THE APES or ANIMAL FARM, which are superb as the latter but don't bear scrutiny as the former). Give HUMANS a try. You won't be disappointed.

Many Facets of Science in One

Rare is the speculative fiction author who deals with one or two types of speculation in a given book, and does it this well. Sawyer has in his Neanderthal series included quantum computing, quantum mechanics, anthropology, archeology, environmental science, psychology, sociology and just plain good story telling.

A great continuation of a fabulous trilogy...

Robert J Sawyer has written over 10 novels now and each one has taken me in a new direction, but unkikle most modern SF, the directions Sawyer's books take take are not, necessarily, external. Although Sawyer's novels fall firmly into the speculative/science fiction category, it is the thought-provoking philosophical situations that keep drawing me back.His newest book, Humans, is no different. Following up the first volume of the parallax trilogy (Hominids), Humans tells the story of an alternate earth - one on which neanderthals became the dominant species, not humans. In this world, though geography is the same as present-day earth, the direction that scientific development has taken is much different from that of humans. In Hominids, through an accident of quantum physics, a portal opens up between our earth and the parallel earth of the neanderthals. A neanderthal physicist (Ponter Bodditt) slips through the portal and experiences what our version of earth is like. This begins what will eventually become a large-scale pursuance of cross-dimensional exchange.Humans tells the continuing story of Ponter and his relations with a human geneticist on our earth. Using Ponter's "Stranger in a Strange Land" style arrival on earth, Sawyer manages to brilliantly call into question elements of our society that we may take for granted. using the unique perspective of an educated outsider, Sawyer makes the reader think about the worth of agriculture, nationalism and privacy among other things. But where others have failed, Sawyer's philosophical musings succeed in their ability to not bog down the action in Humans. Fast-paced, thought-provoking and very well-written, Robert Sawyer has given us another great piece of speculation. I can't wait for the final book in the trilogy.
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