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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portal for philosophy?
Sawyer's "poetic licence" must run many pages, imposing few constraints. Travel permits are included. He takes us across many borders - between nations, between universes, between species, and over into gender relations. We tour around many fields - geophysics, genetics, cosmology, and, of course, paleoanthropology. If any writer can keep the science in...
Published on March 26 2003 by Stephen A. Haines

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unable to stand on its own
Any book should be able to stand on its own. This book fails horribly in that regard.
What happened to the shooter? Why isn't Ponter accosted wherever he goes as a result of Tukalla's (I hope I got that right) response to the shooting? What happened to the High Gray Council's objections to free travel between the Earths? What's the deal with the game theorist and...
Published on Nov. 16 2003 by J. Hazelip


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portal for philosophy?, March 26 2003
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Humans (Hardcover)
Sawyer's "poetic licence" must run many pages, imposing few constraints. Travel permits are included. He takes us across many borders - between nations, between universes, between species, and over into gender relations. We tour around many fields - geophysics, genetics, cosmology, and, of course, paleoanthropology. If any writer can keep the science in "sci-fi," it's Sawyer. It's a fascinating journey, undertaken at a headlong pace. Through it all, we follow the complex lives of human Mary Vaughan and Neanderthal Ponter Boddit. If all this seems heady stuff, fear not. Sawyer's skillful prose and vivid portrayals will keep you reading steadily. It's all realistic, if not real.
Writing a trilogy has inherent dangers. A second volume must stand alone, which this one does. The characters must build and not slip into static postures. Sawyer accomplishes this by the simple expedient of increasing the interaction of the two protagonists. The plot must move in new directions. This is also achieved, not least by Ponter's return to this "Earth" and Mary's journey to the Neanderthal universe. In their respective universes, Mary and Ponter encounter new people, achieve new levels of interaction and struggle to resolve contentious issues. This last, of course, is but partially successful. This is, after all, a trilogy.
Most readers of this book will have read Hominids, and will go on to finish the trilogy. Readers must be warned, however, Sawyer has a poorly hidden agenda. As in many of his other works, Sawyer seems intent on bringing us to his god. An astonishing amount of time is spent in both volumes on discussions of faith and, that old bugaboo, the "afterlife." Little of Ponter's science is discussed, but his personality is drawn as cool, rational almost to an extreme. A major scene in this novel, and its most inconsistent one, is Mary and Ponter's visit to Washington, DC. For reasons wholly inexplicable in a Canadian who wished to keep Toronto's CN Tower in view from Rochester, NY, she drags him to the Viet Nam Memorial, engaging him in another sermon about "faith." This time, unlike in Hominids, where he resolutely rejected her ideas, he waffles. Volume three, Hybrids, is almost certain to have him converted. After all, against all logic, he claims to be in love with her. What is motivating Sawyer in these efforts remains a mystery. Perhaps it's time for him to produce a non-fiction statement of his philosophy.
Even with the "faith" shortcoming and some severe bending of anthropology and cosmology, this book remains an excellent read. Sawyer's writing is masterful and his use of real science, no matter how contentious the topics, must be applauded. If he "takes sides" why should we condemn his choices? The final volume will be welcome and the entire trilogy a valuable asset as an exhibit of his skills and the readers' taste. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unable to stand on its own, Nov. 16 2003
By 
J. Hazelip (Tallahassee, FL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Humans (Mass Market Paperback)
Any book should be able to stand on its own. This book fails horribly in that regard.
What happened to the shooter? Why isn't Ponter accosted wherever he goes as a result of Tukalla's (I hope I got that right) response to the shooting? What happened to the High Gray Council's objections to free travel between the Earths? What's the deal with the game theorist and the magnetic shift?
This book just has too many unresolved plot threads for it to be considered good. As a matter of fact, it's pretty bad as a result.
It's less a book of it's own, and more of a stopping point between the two other books. The rape from the first book is (sort of) resolved in the second book, so I'm sure Sawyer considers this to just be part of moving the story along. But, he'd be wrong. This book isn't an entity unto itself. It's got elements of the first book in it, and hints about things to come in the second.
Bah. I was really happy with the first book, and I think that just makes my disappointment more pronounced. I hope the third book is fantastic, but I'm going to the library to get a copy to read instead of purchase. The quality of the second book just does not inspire me to toss almost ten bucks at a paperback edition (when it comes out), when the third may leave just as unappealing a taste in my mouth...
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4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy sequel, July 17 2004
By 
Grant McKee (Chicago, IL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Humans (Mass Market Paperback)
While "Hominids" introduced us to the characters and the background of the neanderthal and human worlds, "Humans" is stuck with the task of furthering the story. As such, it isn't as groundbreaking and fascinating as its prequel, but an entertaining read nonetheless. However, I must say that the story and writing style are slightly improved here, creating a mystery story with a science fiction background. What's most interesting about this novel is the way the humans interact as they begin to explore the neanderthal world, and vice versa. Of course, Sawyer continues with the real theme of the story; that is, is it better to live in a world where bad things happen, but most people have faith that a good afterlife awaits them, or to live in a peaceful world, but have no hope for anything afterward, and a big brother-type of security?
Overall, this is definitely a recommended read. I enjoyed "Hominids" very much, and "Humans" held up well on its own. I'm looking forward to reading "Hybrids" to complete the story.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not so much a Story as a Speech, July 5 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Humans (Mass Market Paperback)
I greatly enjoyed the first book of this series, Hominds. Yes, the author injected his own philosophies in it, but as long as it doesn't get in the way of the story, what's wrong with that? Naturally, I looked forward to this sequel.
Let's see if I can summarize the plot: Men (H. Sapiens) are mostly bad. New York is bad. Private ownership of cars is bad. America is mostly bad. The Entire reason for the Vietnam War was because the US didn't want free elections in South Vietnam. Private ownership of firearms is bad. The reason North American Indians succumbed to Europeans is primarily due to the fact that they didn't have the lucky break of having easily mined minerals (disregard that the Celts found it practical to mine in North Amercia and ship it all the way back across the Atlantic in times B.C.). Canada is basically good, but there are a lot of men in it, which keeps it from being really good. The UN could be good if there weren't so many white men in it. Humanity delights in raping the environment. If only the Government had a way to record everything everyone does things would be just fine.
Oh yeah--there is a little bit in there about the Neanderthals (who are always good) from the other Earth recontacting this one, but that's incidental to the sermons.
That's my main objection to this entry. Nothing really happens. Without the sermons the novel can be summed up as: The Neaderthals reopen the Portal. Ponter comes back. He's hot for Mary. She's hot for him. There's a not particularly interesting six page sex scene. He gets shot for no reason. This Earth is bad. They go back to his great world where everything is more logical and benign than here, but you have to trust us on this because virtually nothing happens there, either. They catch Mary's rapist by something out of left field. Stand by for the sequel.
The characters' main function is to set up forums for the author to pontificate. I don't particularly care whether I agree with the author or not, but I expect something to go on. If the author works his or her beliefs into the story, so much the better. Here, though, the wise Neanderthals and Mary Vaughn just preach. What little attempt to explain how humanity got where it is mostly serves to put up straw men to be demolished or to pitch softballs to be knocked out of the park. For example, the only reaosn Mary Vaughn can come up with for private transport or ownership of automobiles is an anemic, "We like to own things", which even she feels is weak.
Preach all you want, but for gosh sake have a Story!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A celebration of all the ways to be human, Nov. 14 2003
By 
Allan Destry (Appleton, WI USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Humans (Mass Market Paperback)
A few thin-skinned, unthinking types below have accused Sawyer of anti-Americanism ... which can only be true if anti-Americanism means any comment that is less than 100% favorable to every single action the United States has ever taken. If so, Sawyer is also anti-Canadian; there are plenty of digs here (as well as in his CALCULATING GOD) at the actions of the government of that country ... the one he happens to live in.
Also, there are those who are so self-righteous that they are convinced they know where something is going without having bothered to read through to the end. One fellow -- Mr. Walters -- below says Sawyer is pro-affirmative action. First, there's nothing on this topic of any substance in this book, HUMANS, and second, in HYBRIDS, the concluding volume of the trilogy, Sawyer shows how a white man's career aspirations were destroyed by affirmative action, quoting directly the actual hiring policy of a major university. Sawyer looks with a balanced, skeptical eye at issues.
But certain keywords set off certain canned screeds from some people; they'd rather react, thinking they've heard it all before, than be exposed to new ideas ... which is their loss, because Sawyer's stock-in-trade IS ideas. In HUMANS, he looks at religion, agriculture, privacy, and more. And he does it in a balance way. Mr. Walters again argues that Sawyer is painting a rosy picture of a society without privacy and with genetic purging of the gene pool, but the whole Neanderthal-world subplot of HOMINIDS (which won a well-deserved Hugo) is about rampant injustice that happens because of such a system; another example of enormous catch-22 unfairness occurs in HYBRIDS. Mr. Walters and others confuse discussing with proposing, and, again, it's their loss.
As a novel, HUMANS packs a punch. The framing story is a fascinating series of psychoanalytic sessions, with a Neanderthal on the couch; there's a very passionate love story; and there's a story of revenge. There's also seeds planted for the big conclusion of it all that occurs in the subsequent volume, HYBRIDS, but HUMANS stands on its own -- and stands tall, proud, fair, and reasonable. A careful, open-minded read will show that Sawyer isn't anti anything. He's pro humanity ... in all its varied forms. Highly recommended for those who like to think.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Romance disguised as science fiction, July 28 2003
By 
John Howard "jrh1972" (Jacksonville, Florida) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Humans (Hardcover)
This book was ok, only as the continuing story from Hominids. I really thought this book was too much about the love story between Ponter and Mary (which was one of the worst parts of the first book) and not not enough about the neanderthal world and their dealings with our own world.
I liked the parts that dealt with the differences in neanderthal history and science, and the political situations that Ponter and the ambassador were involved in. But those were few and far between overshadowed by this unnecessary and unbelievable love story.
Finally, I thought the Synergy group that Mary joins was very focused on the magnetic field without ever giving us a good reason why. Then at the end, there is a little surprise thrown in which seemed pretty silly to me, and I might normally say that it looked bad for the next book, but anything that takes attention away from this romance disguised as science fiction will be an improvement.
I would recommend reading this book if you liked Hominids, but it isn't as good. Hopefully, the next book will be much better.
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4.0 out of 5 stars 5 Stars on Hominids, 4 on Humans, ? on Hybrids, May 23 2003
This review is from: Humans (Hardcover)
As a science teacher, I am an avid reader of anthropology textbooks and fiction. I have read most college level textbooks of anthropology, most factual books of paleoanthropology from Ian Tattersall and the rest, and most works of fiction on the subject ranging from Jane Aeul's series to Petru Propescu's "Almost Adam". It was in a dry spell, as I had consumed all there was, that I found Robert J. Sawyer's "Hominids". Normally, I tend to stay away from science fiction, but, a Neanderthal Parallax? I had to give this one a chance.
Hominids was a feast for my eyes, my mind, my heart, and my humanity. It raises compelling questions about our human condition from a very outside and an rational perspective. It is well researched, which is a requirement for a good anthropological fiction in my mind. Aeul explored the caves in France, but, Sawyer MET with Tattersall!!!
The second book of the trilogy "Humans" was good. I have never waited for a book with such anticipation. I felt like a boy with my first new bike, the anticipation to ride so very exciting, yet a challenging aspect about it causes me to hesitate and take it step my step, so when I have conquered it I will experience the thrill and absorb the accomplishment just to prepare myself for the next level. I was only hoping for more about the anthropomorphic life of the Neanderthal, and less about the romance.
The third book in the trilogy: "Hybrids" has already been pre-ordered. This trilogy is still by far the best I have ever read, and I have read many.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Neanderthal Utopia contrasted with Humanity today., April 22 2003
By 
Maye Vanarsdel (Clinton, Md USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Humans (Hardcover)
This is an interesting love story between species (Neanderthal/Human) and realities (our current reality/Neanderthal-dominant). I liked the contrast between the two civilizations. This story might offend some in that the Neanderthal society portrays a family structure that some people might find offensive. One of the points of the romance is that the human who falls in love with the Neanderthal also has difficulty with the Neanderthal family structure. It would be a more believable story if the Neanderthal society were portrayed as having some warts. Humans definitely come off as the less noble society. Yes, the author is making a point in the novel to criticize humanity, and that is well written. But it seems to me that every society will have problems and I would have liked to see the problems that the Neanderthal society might have.
Actually, the Neanderthals are portrayed with much better characterizations than are the humans. The Neanderthals are also much more Noble than the humans. It's just a bit difficult for me to believe in Neanderthal Utopia. This is the second book in a series, I did not read the first in the series and did not feel that I missed anything. The writing was well enough done that reading the first book was not necessary in order to understand the events and personalities in this second book. I will definitely be looking for the third book in the series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A pretty good middle volume . . ., April 22 2003
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This review is from: Humans (Hardcover)
All writers of trilogies are aware of the prevalence of "middle volume" syndrome, but Sawyer seems mostly to have escaped its effects. Ponter Boddit, Neanderthal physicist in a world parallel to our own, returns to the world ruled by Homo sapiens in this sequel to Hominids, this time in a more organized manner and as one of his culture's envoys. He re-establishes his tentative relationship with psychologically damaged geneticist Mary Vaughan and Sawyer explores all the possibilities of interspecies romance -- though Mary often comes off as surprisingly naive for so well-educated a person. The Neanderthals generally turn out to have made better choices than we did (Sawyer's opinions are undoubtedly much of the reason he wrote the story in the first place), though their reproductive pattern lacks some of our own high points. The one comparison that irritates me, actually, is that Canada generally is shown to be culturally and socially superior to the U.S., . . . though I admit isn't a difficult argument to make. And I think Sawyer may be a bit naive himself in expecting the two national governments in North America to allow visiting Neanderthals so much liberty of movement -- especially given our present Administration. However, that's his style in most of his novels. It's a good, highly readable yarn, though, with a nice bit of poetic irony at the end, and I look forward to the conclusion.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Midwest Book Review - written with panache, March 30 2003
By 
Laurel Johnson (Kansas USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Humans (Hardcover)
I'm delighted to report that Humans did pick up where Hominids left off. Volume II relies less on technical and scientific data - although that ground is covered in effective and interesting ways - and more on Neanderthal interaction with Homo Sapiens and their two very different worlds.

Ponter Boddit, the Neanderthal physicist, is reunited with the paleoanthropologist Mary Vaughan and made an official envoy to the parallel world she lives in. Despite polluted air, filthy cities, and human over-population, Ponter sees a goodness in his Homo Sapien counterparts. He believes there is hope for their world, and that both Mary's people and his can benefit each other with their knowledge. To that end, he and his friend Adikor create another portal and figure out a way to keep it open, more or less permanently.

To Mary's way of thinking, Ponter is a gentle hearted man, quite appealing in his guileless fascination with her world. This time around, Ponter learns a great deal more about Homo Sapiens and their history. He's shocked to witness the results of terrorism and war, horrified to learn that millions died in battle, and infuriated to know that Mary's rapist has thus far gone unpunished. And Two finally become One - Ponter's euphemism for making love - on a night that both he and Mary find educational and immensely satisfying. New relationships are formed and old ones shattered as Ponter accepts that he's in love with a female not of his species.

Jealousies and very human failings are acted out on both sides of the portal. Mary visits Ponter's world, enthralled by the peace and untainted atmosphere she finds there. And Ponter demonstrates Neanderthal justice in a way no rapist could ever forget. All in all, it was a fascinating read as explorations and information gathering between the worlds begins.

As is Mr. Sawyer's hallmark, Humans is well-researched and written with panache. The Neanderthal Parallax is fantasy that reads as very real. I highly recommend it to mature adolescents and adults. (There is some strong sexual content in this book.) Volume III is due out in September. That's too long to wait. The name alone promises an exciting finale - Hybrids.
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Humans
Humans by Robert J. Sawyer (Mass Market Paperback - Sept. 15 2003)
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