I'm an armchair paleoanthropologist, with a library full of books written over the past 25 years regarding 'the human journey'. I also happen to be a genealogist, and more recently, a 'genetologist' ?? having had my full genetic sequence reported back to me to help with my family history (Y DNA paternal trail; my maternal 'roots' via mtDNA; and my broader family connections via autosomal results.) So, picking up a novel structured around the discovery of 'recently living' complete skeletons of Australopithicines by (fortunately) some well educated and experienced employees of the Smithsonian, and which offered descriptions of an archaeological dig and the resulting research including DNA sampling, was a nice fit for me.
Without giving too much away, the story shifts into high gear as the 'team' then seeks to find the source of such 'recent' Australopithicines, and (of course) they find the living descendants in darkest Africa. At this stage, there is a shift in emphasis by the author to themes which consider the religious implications of creation - what is human what is not - and at what point can such animals/beings/early humans be considered to be worthy of 'humane' treatment in the real sense of the word. As it turns out, DNA tests place the discovered species on the 'human side of the tracks', and the fire is well and truly lit when some 'modern era' interbreeding with 'humans' is proven to have occurred. There are many twists and turns, in a short book. Perhaps the book ends too suddenly - although the enormity of the problem for our human race, when we suddenly have living cousins we didn't know about, is probably better left for several other volumes. Guess who's coming to dinner, all over again ... LOL
Roger MacBride Allen has written an enjoyable book - generally on target scientifically, and with some good subplots. The entire concept raises some interesting questions about our ethical stance as the only 'human' race, and asks 'what is a human'.
When you read the book, and although you know with a fair degree of certainty that Australopithicines do not still inhabit the earth (OK, maybe one or two with big feet), it still will make you think a little more deeply the next time you look into the wise brown eyes of a chimpanzee who will spend 20 years or more locked in a small cage.
Worth a read.