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4.1 out of 5 stars
Hybrids
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on April 18, 2015
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I guess we will never know what dramas took place when Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals hung out on the same turf. Likely it was ugly but we stayed and they went, though Ozzie Osbourne apparently retains some of their DNA. Sawyers trilogy has fascinated me from the beginning; it is a work of great imagination that in the end plays with a different paradigm of what humanity could be. In that way it is a bit of a Utopian/Dystopian hybrid. Maybe in a better world we could all be bisexual, chasing down mastodons with spears for fun. I'm not sure it holds up to much scrutiny but the books are fun and stimulating. Hybrids is perhaps the weakest; being a little more preachy than the prior two novels but it remains worth the read.
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on May 18, 2014
Haven't read this. Sci-fi. I have read this author in other works but can't comment on this book. Maybe someday
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 10, 2012
This is the third book in The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy. The other two being Hominids (book 1) and Humans (book 2).

In this book we find Dr Mary Vaughan (human geneticist) and Ponter Boddit (Neanderthal physicist) continuing their relationship that developed when they first met. Mary has gone over to the parallel Neanderthal world to learn more about their culture.

From the first books we have learned that in the Neanderthal world:

1) The population has been limited to 185 million
2) All the men live on the outskirts of town and all the women live in the middle
3) The women live with their woman mate and children
4) The men live with their man mate
5) Every 25 days the men go into town and visit their woman mate for 4 days
6) Conception is limited to once every 10 years thus aiding the ZPG
7) Regressive genes (violence, disease etc )have been bred out of the population
8) While they have helicopters they don't have airplanes
9) They don't use fossil fuels but rather solar power
10) They have a strong opinion about religions, because they don't have any
11) They have an implanted electronic companion that records everything they do so crime and violence is rare

Mary and Ponter want to have a child however their chromosomes are different so it would not be possible. They meet a disgraced Neanderthal geneticist who may have solved that problem and smuggle out her equipment that has banned to be used.

However her boss, Jock, who works for the military designs an airborne virus that will only kill Neanderthals and leave their idealic world available to the humans.

The race is then on with Ponter and Mary trying to stop Jock. There are other minor story arcs that add variety to the book and it is highly entertaining

While this book is the third in a trilogy it stands alone as a great read. The background from the other two books, at least the highlights, is included in flashbacks to flush out the story arc.
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on June 14, 2004
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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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2004
Just read this trilogy in the last few days. Gotta say, I'm disappointed.
The premise is somewhat interesting - a Neanderthal physicist is experimenting with quantum computers and accidentally opens a portal between his earth where Neanderthals rules to the possible earth where homo sapiens dominate the planet (our world) (Sawyer never did answer my geek question - did the large possibly prime number he was trying to factor uniquely address our world, or was it due to other factors?).
The Neanderthal comes over to our world, and wackiness ensues. We actually see quite a bit less wackiness than I would expect to see, and this is another place where the books fail as "hard" science fiction - the reactions of the human institutions don't seem plausible, there's far too little security and oversight in what goes on with the "alien" visitors and the gateway.
The thousand+ page trilogy would have made a far better short story or novella, there just aren't that many ideas in the whole thing and the writing is not particularly engaging.
As "hard" science fiction, there are basically two strong somewhat novel ideas in the books. One is the quantum computer gateway, the other is that religion is an artifact of the interaction of the homo sapien parietal lobe with magnetic fields. The first is kinda interesting, the second is just loopy. He handwaves away the environments where humans do interact with strong varying magnetic fields and then he introduces a surge in the Earth's magnetic field (on New Year's eve when our characters are in Times Square, of course) and everybody on the planet has a religious experience. Whee.
The other aspect of the book is more "social" science fiction. Using the alien as a contrast to explore human society is as old as science fiction is. Such explorations, when coming from the deft hands as one such as C J Cherryh, can be both intriguing and entertaining. If the alien is 3-dimension and has both strengths and weakness that are used to contrast with humanity's strengths and weaknesses
In the hands of someone less adept, this can become a cliche where the author merely catalogs the failings of humanity and simplifies the issues to blame one or two factors.
Unfortunately, Sawyer does the second. Humans, especially male humans, *especially* especially white male humans, **especially** *especially* especially white American male humans (except when castrated), are bad. Oh yes, and where testosterone isn't to blame, religion is - but that's just a mutated part of the parietal lobe acting out.
Neanderthals are good - and where there's bad in Neanderthals, it's because testerone was involved and the Neanderthal's eugenics program was only nearly perfect instead of completely perfect.
There's a hint of a grudging nod given to homo sapiens' accomplishments, but it's lackluster and is only a few words out of a thousand+ pages. It feels like an editor said, "show some balance" and Sawyer tacked it on.
Sawyer doesn't even bother to do more than handwave how homo sapiens disappeared in the Neanderthal's world, but spends a lot of time on homo sapiens' genocides.
Anyway, I was disappointed. The books were vaguely entertaining but the ham-handed "social" aspects were far too simple-minded and comprised too many pages to be anything other than tedious and annoying. I've enjoy others of Sawyers' books, but I'm going to be wary of him now.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2004
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 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2004
This book is one of the reasons I dislike trilogies. I read the first two books which represented very good, inventive science fiction. When the third book (which I looked forward to reading) turns out to be wretched, I felt cheated.
Hybrids is chiefly a treatise on the wonders of Canadian socialism, and a blunt object to beat on Americans, Christians, and white males. This constant antagonism squelches what little interest there is in Sawyer's overly clever plot, and makes his characters difficult, if not impossible to connect with.
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on December 13, 2003
It's become fashionable in some circles to denigrate the term "science fiction" .... in favor of "speculative fiction," or some such .... and to treat the "literature of ideas" .... science fiction's venerable nickname .... as pejorative. Robt J. Sawyer proves both those movements misguided. Here is real science fiction, with cutting edge science (anthropology, quantum physics, genetics, and more), and new and interesting ideas on every page. The whole Neanderthal Parallax is worth reading .... and Hybrids finishes it off in high style.
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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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