Sunday, January 3, 2016

2003 Hugo Winner: Hominids

Robert J. Sawyer
Completed 5/5/2013, reviewed 5/5/2013
3 stars

This is a fast paced book.  It reads very quickly.  I really liked the main story line.  A modern Neanderthal man from a parallel Earth crosses into our world.  A doctor, a physics post-doc student, and a geneticist try to keep him from the press and learn about him and the world he comes from.

I did not like most of the other plotlines.  The most offensive to me was the rape scene.  I thought it was completely unnecessary for the character of the geneticist.  This is not a spoiler alert.  It happens before she meets the Neanderthal man, Ponter.  If the author was looking for some character arc for her, I didn’t think something as dramatic as a rape was appropriate.  It just didn’t fit into the whole tone of the book.  It seemed forced, like he had a table of possible experiences to explain her behavior, and this won out over other ideas. 

I also didn’t like the accusation of murder of Ponter’s partner.  It occurred to me that it’s not a bad device.  If you think about it, how else would you explain the sudden disappearance of someone, when the idea of a parallel universe is at best a theory among scientists, not the general public. 

The problem I found was the when you add these two plotlines to the book, you end up with a soap opera.  That’s how it felt.  Remarkably, the author was able to keep it all moving quickly.  Fortunately, the author knows how to write pop-fiction, and kept the soapy parts as fast paced as the rest of the book. 

I really liked the main Neanderthal characters, Ponter and his partner.  Despite the rape scene, I also liked the geneticist.  The world of the Neanderthals is also interesting.  It almost utopian, though with a potential for big-brother monitoring.  Sex just is.  There is no distinction between gay and straight.  There is just sex with your partner and procreation with your mate.  Indeed, because of the division of the sexes in this world, the dominant behavior is homosexual, but it is not identified as being separate from being heterosexual.  It is just what one does with either your partner or your mate, and you love both.  It’s a really interesting idea that was well portrayed.

So I gave this 3 stars.  Initially I was leaning towards 2 or 2 ½, but when I finished the book, I felt good about it, despite my dislikes.  

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