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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Romance disguised as science fiction
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...
Published on July 28 2003 by John Howard


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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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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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Bridging the divide, March 28 2003
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Humans (Hardcover)
With HUMANS, the second volume in the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, Sawyer is drawing the reader deep into the parallel worlds of Mary Vaughan and Ponter Bobbit. Most people who delve into the story will have read HOMINIDS and understand the basic philosophical and scientific concepts presented. Those who have not would be well advised to pick up the first volume before getting too deeply into this one. Otherwise they may miss out on depth and complexity of what is presented.
HUMANS is a very entertaining read, fast paced and engaging. There are also very funny moments. The two key representatives, Mary, from "our" Earth and Ponter, from the Neanderthals' universe, continue to explore their respective realities in a multitude of ways. Ponter 'returns' to Canada and Mary has the opportunity to explore the 'other side'. Their continuing dialogue and interaction form the centrepiece of the novel. Subjects range from such topical scientific questions as the impact of the possible collapse the Earth's magnetic field to the exploration of societal structures and human relationships. Above all, discussions return regularly to Mary's religious side of life. Ponter, having reflected on faith as a conundrum for a Neanderthal scientist ever since he left this earth, becomes more deeply drawn to the question of spirituality and morality on his return visit.
Sawyer introduces new players to complement the set of characters well know from HOMINIDS. In particular, the Neanderthal women round off the depiction of life in their world. The global leadership in the Neanderthal's universe, the High Gray Council, deliberates at length whether to reopen the portal to the "Gliksin" world. The opportunities of this new kind of globalization are too tempting to miss. Tentative exploration of cultural, commerce and scientific exchange, however, does not turn out as easy as the proponents might have liked and even anticipated. But then, there is the last volume in the trilogy to clear up and explain all the "ox-uh-mor-ons" encountered. [Friederike Knabe, Ottawa Canada]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very timely!!, March 17 2003
By 
A. C. Longtin (Florida, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Humans (Hardcover)
While reading Humans, I was struck by how timely I found it. Robert J. Sawyer has always spoken to me in a very profound way, but there was so much material in Humans that was a great reflection of today's times. Some have criticized Sawyer for "product placement," but I find his references bring me into the world- it helps to remind me that this world he is creating is not all made up, it's our world, today. His references to September 11th beautifully date the book, but also provide a soapbox for Sawyer to show us how an outsider would view recent violent events and war in general. The scene I found the most timely involves Ponter's visit to the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial. He makes a speech that the President should declare war not in Congress but at the Memorial, therefore facing the deaths of soldiers who had given their lives for a so-called "good cause."
In Humans, the portal between universes is opened again for diplomatic purposes, and Ponter returns to our version of Earth. I was thrilled to see more of the Neanderthal world as Mary Vaughan takes a trip with Ponter there. In my review of Hominids, I asked if the Neanderthal world was really supposed to be that good. Well, now I think it is that great. They seem to have it all worked out.
I guess that the reason I keep reading Sawyer (and have yet to find a book I didn't like) is that I love his philosophy. I think that those of us who are intelligent sometimes harbor a deep sadness for humanity, and Sawyer speaks to that. He also manages to keep plots that should be very grand in scale to a minimum, to within the minds of a few characters. The huge scenes should be Ponter's visit to the U.N., but they end up being in Mary's jealousy about Ponter's other relationships.
This is a great follow-up to Hominids, which I consider to be a fabulous book. I eagerly await the third book!
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Humans
Humans by Robert J. Sawyer (Mass Market Paperback - Sept. 15 2003)
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