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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Midwest Book Review
The Neanderthal hero, Ponter Bobbit, and his homo sapiens lover, Mary Vaughan, are back to bring The Neanderthal Parallax Trilogy to a satisfying climax. As we have come to expect from Hominids and Humans - the first two books in this fine series - the interaction between human and Neanderthal provides unusual and exciting scenarios.

This time around,...
Published on Feb. 3 2004 by Laurel Johnson

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3.0 out of 5 stars Better than Humans, but that's not saying much
After reading Homonids, the first book in this series, I had high hopes for the series. Because, despite what I thought was too much focus in that book on Mary Vaughn's personal problems, I still really enjoyed the book, and thought the premise was very interesting. However, in the second book, Humans, Sawyer takes the story completely in the wrong direction, focusing...
Published on June 14 2004 by John Howard


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Midwest Book Review, Feb. 3 2004
By 
Laurel Johnson (Kansas USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Hybrids (Hardcover)
The Neanderthal hero, Ponter Bobbit, and his homo sapiens lover, Mary Vaughan, are back to bring The Neanderthal Parallax Trilogy to a satisfying climax. As we have come to expect from Hominids and Humans - the first two books in this fine series - the interaction between human and Neanderthal provides unusual and exciting scenarios.

This time around, distinguished Neanderthal scientists have crossed from their universe into ours via the portal created and maintained with Neanderthal technology. Their scientific skills far surpass those of humans, and yet the world in which they live remains pristine. Primeval forests thrive; water and air are pure and sweet; the oceans abound with life and no animals have gone extinct from over-hunting. Their work with DNA rivals anything humans have discovered. The trusting Neanderthals believe the more information exchanged between worlds, the better, but their human counterparts are not so idealistic. Human conditions are overcrowded, the environment fouled by fossil fuels and littered with garbage. One powerful man sees the Neanderthal world as the new Eden and devises a horrifying plan to claim that rich wilderness for humans.

Humans and Neanderthals socially, emotionally, and philosophically gain greater understanding of each other in Hybrids.. Still, there are many problems. Humans cannot grasp the concept of a world without satellites, war, gps systems, cell phones, highways and airplanes. Neanderthals cannot understand a species that would pollute the world they live in and greedily deplete all resources. Meanwhile, Ponter and Mary plan to officially bond and have a child together. Theirs will be the first hybrid offspring between Neanderthal and homo sapiens, if they can utilize technology that has been banned in Ponter's world.

Hybrids is ethically and technologically intriguing.. The characters are fully developed and unique, whether they be good or evil. Dangers threatening both worlds are realistic and mirror a multitude of problems present in our lives today. Although Hybrids is the third and final book in Sawyer's Neanderthal series, the story could stand alone. I do encourage you, however, to read this excellent and well written series in order. As writer and story teller, Sawyer is deserving of every award he's won so far.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Better than Humans, but that's not saying much, June 14 2004
By 
John Howard "jrh1972" (Jacksonville, Florida) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hybrids (Hardcover)
After reading Homonids, the first book in this series, I had high hopes for the series. Because, despite what I thought was too much focus in that book on Mary Vaughn's personal problems, I still really enjoyed the book, and thought the premise was very interesting. However, in the second book, Humans, Sawyer takes the story completely in the wrong direction, focusing almost entirely on the relationship between Mary Vaughn and Ponter Boddit, and ignoring the more interesting story of the comparison and contrast between the two different Earths.
While this book was better than Humans, with a little more focus outside of their relationship, it still is way too heavily skewed towards that storyline. While that mediocre story plays out in detail in each chapter, a much more intresting story goes almost undeveloped in little snippets at the beginning of each chapter. I also found myself wondering how the Neanderthal technology would have managed to progress like it had without a population anywhere near that of the Gliksins. It seems that with the limited population and without so much war to drive technology, they would have moved much slower.
I will continue to look for more from Sawyer in the future, but nothing else from this series. I think Sawyer could have done a much better job with this story, but he just went down the wrong path. If you read the other two books in the series, you will want to read this one as well, but don't expect anything great.
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5.0 out of 5 stars But will it work?, Nov. 16 2003
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hybrids (Hardcover)
Interracial human relationships hold their own fascination. At the same time, they usually present the partners and their surroundings with distinctive challenges. Yet, these must pale in comparison to a love bond between a homo sapiens and an evolved modern-day Neanderthal. Ancient DNA expert Mary Vaughn of Toronto met Physicist Ponter Boddit of Saldek (the Neanderthal equivalent to Sudbury in Northern Ontario) after he was thrown into our version of earth by a quantum computer accident. After various exploratory visits, mainly by scientists, between the parallel universes, a constant portal is established allowing a regular exchange of scientific knowledge and philosophical ideas. The two lovers are determined to bring the two parallel realities closer together.
With great skill and immense empathy for this alternative to the homo sapiens' world Sawyer builds a far-reaching vision of Neanderthal society covering all aspects of its environment, its people and their accomplishments. Exploring the scientific innovations of "Barast" culture provides him a platform for discussing the latest thinking in genetics, consciousness studies, brain research, and physics. His comprehensive knowledge and enthusiasm for scientific subjects shine through all levels of the narrative without becoming heavy or too demanding for the reader. At one level, the Neanderthal version of the universe is presented as a mirror of what could have been in our world. Take the environment: the dialogue between Ponter and Jock, Mary's boss, during a copter flight over New York beautifully illustrates the differences between the two versions of earth as it leaves a deep impression on Jock: Manhattan IS the "Island of Hills" - devoid of skyscrapers, people and traffic. It makes him wish that we "could start all over again with a clean slate".
As Mary spends more time in Ponter's world she learns to accept the differences, up to a point. Many aspects of Barast society are so markedly different that it is not be easy to adapt. For one, our concept of individual freedoms does not mean much here. For example, while the ubiquitous communication system allows instant contact between people, it is monitoring all movements and discussions for the archival record. As one result crime is almost non-existent. Men and women live pretty much separate lives, each with a same-sex mate and their monthly four-day heterosexual coming together - 'Two become One', is treated like a holiday. Children are born according to a predefined generational schedule, allowing the society to maintain population levels stable. Besides the timing, the lovers' wish to conceive a child appears impossible due to the difference in their chromosomes. Sawyer just loves to explain complex genetics in layperson's terms! But DNA research has advanced, mainly in Ponter's world, and new possibilities emerge. The technology is also open to abuse and causes ethical dilemmas. There are more complexities to delve into concerning genetics, above all the potential existence of a specific set of genes, a "God organ". The question of religion has been a major theme throughout the trilogy and here it ends in a dramatic climax.
Sawyer's fluent style and clear, lively narrative make this one of best reads around. At the same time, you learn about some fascinating new research and scientific discoveries and can ponder some important questions about the society we live in. If you have not read the first two volumes of the Neanderthal Parallax, don't feel discouraged. The indispensable background to understand the story is sprinkled throughout this volume. Still, reading it from the beginning leaves you better prepared to savour its different layers. [Friederike Knabe]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, moving, joyous, Nov. 14 2003
By 
Allan Destry (Appleton, WI USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hybrids (Hardcover)
I am amazed at some of the silly readings people have made of this book. There's a complex, subtle vision at work here, not some simplistic message. Although it's true that the NEANDERTHAL PARALLAX series examines the role of male violence, we see during the course of these three books a number of good men (even Mary's ex-husband gets a very sympathetic on-screen portrayal in this volume). The message of HYBRIDS is very clearly that it is evil and wrong to blame all men for the bad acts of some. Indeed -- mild spoiler here -- Sawyer brilliantly contrives a situation in which we think for a time that his main character Mary Vaughan, who has good reason to be very angry with at least one man who has raped her, has come to this simplistic conclusion. But that's not what Mary is thinking AT ALL, as Sawyer makes clear in a very satisfying reversal.
Like the Hugo Award winning HOMINIDS and the equally deserving HUMANS before it, HYBRIDS is a story of big ideas and all-too-human and fallible characters. If you're used to sci-fi about gleaming heroes ... the kind of stuff Baen publishes ... you may indeed find the complex, error-prone, conflicted people populating this book unfamiliar ... except when you take your nose out of a book and look around at REAL HUMAN BEINGS, which is what Sawyer excels at writing about.
The plot here involves multiple levels of hybridization: cultural and personal. There's a quest for the best of both worlds, a mid-ground between the harshness of the Neanderthal system (yes, harshness -- I'm astonished that so many people seem to gloss over the flaws that Sawyer so clearly paints in the Neanderthal system) and our own. And there's a quest for Ponter and Mary to have a child, despite their differing chromosome counts. And, for those who (wrongly) think Sawyer has been unfair to Americans, the president of the US, who delivers a long speech broken up into small sections at the beginnings of each chapter, comes off as thoughtful, humane, and visionary -- just the sort of person we often indeed have had in the White House.
Sawyer has written a thriller combined with a love story combined with a philosophical speculation of the first water. This whole series is excellent, but this final volume is the best of the three, mostly because of the surprising twists and turns and the way Sawyer draws everything together in ways that aren't at all obvious. Read it; you won't be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Requires rust-proofing, Nov. 14 2003
By 
Stephen A. Haines (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hybrids (Hardcover)
Sawyer's title gives the game away up front. Those not having read the previous works in this trilogy will quickly learn of the romance between a human geneticist and a Neanderthal physicist. Mary Vaughn, genetics researcher and rape victim, has cast aside the prejudicial image we hold of extinct "cave men". She dearly loves Ponter Boddit, who has crossed a quantum portal from an alternative universe. Ponter represents the high scientific level Neanderthals might have achieved had they not been driven to extinction by the rise of another hominid - Homo sapiens. These two species having been thoroughly introduced in the previous volumes, the ultimate result of their encounter must be the conception of a child - a hybrid human-Neanderthal.
The genetic obstacle to this breeding exercise gives Sawyer the opportunity to display his research abilities. How he resolves it is testimony to his writing skills. Humans, he tells us, are unique in possessing 23 chromosomes. Other primates, probably including the extinct Neanderthals, have 24. Merging genes from two such creatures is unlikely to produce viable offspring. Sawyer however, has no intention of boring you with clinical issues when there are bigger questions to address. Neanderthals are not only genetically distinct, their social structure differs in ways that would give a sociologist nightmares. Males and females live apart except for a brief period each month - Two Becoming One. Living apart means that each gender "bonds" with another of its kind for most of the month. Intrusions on this rigid social ideal aren't welcome, and Mary's insistence that couples "live together all the time" violates Neanderthal social mores. Tensions build as human and Neanderthals interact.
Neanderthals possess an electronic avatar called a "Companion". These ultimate PalmPilots communicate with one another and with a central recording station. All actions, conversations, decisions are recorded for posterity, or adjudication, if required. Adjudication has a long reach in both time and subject. Violence, they believe, is a genetic trait. The "sins of the fathers" are punished along lines of genetic relationships our society cast aside with the rise of Christianity. If "Hybrids" falls into the hands of a "mainstream" fiction reader, the howls of "genetic determinism" will disturb Sawyer's Mississauga home. However, there's an even bigger issue in this book than justice through biology. Neanderthals have no concept of deities or an afterlife. Why do humans believe in gods but Neanderthals don't?
The question of "faith" builds as the central issue in this series. Sawyer has flirted with it before, but never better than here. His handling of the question is at once novel, entertaining and based on sound research. Not only are Neanderthal and human chromosomes unalike, that condition reflects differences in brain structure. Sawyer extends the findings of Canadian scientist Michael Persinger in coping with this question. What gives humans a "religious sense"? Is it really derived from the supernatural, or does some mechanism bring about faith - an "illness" subject to cure? Ironies abound in this story, but none more potent than those Sawyer raises over this question. What do we believe? Why do we believe it? How do we deal with the concept of gods? There is no "rust-proofing" to cover the issue - Sawyer confronts you with it forcefully. You must see through the ironies and address reality.
Can you read this book without having read the previous two in the trilogy? Easily, if you can accept the notion of alternative universes joined by a quantum gateway. Sawyer deals well with the advance in human cognition that supposedly occurred forty thousand years ago. There are many ramifications branching off from this event and Sawyer handles them skilfully. Sawyer doesn't write simply to entertain. He writes to challenge your thinking, make you ponder the validity of your beliefs and raise questions about how we view the world around us. Read him and ask yourselves the questions. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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4.0 out of 5 stars Economic Problems Not resolved in Hybrids, Oct. 29 2003
By 
This review is from: Hybrids (Hardcover)
Science Fiction attempts to build plausible alternative worlds. The texture and "realism" of such constructions are more important to a science fiction (Said Asimov) than the complexity and interest of the plot or the characters.
The Neanderthal society of the trilogy is idealized. If in this universe Sapiens (Gliskins) dominate the planet and Neanderthal disapeared. On the Earth as we know it no society has succeeded in produced a technical civilization without agriculture. All that we know from this planet indicates that hunter-gatherer Ns would be living sparsely as small bands in the stone age. But the N's of Sawyer's implausible fictional universe surpass us technically in their spare time out from clobbering Mammoths. On our planet a billion rich people are needed to provide the support for our research and development but a few million Ns surpass us in most technologies. Did Sawyer read Jared Diamond's Guns Germs and Steel or just list it in is list of references? Thanks for the reference Mr. Sawyer I loved diamond's book.
In Hybrids Sawyer is explicit about the small size of N population. What does such a sparse population need with a 5000 foot deep nickle mine? Grant them the technology they could find Earth's best nickel mine and dig down a few feet but what would a few blonde beasts do with as much nickel as our six billion person planet?
In the Neanderthal universe Ns dominate the planet and Sapiens disappeared. But the Ns of the trilogy are virtually without fault except that they sterilize the relatives of criminals- showing a non-PC. That they are innocent of Gliskin (Sapien) blood is proclaimed over and over no evidence is cited while the guilt of Sapiens for the disappearance of Ns is assumed. It isnt implausable but so far there is no evidence that Sapiens killed off the Ns on this planet
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great conclusion to great trilogy, Oct. 25 2003
By 
Gerald Dennett (Detroit, MI, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hybrids (Hardcover)
HOMINIDS, the first book in this series, won the HUGO AWARD. The rest of the series is even better. Space isn't the final frontier. In Robert J. Sawyer's remarkable NEANDERTHAL PARALLAX trilogy, the final frontier is right here, but twisted away at an angle: other universes. What if, 40,000 years ago, true consciousness had arisen in Neanderthals, instead of our kind of humanity? What would they have done with this world, this geography, these natural resources, this biosphere? Sawyer's answer is richly detailed, and also winsome ... it makes us wish we could have gone down the same gentler, kindler route.
HYBRIDS picks up the story where HUMANS left off (indeed, despite its vast sweep, the whole trilogy only covers just five months of time). The characters we love from the earlier books -- Homo sapiens geneticist Mary N. Vaughan and Neanderthal quantum physicist Ponter Boddit -- are back, and their growing relationship is front and center. Two other characters who had minor (although important) roles in HUMANS also play key parts here, although the new character, a female Neanderthal named Bandra who loves all things Homo sapiens, is one of Sawyer's most engaging creations.
The series neatly wraps up the issues of religion versus science raised in the first two books in surprising and gutsy ways. The character live and breathe, and although I felt satisfied at the end, I wouldn't mind at all if the NEANDERTHAL PARALLAX ended up being, like Douglas Adams's HITCH-HIKER series, an increasingly inaccurately named trilogy ...
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3.0 out of 5 stars Weak characters detract from fascinating scenario, Oct. 23 2003
This review is from: Hybrids (Hardcover)
Geneticist Mary Vaughan has fallen in love with neanderthal Ponter Boddit--who comes from an alternate reality where neanderthals rather than our own breed of homo sapien prevailed. The neanderthal version of earth is clean, free of polution and overpopulation, and filled with happy and smart neanderthals--especially smart due to a genetic improvement program that has systematically weeded out troublesome or less intelligent members of the society. For a while it looks like the only fly in the ointment is the fact that neanderthals don't really spend a lot of time with male-female bonding. Despite Mary's wishes, Ponter spends most of every month with his male lover--as do all neanderthal men.
Although neanderthals and our version of humanity are biologically close, they cannot interbreed--without help. But Mary comes up with the idea of using technology to help. Fortunately there is a recently invented neanderthal machine that will do that. Unfortunately, this machine can also do a lot more--like create the ultimate super-biological weapon.
Author Robert J. Sawyer creates an interesting set of worlds. Both the genetic and anthropological bases of HYBRIDS are convincing and feel real. From a plot and character perspective, however, HYBRIDS is somewhat disappointing. As a rape survivor and the first Earth-human woman to enter into a relationship with a neanderthal, Mary should be interesting. Instead, her obsession with religion, her whining about not being with Ponter during the periods he spends with his male mate, and her lack of any real motivation and drive make her uninvolving. Only in the last fifty pages does the plot really spring into action with a threat at a second genocide of the neanderthal people--a threat that Mary discovers by complete chance.
HYBRIDS is the thrid book in a series about the earth-human/neanderthal reconnection. My guess is that Sawyer had said everything he wanted to say in the first two.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A solid and interesting end to a remarkable trilogy, Oct. 8 2003
By 
Jonathan Burgoine "bookseller" (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hybrids (Hardcover)
This was phenomenal! In the first two books, "Hominids," and "Humans," Sawyer deftly described the 'alien' in the form of the Neanderthals in such a way as to show us our own failures as human beings, but at the same time, with such a light touch that it did not come across as preachy. If you haven't read those two, then stop now, head on over, and pick up "Hominids," first.

The story in the first two books introduced us to a wide range of neanderthal and human characters, living on parallel earths, and rudely made aware of each other when a single neanderthal, Ponter, falls through into our earth. In the second tome, relations are opened between the world, and a Synergy Group formed. Ponter's relationship with a human woman, Mary Vaughn, grew toward love, and the differences between their two cultures began to show the startling way in which humans have really failed. Indeed, in this book, one of the characters, Jock, begins to see just how poorly humans have handled their world.

There is much to this book that is easily missed - Sawyer has put gender issues, sexuality issues, racism, violence, criminal systems, enviromental practices - all of it is on display in this series, and in the third book, it is in the character of Mary that we get to explore both worlds with her biased human eye.

As the collapse of our Earth's magnetic field continues (it flips now and then, and is doing so now), Jock, Mary, and the rest of the Synergy group are slowly realizing what it could possibly mean to humanity, while at the same time Mary explores options of potentially creating a hybrid child with Ponter, the neanderthal she has fallen in love with.

Most interesting to me (as a gay reader) was Mary's intellectual and emotional wrestling with the Neanderthal relationship structure (they each have a man-mate and a woman-mate, and live in same-gendered relationships for most of their lives, with about four days a month spent in opposite-gender relationships). As Mary moves towards adopting the Neanderthal way of life, she slowly allows herself to consider the option of a woman-mate, and the eventual outcome of her thoughts and feelings really struck me.

Just as interesting was the religious debate that has been ongoing in this series. The Neanderthals, very uncurious and entirely unreligious, are shown to be lacking whatever brain components are required for 'faith.' When Mary and Ponter decide to have a child, the Catholic Mary needs to figure out if her child should have the gene for faith, or not. It's an amazingly good thought process for both of them, and again I tip my hat at Sawyer.

Where the story finally goes took me by surprise, and left me satisfied about the trilogy at large. This was superb, and as always, I wait for Sawyer's next great novel. There's a reason he's one of only sixteen people to have both a Hugo and a Nebula for best novel, folks.

'Nathan
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully satisying conclusion to great trilogy, Sept. 23 2003
By 
Jacob Howson (Hamilton, ON Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hybrids (Hardcover)
Each book in a trilogy has its own special challenges: the first has to satisfy in its own right, so that those who only read it don't feel they've been merely teased, leading up to a cliffhanger designed to force the purchase of another volume. HOMINIDS was perfect: a wonderful novel in its own right, with its own satisfying ending. Sawyer knows that the way to get readers to come back is by giving them a good, complete story, not by jerking them along. There's no cliffhanger at the end of HOMINIDS, but, after reading it, I knew I'd have to stick with this terrific series until the end.
The second book is traditionally thought of as the hardest, since it has to bridge, moving the story along while not wrapping everything up. HUMANS again was perfect: it has some of the best scenes in SF, period -- the scene at the Vietnam wall, the great, not in the least gratuitious bedroom scene, and more.
And the final volume has to wrap everything up with a bang. Sawyer is batting 1000: HYBRIDS does just that. It's an incredibly moving story, but also full of action and adventure. Sawyer's characters don't go in for soap opera histrionics. Rather, they convey volumes to each other through a lift of an eyebrow, a downturned glance, a trailing off of words. It's subtle, sophisticated, adult characterization, and it packs much more of an emotional wallop than yelling or screaming ever does.
It's hard to know what other trilogies to compare the Neanderthal Parallax to. It's much more humane and emotionally engaging than Asimov's FOUNDATION, because of that focus on ordinary people, and it's not really an epic like Herbert's DUNE. Maybe it's something entirely new: a mixture of giant philosophical ideas and very real, warm, HUMAN characters. And isn't offering something new precisely what science fiction is supposed to do?
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Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer (Mass Market Paperback - Nov. 1 2004)
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