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Marilee J. Layman

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09:25 pm: Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer
This was our bookgroup book for today. It turns out I didn't read this before -- he has another with a neanderthal child and I read that. The basic story was interesting enough that I put in a request for the next book, Humans, at the library and just ordered the last, Hybrids, at Abebooks. And then emailed the group so nobody else has to buy it. I'll just pass it on next time to the ones who want to read it.

The story starts with a Neanderthal being dumped from their world's Sudbury Nickel Mine into ours, via a quantum computer. On our side, he has to be saved from the heavy water he landed in, kept from the raging government, and then quarantined. On their side, because of their society and computing advances, they assume his partner killed him, and the partner is accused of murder, the punishment for which is not death, but sterilization for him and everybody who shares his genes.

The Neaderthal society is rather socialized and doesn't make a lot of sense. As usual, the author has left no space for people like me (maybe they kill disabled people, but it doesn't say what they do). We learn a lot about Neanderthal men, but not Neanderthal women, and in our world, there is an unnecessary rape scene to cause sympathy.

The Neanderthal emotions and such are close enough to ours to recognize, which also seems kind of unlikely. In some places, Sawyer has put invented words in the book, but in others, he just uses ours and there seems to be no particular reason. A tabant in their world is clearly a guardian in our world. And the technology they have that we don't doesn't have invented words.

We all agreed that the basic story was pretty good, but the worldbuilding and physics were unbelievable. If you like Sawyer, you've probably already read this. If you don't like Sawyer, don't bother with this.

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[User Picture]
From:firecat
Date:June 22nd, 2008 05:04 am (UTC)
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Thanks for the review - I've been considering this series, but based on your review (unnecessary rape scenes, neanderthals too similar to humans, unbelievable worldbuilding) I think I'll skip it.
[User Picture]
From:mjlayman
Date:June 22nd, 2008 10:20 pm (UTC)
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The scary part is that it won a Hugo. Now, it was at the last Torcon, where he was the only Canadian on the Novel ballot, but it does make one wonder. Here's the other finalists:

Kiln People (alt: Kil’n People) by David Brin [Tor, 2002]
Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick [Eos, 2002]
The Scar by China Miéville [Del Rey, Jun 2002; Macmillan, 2002]
The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson [Bantam, 2002]
[User Picture]
From:firecat
Date:June 22nd, 2008 10:55 pm (UTC)
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Oh well, there are plenty of less than brilliant hugo winners. Which of those would you have picked?
[User Picture]
From:mjlayman
Date:June 22nd, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
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I've only read Kiln People so far (own the others, but we did Kiln People in bookgroup) so it's hard to say. My guess, considering how I like the authors' other works, would be the Robinson.
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