Author(s): Robert J. Sawyer
Publisher: Tor Books
When I first saw the hardback version of Hominids in our local Hastings Bookstore I noticed that the cover said, "Book 1 of The Neanderthal Parallax"! I'd just finished reading the serialization in Analog, and knew Hominids to be a special book (I guess so... It just won the Hugo for best novel!) so I was pleased there was going to be more about Ponter Bobbit.
Well, book 2 Humans is now out in paperback (and #3, Hybrids is out in hardback), so I plunked down my hard earned money and bought book 2. Good book, worth the wait. Of course the groundbreaking worldbuilding first revealed in book 1 is more fully detailed in this book, and the book definitely stands alone, but it isn't the mindbender that Hominids was.
Ponter and company live in a world of hunter/gatherers much cleaner and in some ways saner than ours. Sawyer has some rather nasty things to say about the invention of agriculture. Of course, agriculture has a lot to do with the fact that our earth is presently capable of supporting six billion souls.
Anyway, privacy as we know it doesn't exist, nor does marriage "as we know it". The family life of Neanderthals is quite perverse when held up to human standards, but, guess what, they ain't human. Ponder re-visits our Earth and Mary Vaughan, paleoanthropologist from the first novel visits the Neanderthal world with him. Mary's traumatic rape, which seemed unnecessary in the first book becomes an important turning point of the second book, and also, the soon-to-occur shifting of the Earth's magnetic field becomes a critical problem.
Although the book ties up a number of loose ends created by the first book, it definitely is a middle book, leaving us in breathless (as it were) anticipation of book 3. Sawyer has another winner here, and although I could have easily lived without the "mature" sex scenes, it was still a really good read.
Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Wright