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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving Sci-Fi
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...
Published on July 19 2006 by Steven R. McEvoy

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great idea. Dreadful execution.
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...
Published on May 4 2003 by Allen Gathman


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving Sci-Fi, July 19 2006
By 
Steven R. McEvoy "MCWPP" (Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hominids (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
By 
Allen Gathman (Pocahontas, MO United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hominids (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 (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hominids (Hardcover)
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. In this world, the characters are forced to examine their history and beliefs, appearing rather shallow in contrast to the Neanderthal milieu. In fact, the two primary characters are of the Neanderthal, not our, world.
If the plot is thin, the ideas considered and discussed are not. He asks us to consider many alternatives. The most important of these, of course, is how our society is structured. Can our way of life be improved? Sawyer suggests it can, particularly in how we deal with nature and one another. Most importantly, he sees change deriving from our own choices, removed from false values derived from metaphysics. Unlike many of Sawyer's other books, we are not led down some devious path to accept deities. Even the origins and structures of the paired universes are perceived differently by their inhabitants. Both are perfectly plausible in light of today's astrophysics. Better, Sawyer is able to address these issues with a fine prose style and concern for the reader's comprehension. The next volume will be welcomed warmly.
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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
By 
David L. Felts "thesfreader" (Palm Harbor, FL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hominids (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. This Companion monitors and records everything the Neanderthal does and says at all times. This record can be accessed, such as when a Neanderthal is accused of a crime. We see this played out in Adikor's trial: he's accused of murdering Ponter, but at the time of the alleged crime, he and Ponter were in their underground laboratory and the signals from their Companions couldn't reach the recording facility. Hence Adikor can't prove he didn't kill Ponter and clear himself of the crime. The conclusion I took from this situation is: What good is a justice system when the only person who knows for sure if a crime is committed is the accused? Not much.
Crime is rare in Neanderthal society for another reason as well: genetic culling. If a Neanderthal commits a crime, that Neanderthal is put to death and all those who share 50% or more of his/her genetic material are sterilized. A few generations of this have greatly reduced genetic proclivity for criminal behavior in Neanderthal society. Ponter is amazed at the amount of crime we have in our world, and even more amazed at the ineffective way we deal with it.
While Sawyer's speculations on crime and how to deal with it are interesting, they don't pose solutions that are even remotely possible. The question 'what if' in this context only has power if it can reasonably be considered. Since it can't, Sawyer's speculations end up being rhetoric and left me thinking 'Interesting, but so what?'
Sawyer's human characters are pretty thin. Beautiful sexpot scientist, dowdy middle-aged scientist, noble black man scientist... all right out of central casting. He partially redeems himself with well-done Neanderthals, but not quite enough to make up for his human ones. Some of the problems the human characters deal with come across as contrived and convenient, added, it seemed to me, to provide some justification for Sawyer's speculations on violent crime and how we deal with it.
Do I recommend it? I do, though with lukewarm enthusiasm. It rehashes old (although interesting) ideas, half the characters are trite and stereotypical, and the writing sucks. It's not a bad book, but a Hugo winner...? I suppose there's no accounting for taste.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Old Idea with a New Twist, May 6 2004
By 
Brian P. McDonnell (Holbrook, MA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hominids (Hardcover)
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. Rather than going the usual rout of having an alien come from another planet to visit our world though, he has someone come from the same world (or parallel world), and show us how things could have been done differently.
The main character Ponter Bonditt, is a Neanderthal physicist, who during a quantum computing experiment accidentally opens a portal into our Universe and he falls through it. Luckily for him in our world at the same spot that he comes through, a group of our scientists had been conducting an experiment, and they are there to help him. (Otherwise he probably would have drowned, or appeared in the middle of a rock bed a mile under the ground.)
In the alternate Universe that Ponter came from, Homo Sapiens are extinct and Neanderthal's are the dominant species. Their society is like ours in many ways, but with some very big differences. Women live separately from men. Neanderthals appear to be bisexual (they have a male and a female mate). They have a tremendous sense of smell. For birth control they follow the rhythm method and they can tell by smell whether a women is having her period or ovulating. Their population is a lot smaller than ours as they deliberately only procreate every ten years to create a new generation. Their legal system is also quite different. Everybody carries around a portable computer implanted into their arms which besides monitoring vitals, also serves as an alibi. Since everybody could be continually watched, there are no crimes. They also do not believe in God. There is no religion.
Considering the facts that Sawyer provides us with that Neanderthal's brains were 10% bigger than Homo Sapiens and their muscle mass was also bigger, it's a mystery how it was that we were the ones that survived, and not the Neanderthals in our Universe. After further comparisons with the Neanderthals in the other Universe you are made to feel that we behaved far more primitively, and maybe humanity may have been better served if it was the Neanderthals that had won out in our world. Even though this all happened years before anyone who is alive today you are still made to feel morally responsible. In their universe they don't have overpopulating. No starvation. They never hunted any species to extinction as we did. They didn't commit genocide as it is theorized in our Universe why the Neanderthals are no longer around. They don't have wars. They don't have crime. They don't use light outside at night so you can still see the stars. They also had fewer diseases since they didn't eat domesticated animals. (It appears that the most serious diseases that affected us started out in domesticated animals and then were transferred to people. Measles, small pox, tuberculosis, the flue, whooping cough, etc...) After several chapters of this I became very jealous of the Neanderthal's and wanted someone to defend our species, but the greatest accomplishment it seems they could come up with on our side was that we had been to the moon and they hadn't, but even that is downplayed in the book since we've only sent 12 men there and we don't currently populate it.
Sawyer does a great job of creating this alternate paradise, and you're just glad to find out everything over there on their side isn't always exactly perfect either. Luckily they still do seem to have a few flaws.
Ponter falling through the portal into our world created a murder mystery on their side, and Ponter's partner Adikor Huld who was with him when it happened is accused. The story switches back and forth between these two Universes. Adikor with the help of one of Ponter's children Jasmel, his women-mate Lurt, and another engineer are trying to prove his innocence by recreating the experiment in one universe, and two female scientists (Mary and Louise pronounced Mar and Lou because Neanderthal's can't make the "e" sound) and one male doctor (Reuben) in our Universe are trying to help Ponter adjust to his new surroundings to face the possibility that he may never get home. Across the barriers friendships are made and potential romances are begun.
The only negative I had in reading this book was that it appears that Sawyer discredits a lot of real life hypothesis regarding the Neanderthals if they don't fit into the mold of the fantasy story he has just laid out in this book. If the facts don't support the story then he dismisses or discredits them. One that might cause some controversy is that the Neanderthals don't believe in the Big Bang theory of creation. He implies that this was made up in our Universe by a group of scientists who's opinions and theories were influenced by their religious beliefs. Many of these real theories might be completely off base, but unless a Neanderthal does walk through that door to confirm the facts I believe they shouldn't have been dismissed quite so easily. At least Sawyer has shined a new light on some of these hypothesizes.
This is supposedly book one of a trilogy, and I'm very much looking forward the next installment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not A Timeless Classic..., Feb. 24 2004
This review is from: Hominids (Mass Market Paperback)
In 100 years will readers know early 2000 culture so well they'll recognize names and companies like Geri Halliwell, Scott Turow, Richard Corliss? Ebay? Dodge Neons? Obscure potato chip brands? Will descriptions of using the internet be recognizable? Probably not. The story's pop culture references don't further the story - only serving as reminders that this book is not meant to be a classic.
Two storylines follows a human world and a Neanderthal world. Unfortunately, the questions it raises are more interesting than Sawyer's answers.
Pros: Interesting factoids about anthropology, biology and history. Nice, quick read. Simple explanations of complex issues are interesting and not overly technical. Pleasant characters on the surface. Several times I put the book down to think about the questions and issues raised.
Cons: Superficial. Too many soon-to-be-obsolete pop culture references. Too many moralizing diabtribes, using the Neanderthal's idyllic world to illustrate mankind as terrible. Worst of all are the shallow characterizations. The rape victim's character was fundamentally unbelievable...merely a conglomeration of every stereotyped rape victim reaction and emotions, all rolled into one. It was like someone who had seen too many sappy Lifetime channel movies and read too many self-help books wrote what he thought a woman would be like. Not cool.
Overall: worth a quick read, try to get what interest you can out of the ideas...but ignore the clumsy writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Multiverse in Parallel, Jan. 25 2003
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hominids (Hardcover)
With HOMINIDS Sawyer has created a fascinating story with all the ingredients of a traditional science fiction novel - and a lot more. He presents the reader with a different view on life on earth - but not from the usual perspective of 'aliens' coming from outer space as he has done in previous novels. He imagined an alternative hominid reality - that of the Neanderthals - existing in parallel with ours.
Ponter Bobbit, a physicist in this parallel universe, literally drops into ours, seemingly out of nowhere and is found floating in a tank of heavy water. An accident in his quantum computing department opens up a brief window between the two realities. The people in the science lab in Sudbury, (Ontario) were taken by surprise, to say the least. They require some time to work out who he is and what his appearance represents. This is the hook that leads to a clever and imaginative description of human (homo sapiens) attitudes vis-à-vis the unexpected. An engaging story of sharing and mutual learning from both realities in this multiverse develops from there. In particular the exchange between Mary Vaughan, the geneticist brought in to examine the Neanderthal's DNA, and Ponter explore some pretty fundamental issues in both societies.
While Ponter is learning how to communicate with an ethnically diverse group of homo sapiens, in his Neanderthal reality his disappearance leads to a completely different set of problems. A small pool of heavy water provides the only hint of something having gone wrong. But, a person cannot really disappear thanks to the "alibi archives" that record where everybody is at any time. So, his friend and colleague, Adikor Huld, is charged with his murder. Alternating this second storyline with the first, Sawyer uses Adikor's case to share with the reader his vision of a completely different social reality.
The dissimilar worldviews are constantly juxtaposed. Ponter brings his experiences and perceptions into our reality and, having mastered the language, confronts fundamental issues delving deeply into all aspects of human experiences - from religion to science to interpersonal behaviour. Mary becomes his responsive interlocutor.
Sawyer bases himself on thorough and wide-ranging research into paleoanthropology, evolution, Neanderthals' fossil evidence and more. He develops a vision on how a Neanderthal civilization might have evolved and drawing interesting conclusions from starting from the fundamental differences of a non-agrarian, hunter-gatherer society.

This is a fun book to read. It flows well, the characters are drawn with empathy and sensitivity and the two parallel realities that deal with Ponter's appearance and disappearance respectively give ample food for thought as well as reasons for smiles. Read it now as the second volume of the trilogy is already on its way.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, July 5 2004
By 
Grant McKee (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hominids (Mass Market Paperback)
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"). This is the kind of sci-fi I like - it deals with extraordinary events in a real time and place (that is to say, modern day Earth; in this case, Canada). I picked this up out of curiosity and because it seemed to somewhat resemble the work of one of my favorite authors, Michael Crichton.
Anyway, the story involves a Neanderthal from a planet where the Neanderthals outlived Homo Sapiens to become the dominant species accidentally crossing over to our world. From there, the story divides into a "fish-out-of-water" story involving Ponter Boddit (the Neanderthal) in modern-day Canada, and a gripping murder mystery back home, where his colleague and friend was accused of murdering Ponter. Amidst this story, the reader is treated to an outsider's view of human culture, as well as an examination of just how "perfect" a world with no crime truly is.
Another thing I enjoyed about this is that a lot of the scientific discussions are not "dumbed down" for a general audience, forcing you to really focus and learn a little bit about physics and anthropology. All in all, this is a staggering achievement in the realm of science fiction, and I highly recommend it to fans of Michael Crichton's work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sawyer has created an exciting parallel world!, June 16 2004
This review is from: Hominids (Mass Market Paperback)
During early human history, scientists conjecture that there was a battle waged between by early humans and Neanderthals. Humans won out literally exterminating their genetically close brothers. In this novel a vortex was opened sometime before the battle whereby humans and Neanderthals were transported to a parallel Earth. On that Earth it was the Neanderthals that survived and went on to build that Earth's dominant society.
During the midst of a quantum computing experiment, a Neanderthal (Ponter) is accidentally transported through a new rift to Human Earth. His disappearance from his own version of Earth brings criminal charges to Adikor, his best friend for Ponter's disappearance and presumed murder.
Meanwhile Ponter is trapped in an alien world that exterminates species (Neanderthals, Mammoths, Whales, etc.) and has so many social values that are different from his own. He is befriended by a group of scientists working for a large Canadian energy company. He is able to communicate through a built in computer fused into Ponter's wrist. He longs to be back with his children and his friend but is resigned to the fact that he probably will not be able to see them again.
In Ponter's world, Adikor stands on trial for Ponter's world, which will bring a severe punishment to Adikor and all his relatives if he is not proved innocent (in Neanderthal world, one is guilty unless proven innocent). The only way he can prove his innocence is to either produce Ponter or prove that Ponter was transported to another dimension. Therefore, if Ponter can't get back, Adikor and his family will suffer.
The thing that is so great about this book is the contrast between the two worlds. Both have things that are very unique and wonderful to the other world as well as things that are dark and ugly to the other world (our hunting animals for sport, committing crimes and polluting the air are so repulsive to Ponter, whereas his world's way of dealing with crimes committed is so unthinkable to us. Also, everything one does in Ponter's world is recorded and could be later viewed so there is no privacy).
Sawyer also introduces a wealth of incredibly interesting characters such as Mary, a genetic specialist who certifies Ponter's DNA for what it is and also undergoes a very terrifying sexual attack by a human male predator. There is also humor in newspaper flashes that appear at the beginning of each chapter including a take-off on David Letterman's top 10 lists.
I highly look forward to reading the two sequel books in this trilogy.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good filler, June 16 2004
This review is from: Hominids (Mass Market Paperback)
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 not checked it out from the library.
I enjoyed it. I did. It was something of a guilty pleasure -- familiar science fiction with cliched characters and a common plot. Despite all of these factors, I was amused, and I kept reading. Sure, the romance between the Neanderthal and the human woman is a bit implausible. But it's given just enough backing that it's tolerable, and almost sweet. Yeah, yeah, the Neanderthal society is also implausible. But when it comes down to it, it's fun to speculate what our long-dead cousin's would be like if they had lived and we had been eliminated.
In short, I guess what I want to say and am failing because I am writing this at three thirty AM, is that the book was a quick read, and an amusing one, good for any sci-fi/fantasy fan who has already exhausted the better authors. But if you can find it at a library, definitely don't buy it. Oh, and that hugo? I'm beginning to have less faith in it. Prestigious awards should be given based on more than readability and amusement gained.
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Hominids
Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer (Mass Market Paperback - Feb. 17 2003)
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