From Publishers Weekly
In his latest novel, Dickinson tells of two girls whose lives are linked, though they are born more than two million years apart. Along with its dual heroines, this tale has two objectives: one is to entertain, and the other is to elaborate on a controversial theory of evolution. The story's present-day protagonist is Vinny, who is spending the summer on a dig in Africa with her taphonomist father. In the same part of the world but deep in "our furthest possible past, which is like looking at a group of people far off across a flat, hot plain" lives Li, a hominid who lives with the rest of her tribe by the shores of a vast sea. The inquisitive Li's knack for inventing new and better ways to do things--along with her rapport with a school of dolphins--makes her the unwilling prize in a struggle between two dominant males. Likewise, in her own time, Vinny becomes the center of a dispute between her father and the dig's arrogant leader. Hefty doses of scientific speculation, a plot rife in coincidence, a school of helpful dolphins, and a decidedly feminist slant are the sort of ingredients that, in less capable hands, could result in a New Age muddle. Here, however, the narrative is gripping, and Dickinson's shrewd observation of the interaction between males and females--in both the present and the past--is easily as compelling as his exploration of the intriguing sea-ape theory. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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From Kirkus Reviews
Dickinson (AK, etc.) returns to his native Africa for an imaginative look at humanity's dawn, postulating a male-dominated tribe of ape-like hominids who depend on the sea for food, have no tools, and communicate with calls that are not yet language. (In one of several scrupulous parenthetical explanations, Dickinson apologizes for the names he gives them as a fictional convenience.) ``Li'' has a genius surpassing Edison's: she not only invents useful devices (a net to catch minnows, a splint for a broken leg) but is the catalyst for changing the nature of tribal leadership so that ``it depend[s] less upon dominance and more upon consent.'' Young and female, Li lacks conventional power; what fascinates her is solving problems--especially how to get food in the coastal environment so persuasively described; and she's clever enough not to challenge authority but to bolster it in the most benign available leader. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, modern anthropologists investigate the site, their scholarly pursuits and rivalries subtly echoing the earlier time. Each expertly crafted story builds to a suspenseful climax, but most intriguing is their eponymous link: a fragment of a dolphin's scapula found on what's now an arid upland site, with a hole that could only have been drilled by a not-quite-human hand. An engrossing portrayal of a gifted early hominid, less contrived, more convincing than--and a fascinating contrast to- -the ape with a transplanted human brain in Dickinson's Eva (1989). (Fiction. 11+) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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