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(Neanderthal Parallax #1)

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  11,668 ratings  ·  722 reviews
Neanderthals have developed a radically different civilization on a parallel Earth. A Neanderthal physicist, Ponter Boddit, accidentally passes from his universe into a Canadian underground research facility. Fortunately, a team of human scientists, including expert paleo-anthropologist Mary Vaughan, promptly identifies and warmly receives Ponter. Solving the language prob ...more
Paperback, 444 pages
Published February 17th 2003 by Tor Books (first published May 3rd 2002)
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 ·  11,668 ratings  ·  722 reviews

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Jamie Collins
Jan 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
This is worth reading for the intriguing depiction of an advanced neanderthal society, but it's not a very well-written novel.

The narrative was more readable when it focused on the neanderthals, perhaps because the alienness of the society kept my attention, but as soon as it returned to the homo sapiens the prose became clunky enough to pull me out of the story. The characterizations are poor, particularly that of Mary, one of the main protagonists.

And the author almost ruined my enjoyment of t
Apr 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer concerns a parallel universe where Neanderthals became the dominant branch of humanity while Homo sapiens dies out, much in the same way that Neanderthals died out in our world.

By an accident of quantum physics, the two worlds are joined briefly and a Neanderthal physicist is sucked into our world. Sawyer uses this event to show the differences and distinctions of the two species, how they diverged and also as a vehicle, almost utopian or Brobdingnagian in nature, t
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
“Although not every paleoanthropologist agreed, many shared her view that between 40,000 and 27,000 years ago, Homo sapiens—anatomically modern humans—completed the first of what would be many deliberate or inadvertent genocides, wiping the planet free of the only other extant member of the same genus, a separate, more gentle species that perhaps had been better entitled to the double meaning of the word humanity.”

Humanity’s destructive tendencies is one of the main themes of Hominids, Robert J.
B Schrodinger
May 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Robert Sawyer can be a bit hit and miss to me, but 'Hominids' is the best hit he has had with me. This was a reread after about a decade at a guess. And while I knew the plot, the thought experiment is still strong and is a delight to read.

The book has its faults though. Like most of all Sawyer's books it revolves around a great idea, fleshed out to find interesting consequences and peopled with pawns to do his bidding. These people are a little more rounded than most SF characters, but still l
The idea of this novel is fairly interesting. In an alternate universe Neanderthals survived instead of our branch of the evolutionary tree. While testing a quantum computer a swap ends up happening between the two realities and a Neanderthal scientist finds himself in our reality. The Neanderthals get some radioactive water from us. Fair trade.

Culture shock follows and a compare and contrast between our present society and the what might have been if Neanderthals lived and we just disappeared
Mike Moore
Apr 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
It seems that every so often, the sci-fi community embraces a new variant of the old story where an enlightened figure from a superior society descends to point out everything that's wrong with us. I've pretty much lost patience with this motif, I think it's intellectually lazy and philosophically infantile. Besides, they've all blended together in my mind at this point, and so this book is doomed to merge with a composite that includes the Dispossessed, the Man who Fell to Earth and Crocodile D ...more

Following the resounding success of my Locus Quest, I faced a dilemma: which reading list to follow it up with? Variety is the spice of life, so I’ve decided to diversify and pursue six different lists simultaneously. This book falls into my HUGO WINNERS list.

This is the reading list that follows the old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". I loved reading the Locus Sci-Fi Award winners so I'm going to crack on with the Hugo winners next (but only the post-1980 winners, I'll follow up w
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome! Totally freaking awesome!

Ponter is working in a quantum physics lab with his partner and man-mate, Adikor, when he accidentally crosses over between their world and ours. Ponter is a Neanderthal and comes from a parallel universe where we died out and Neanderthals became the dominant species. Ponter ends up in a Canadian lab and his part of the story is about his interactions with these scientists. Unfortunately his disappearance in his own world has led to his partner being charged wit
May 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008, sci-fi
Wow! I have grown really sick and tired of books that take 100-200 pages to get into. I'm even more sick and tired of whole books that just set up the reader for the sequels. "Hominids" is neither. The first chapter just sucked me right in. It was probably the most exciting first chapter I've read in a long, long time. And, the book is a self-contained story. It does leave room for a sequel, but doesn't require that you read it. The premise is terrific too.

I've never read anything by Robert J.
Hominids is a pretty good first book in a trilogy with a cool premise, namely, that there is a parallel universe where Neanderthals became the dominant hominid species on an otherwise-identical Earth. I use the term “pretty good” deliberately, knowing full well this book won the 2003 Hugo. And let’s be clear: I did enjoy the book insofar as it was, well, pretty good. Ultimately, though, I was a little disappointed given the awards and attention this book has received. So I wonder if what it com ...more
-- Warning, contains spoilers, mostly regarding an early traumatic event for a main character --

I would like to read the sequel to this book, although probably not for the right reason. I found the core concept interesting, but in some ways, it felt like the thought experiment was flawed. I'll stipulate that the premise interested me: how would things be different if things had gone another way in early earth life? It's a nice twist on the rugged science fiction horse of how an alien society com
Althea Ann
Oct 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
I read this as part of my "reading all the Hugo winners" goal.
All I have to say is: This book was up against China Mieville's 'The Scar' - and THIS won? WHAT?
Sorry, but this is just not a very good book.

The premise is that, due to an accident that occurs during a quantum physics experiment, a Neanderthal scientist from a parallel universe where humanity is the race that went extinct, finds himself stranded in our world.
There's plenty to work with there, lots of potential. However, that potentia
Mar 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
This book raises several disturbing questions. Questions like, "How did this get published?", "Doesn't Tor have editors on staff?", and, most shocking of all, "How the hell did this piece of shit win a Hugo?"

When encountering the unsophisticated writing style, I figured that Sawyer was some sort of scientist trying his hand at sci-fi, but that can't possibly be the case, given the myriad scientific misconceptions scattered everywhere in the book. The thing reminds me of all the horribly outdated
Donna Backshall
The book itself was good, but I took one remarkable thing from it, something I consider every time I talk about "work", more than a decade later. For the Neanderthals, your job is a contribution. When you meet someone, you ask "What is your contribution?" and people happily explain to you how they contribute. I LOVE THIS. The emphasis on meaning and impact in your daily toils is such a simple yet huge paradigm shift, especially for the average American. Now every day I hope not just to work, but ...more
Mar 27, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, canadian-lit
This is going to be one of those reviews where I'll sound much more negative than I really feel, so please bear with me.

Is Neanderthal Parallax really the best Canadian Sci-Fi has to offer? I ask the question seriously because I've been told repeatedly that this series is the finest Canadian Sci-Fi and that Robert J. Sawyer is Canada's finest Sci-Fi writer. If this is really the case then Canada is a Sci-Fi ghetto. After all, Sawyer is no Iain M. Banks (Scotland), no Richard Morgan (England), n
Jul 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Not bad. Good enough that I will likely read book two in the series. I liked the concept of a parallel world in which Neanderthals survived and humans did not. To them we are the extinct and spindly Gliksins.

The story revolves around a Neanderthal physicist who was accidentally transported to our world during a scientific experiment in their world. The author then focuses on the reaction to a discovery of Neanderthal in our world while simultaneously covering a murder trial involving the scient
3.5 stars. Excellent premise, great world-building and well drawn characters. The concept of a society evolved from Neanderthals was deftly handled. Recommended.

Winner: Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Nominee: John W. Campbell Award for Best Science Fiction Novel
Kara Babcock
Few things are probably scarier than suddenly being utterly and totally alone. Robert J. Sawyer reminds us of that fact by transposing Ponter Boddit, a Neanderthal physicist, from the parallel universe in which he resides to our universe, where Neanderthals have been extinct for tens of thousands of years. Aside from having instant celebrity status—including the paparazzi that come with it—Ponter must face the fact that he might never return to his own universe. And back in his universe, this ha ...more
[Name Redacted]
This book is drivel. And that's coming from a man who otherwise enjoys Sawyer's work. This book is utter drek, a long overly-simplistic, willfully-ignorant screed.

What is more, i feel a cruel sort of delight comparing Sawyer's childish utopian fantasy of Neanderthals which he seeks to juxtapose with his vision of Humanity when I compare it to all the recent archaeological & neurologial findings which reveal that, actually, Neanderthals were more hostile, aggressive, insular & clannish while Huma
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is a great example of "men writing women." As many other reviewers have noted, the premise is fun and interesting. Neanderthals evolving instead of humans? Parallel worlds? Portals? Totes fun! But the women characters are all super cringy.

The first character introduced is a post doc who is female and never once referred to as a doctor. We are constantly reminded that she has a super sexy body though. In the first scene she is reading Cosmo while on the job at a neutrino research facility.
Jun 11, 2010 rated it liked it
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 allow
Fred Hughes
Dec 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the first book in The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy. The other two being Humans (book 2) and Hybrid (book 3).

In this book we have a Neanderthal physicist called Ponter Boddit running a quantum computer establishing a portal between his world and Earth. One minute he’s checking out a computer and the next minute he is gone.

Arriving on Earth he finds himself inside a sphere of heavy water used for neutrino research. He is rescued by Dr Mary Vaughan (human geneticist) who is monitoring the n
So disappointed by this book. It started out seeming very promising, but then it wasted all its potential.

I love fish out of water stories. I love alternate societies that are used as a commentary on our society. A lot of this was done well here. Honestly, this is the only good portrayal of a polyamorous person I've seen in published fiction. But it didn't go far enough. Never did the polyamory/monogamy divide become an issue. Never was Neanderthal society used to critique rape culture, which sh
Jul 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Given my love of the Old Grand Masters (Heinlein, Asimov, Niven), I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did. Decent science, well described; memorable characters; and good plotting well paced combined to make a sharp novel -- well deserving of the Hugo Award.
I had found a few flaws that irritated me. (Without providing spoilers) I felt the personal tragedy of the female lead, occurring so suddenly before it was necessary to advance the plot, was a bit contrived. Similarly, the reve
Chris Kelly
Oct 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A pretty unique take on the "fish out of water" story.

I was impressed by the amount of research that went into this book (even though it's not all accurate, having been written over a decade ago), and the differences between human and Neanderthal culture and biology made for an intriguing read.

That being said, there were a few story elements that didn't quite sit right with me (*THAT* scene during Mary's introduction immediately comes to mind..) though overall I didn't feel that they detracted f
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of Sawyer's best novels, a hard-science extrapolation of quantum physics that centers on sociological questions raised by inter-dimensional parallel evolution. The Neanderthal civilization is portrayed so rigorously and logically that it's more convincingly realistic than our own. Many readers have said the main human character lacked verisimilitude, but I thought she was quite convincing and sympathetic; different people react to and deal with situations quite differently. It's also ...more
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is the second book of Sawyer's that I've read, and I'll surely read more. While I do enjoy Sawyer's philosophizing of the big ideas his stories revolve around, I do feel the lack of having an epic storyline to correspond with his epic ideas. Based on the preview I read, I'm guessing that the epic plot-line still doesn't appear in the sequels to this book. Still, it's an enjoyable read.

In this particular novel, Sawyer imagines a man crossing over to our world from a parallel Earth in which
Oct 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
Yeah, this seemed like a fun idea at the time. I'm still reading this, but I have a few "beefs" I'd like to address.

#1. Why do some male authors insist on introducing female characters by their looks (the female physicist is "tall and beautiful". Of course she is because she just couldn't be a physicist.

#2. The second female character, a world renowned geneticist is introduced to us and is immediately raped. Yep, you read that right. Oh before the rape, she's wishing she could be as skinny as s
ashley c
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Read it really fast during work because it was a slow day. And when I mean slow I mean no one walked into the shop. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, because I've been reading my ebooks in the pretext of doing Something Important on my phone, like checking my email.

(Partial, non-important spoilers ahead)

Once again, RJS wowed me with his ability to dream up and write into being whole, plausible worlds, with this one endearingly familiar yet so wondrously different. While quantum p
Mar 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Part of my March 2010 Hugo Award winner bonanza.

Here's what my husband had to say about the book after he picked it up from the university library: "It appears to be about monkey-men. Therefore, it appears to be awesome."

There's something to be said for a book that draws you in every time you pick it up. Each time it only took a page before I was fully in the "flow" - ignoring everything around me, forgetting my own life. And there are evolved Neanderthals and parallel universes!
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Robert J. Sawyer is one of Canada's best known and most successful science fiction writers. He is the only Canadian (and one of only 7 writers in the world) to have won all three of the top international awards for science fiction: the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and the 2006 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan.
Robert Sawyer grew up in

Other books in the series

Neanderthal Parallax (3 books)
  • Humans (Neanderthal Parallax, #2)
  • Hybrids (Neanderthal Parallax, #3)

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