Chris's Reviews > Hominids

Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer
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's review
Jun 11, 2010

liked it
Read from June 11 to 14, 2010 — I own a copy

What a pity a book with a reasonable array of new angles on ideas and social commentary had to be marred by clunky, clumsy, even offensive, writing, such as the author's emphasis and harping on what he unblushingly calls "periods" (no, not a full-stop, but yes indeed, that very embarassing menstruation thing); not to mention the graphic rape scene that he introduces one of the main characters with.

..and indeed the character undergoing this (seemingly unneccessary to the plot, except for it allowing for a very contrived juxtaposition of the "gentle" Neanderthal as opposed to us brutal humans) rape, is a very incongruent character indeed. A mass of contradictions, she feels a bit under the weather because of the rape for a day or so, but very quickly perks up again. In thruth, real rape victims are usually in denial for days (or weeks or months) and it takes real victims months and years (or never) to recover.

..but then Mary's character is just as paper-thin (though more confusing) than the other characters in this jumbled novel. It is especially the way this scientist experiences and clings to the less rational aspects of religion, that had me a bit puzzled. I came away from it still trying to puzzle out whether Sawyer sees himself as a Christian (Catholic)apologist, or an atheist one? Perhaps he was trying to be a neutral observer and trying to strike a fair balance between the two viewpoints?

I find it interesting that some reviewers tout the Neanderthal Big Brother system as a "totalitarian" state, while it is made quite clear that there is no political coercion and that the members of this society can indeed vote., interestingly, the Big Brother voyeristic system is, in this scenario used purely for reasons of detecting crime, (and not for political reasons) which of course, will never work in a homo sapiens society, where a system such as this will of course be used for information gathering for marketing and other purposes of influencing the population for ostensibly benevolent or not-so benevolent reasons.

So, yeah, nice idea if humans could have been as simplistic as the Neanderthals that Sawyer portrays. I won't say anything about his genetic manipulation ideas, since I think Sawyer quite ably pointed out some of the possible evils that such a system would carry with it.

All in all, I would have given this book four stars for the nice attempt at an alternative history, and the rolling around of ideas, were it not for the clumsy and offensive bits.
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