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Hominids [Mass Market Paperback]

Robert J. Sawyer
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 17 2003
Hominids examines two unique species of people. We are one of those species; the other is the Neanderthals of a parallel world where they became the dominant intelligence. The Neanderthal civilization has reached heights of culture and science comparable to our own, but with radically different history, society and philosophy.

Ponter Boddit, a Neanderthal physicist, accidentally pierces the barrier between worlds and is transferred to our universe. Almost immediately recognized as a Neanderthal, but only much later as a scientist, he is quarantined and studied, alone and bewildered, a stranger in a strange land. But Ponter is also befriended—by a doctor and a physicist who share his questing intelligence, and especially by Canadian geneticist Mary Vaughan, a woman with whom he develops a special rapport.

Ponter’s partner, Adikor Huld, finds himself with a messy lab, a missing body, suspicious people all around and an explosive murder trial. How can he possibly prove his innocence when he has no idea what actually happened to Ponter?
Hominids is the winner of the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

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From Amazon

Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids introduces a new world, a parallel historical universe in which Neanderthals, not Homo sapiens, survived to explore the world and build a civilization. It also tells the story of a man from his own world and the people who try to understand and help him. Ponter Boddit is a Neanderthal physicist working on quantum computing. While running an experiment, he suddenly disappears from his own universe, leaving a puddle of heavy water behind him. Just as suddenly, he appears in our universe, in a container of heavy water at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory. Trying to understand how a Neanderthal arrived in the laboratory, and how to introduce him to human culture, poses a major problem for Louise Benoit, a physics student, and Mary Vaughan, a geneticist with expertise on Neanderthal DNA.

A parallel story of the Neanderthal world follows Adikor Huld and his attempt to explain why he should not be charged with murder in the disappearance of his partner Ponter. The book nicely contrasts Neanderthal society with our own: Ponter's descriptions of a society where violence is almost unknown and pollution non-existent paint an idyllic picture of his home universe. But Adikor's experiences show a more balanced view: Neanderthals sin, too. The first volume in Sawyer's new Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, Hominids is a self-contained story that combines fully drawn characters in both worlds with provocative ideas about physics, history, and evolution. --Greg L. Johnson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In this polished anthropological SF yarn, the first of a trilogy from Nebula Award winner Sawyer (The Terminal Experiment), Neanderthals have developed a radically different civilization on a parallel Earth, as both sides discover when a Neanderthal physicist, Ponter Boddit, accidentally passes from his universe into a Canadian underground research facility. Fortunately, a team of human scientists, including expert paleoanthropologist Mary Vaughan, promptly identifies and warmly receives Ponter. Solving the language problem and much else is a mini-computer called a Companion implanted in the brain of every Neanderthal. A computerized guardian spirit, however, doesn't eliminate cross-cultural confusion permanent male-female sexuality, rape and overpopulation are all alien to Ponter nor can it help his housemate and fellow scientist back in his world, Adikor Huld, when the authorities charge Adikor with his murder. Ponter's daughter Jasmel believes in Adikor's innocence, but to prevent a horrendous miscarriage of justice (Adikor could be sterilized), she must try to reopen the portal and bring her father home. The author's usual high intelligence and occasionally daunting erudition are on prominent display, particularly in the depiction of Neanderthal society. Some plot points border on the simplistic, such as Mary's recovering from a rape thanks to Ponter's sensitivity, but these are minor flaws in a novel that appeals to both the intellect and the heart.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving Sci-Fi July 19 2006
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book is the 'One Book One Community' book for Waterloo in 2005. [...] The goal of One Book is to get a large proportion of the population to read the same book. It is always a living Canadian author, who will come and be involved in events in the community.

This is an intriguing speculative fiction book. The main premise is based on Quantum theory. Parallel to our world are many other worlds. Some very close to ours and some not. In our story, Ponter Boddit, often referred to as Scholar Boddit, is one of our main characters. He is a Quantum Physicist from a parallel world. While working on a Quantum computer, he is translated into the same location in our Universe; unfortunately it is the center of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory. Then the true adventure begins.

Ponter is given Canadian Citizenship, which is unusual because he is a Neanderthal. One could argue however, that a Neanderthal emerging from an INCO mine in Sudbury might not be that far out of the question. Many around the world believe it is a hoax - some believe it is true and a Ponter cult begins. Some want to control him and his knowledge.

In our sister earth, they have not ever had a global war, not developed nuclear weapons, or destroyed the environment the way we have. There is much we could learn from our cousins in this world.

Follow Ponter as he develops friendships, experiences religion and learns that we don't have to be homo sapiens sapiens to be human.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great idea. Dreadful execution. May 4 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The idea of this book, in which there is contact between our universe and an alternate one in which the Neandertals inherited the earth, is promising. Unfortunately, that's the most I can say for this book. Turns out the Neandertals are all a bunch of Sensitive New-Age Guys, and I just couldn't get past their cloying sweetness. Yes, they're sexually egalitarian, and non-violent, and they don't pollute, and they are just generally too damn nice to be real or interesting. Our universe, on the other hand, is fraught with conflict, but it's rendered so one-dimensionally as to make it equally boring. Early in the book a woman is raped (in the Homo sapiens universe, of course) and while the assault is in progress, she's thinks "It's not about sex...It's a crime of violence." No doubt true, and maybe someone being attacked might choose that moment to review some pamphlets from the local women's center, but it seems to me that some original or individual response might make her seem more like a real person.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multicultural melange - with a twist Dec 21 2002
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
You have to give Sawyer credit. He offers a Francophone, a Japanese-Canadian, a Canadian-Jamaican, an Ojibway, a Neanderthal, multiple universes, and a rape - all in the first 80 pages. He uses well-established credentials in converting science, albeit speculative, into fiction. He has achieved a high point with this book. Incorporating geology, paleoanthropology and quantum physics into this story, he makes a fantastic situation both credible and readable.
In this first volume of a trilogy, physicist Ponter Boddit disappears in mysterious circumstances from a deep mine physics laboratory. Ponter, however, is not of this earth. He is of an "advanced" Neanderthal society in an alternative universe. Homo sapiens has apparently gone extinct in his world, but Ponter emerges in a world where that "extinct" species dominates. Sawyer uses the need for Ponter's adjustment to his novel environment to examine many aspects of our society - its values, beliefs and practices. Communication is enhanced by Ponter's possession of an electronic implant that "learns" words and derives meaning from context. It's a cunning ploy, reflecting a measure of desparation to move Sawyer's other ideas along more readily. He further suggests the Neanderthal's brain capacity could mean greater intelligence, even an enhanced moral sense.
The story itself isn't complex. What happens in Ponter's world to account for his disappearance, and what must he do to adapt to the one he's in? The circumstances surrounding these issues give Sawyer the opportunity to minutely examine and contrast the two societies. People in the world Pondar left prove very "human" in their motives and behaviour. Although their society is drastically different, their emotions and interactions are vividly familiar.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars SFReader.com Review - Hominids June 10 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I bought Sawyer's Hominids because is won the Hugo award for best novel. I was even a good doobie and ordered it through SFReader, earning Dave a whopping 33 cents for his continued efforts on behalf of all speculative fiction fans. I should have waited until it showed up in a second-hand store.... (sorry Dave!)

While Hominids is a decent read, I don't think it was the best science fiction book published last year. There were several I enjoyed more, that I thought more adventurous and original in theme, and were better written. That said, I enjoyed Hominids, though I enjoyed it more the first time when it was Stranger in a Strange Land.

Ponter Boddit is a Neanderthal physicist who is accidentally transferred to our universe during an experiment in his. While he's stuck on our Earth wondering if he will ever be able to return back to his world, his partner, Adikor Huld, must face charges of murder because of Ponter's disappearance. Thus we have two main threads: Ponter's adventures on our world and his Adikor Huld's trial and attempts to prove his innocence in the other.

(...)I felt as though I were reading a manuscript by someone in a writing workshop at a convention.

Ok Lynn, you didn't like the writing, but what about the book? Glad you asked. The Neanderthals live in a perfect world. No pollution, no crime, at harmony with nature, etc, etc, etc. Basically they embody everything we don't. Which, of course, is the whole point.
Sawyer does raise (re-raise?) some interesting (though not original) questions about individual rights versus society harmony. At what point does an individual's right to be safe take precedence over an individual's right to privacy? Each Neanderthal is implanted with an electronic monitoring device called a Companion.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Two World Timelines Collide
This is the first book in The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy. The other two being Humans (book 2) and Hybrid (book 3). Read more
Published on Aug. 31 2011 by fastreader
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A bridge is created between our world and an alternate Earth where the Neanderthal has become the dominant species. Read more
Published on April 2 2011 by darcmarc
5.0 out of 5 stars 2nd best novel ive ever read
Im not much of a reader but I have read this novel and really enjoyed it.
after reading Hominids , the fist book in the trilogy. I Had to read this book and then 3rd one. Read more
Published on July 22 2004 by Adam
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of Science Fiction
HOMINIDS exemplifies what I consider to be the best quality of a great science fiction novel. No robots, no space ships, no faster-than-light travel; just a fascinating "What... Read more
Published on July 12 2004 by Melissa McCauley
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
This was the first book I read by Robert J. Sawyer, but it probably won't be the last (I at least have to finish out "The Neanderthal Parallax"). Read more
Published on July 5 2004 by Grant McKee
5.0 out of 5 stars A true definition of what Science Fiction is all about
To me, Science Fiction books I've read in the past were all about space or the future, or time-travel, or high-tek whachamakalitz. Read more
Published on June 17 2004 by Scott McCabe
5.0 out of 5 stars Sawyer has created an exciting parallel world!
During early human history, scientists conjecture that there was a battle waged between by early humans and Neanderthals. Read more
Published on June 16 2004 by Michael A. Newman
3.0 out of 5 stars Good filler
I bought this book on impulse when I saw it had won the Hugo award, and while I enjoyed the several hours it took me to read it, I was a bit disappointed that I had bought it and... Read more
Published on June 16 2004 by Clara Arak
5.0 out of 5 stars An Old Idea with a New Twist
Robert J. Sawyer adds a new twist to the idea of having someone come from a different Universe to get a new perspective on ours. Read more
Published on May 6 2004 by Brian P. McDonnell
2.0 out of 5 stars Anti-Human, Anti-Pro-victimization, Pro-Big brother
What could have been an interesting parallel world scifi novel was seriously marred by the author's radical communist leanings. Okay, maybe a bit harsh, but... Read more
Published on May 4 2004 by sefase aefas
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