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4.0 out of 5 stars
Humans
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on May 6, 2003
The neanderthal parallax is simply the best series of books ever written. There's not even a point in writing any more. Simply the best.
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on February 19, 2003
I wanted to like this book , but the heavy handed religious tone and the rather neurotic female character were a real let down.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2003
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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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2003
I read this (and Hominids) in the library.
I have read science fiction and this isn't it.
The writing is pedestrian, the ideas are let down by their development, and the characters are wooden. A lot of people equate science fiction with all three, I hate seeing them proved right.
Spider Robinson has despaired for the state of science fiction... this is why. It's been taken over by Harlequin.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Though I generally consider it in poor taste to comment negatively on someone else's work, Robert J. Sawyer's recent "novel" Humans, the sequel to his deservedly well-received Hominids, filled me with such loathing that I felt compelled to warn off other readers lest they waste their valuable time and money on this arrogant, elitist, and virulently anti-American piece of tripe. Whereas Hominids was a fairly exciting adventure novel with just a dash of PC inspired politics thrown into the wash, Humans reads like a pedantic Berkeley sociology professor's lecture on the many, many virtues of bisexual authoritarian socialism. I don't know anything about Robert J. Sawyer's personal life, but it would greatly surprise me if he has ever lived more than a quarter of a mile from a Canadian university campus at any point in his adult life, worked in the private sector, or met a woman who did not define herself as "exploited." Yes, this book is that bad and no, I'm not exaggerating.
So painfully and self-consciously PC that it is sometimes difficult to read, Hominids spares no effort when it comes to placing the full blame for all of the world's ills squarely at the feet of that whipping boy of college intellectuals everywhere, American Society. While reading its admittedly competent prose, once can practically see the author sitting in a coffee house, his three thousand dollar Ibook perched atop his knees, reading the latest copy of Mother Jones while solemnly shaking his head in disbelief a the antics of my nation's unwashed peasantry. The book moves breathlessly from condemnation of private property to praise of affirmative action to an advocation of the constant observation of a genetically engineered, forcibly pacified and disarmed population by an all-knowing benevolent socialist state with the sort of unselfconscious, know-it-all ease that can only flow from the pen of a Canadian academic. Yet it is, at the same time, an uninspired regurgitation of the sort of tired, worn out Baby-Boomer ideas that those of us under the age of fifty have come to expect from our increasingly unstable and whimsical elders.
In the words of that truly great sci-fi leftist George Orwell: "doubleplusungood"
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2004
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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