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Humans (The Neanderthal Parallax, Book 2) [Hardcover]

Robert J. Sawyer
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312876912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312876913
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 14.6 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,021,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert J. Sawyer has been described as Canada's answer to Michael Crichton. Critically acclaimed in the US he is regarded as one of SF's most significant writers and his novels are regularly voted as fan's favourites. He lives in Canada.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The background to Humans has Ponter Boddit happy to be back in his own world of Neanderthals. He has reunited with friends and family and returned to his life as a physicist. Yet he can't help but feel that there remains unfinished business from his trip to the parallel world inhabited by the strange, possibly dangerous people who call themselves homo sapiens. And he would like to see Mary Vaughan again.

Humans, the second volume in Robert J Sawyer's Parallax trilogy, tells the story of Ponter's second trip to our world and the opening of the portal between worlds to a few other travellers. It is for the most part a quiet story of the deepening relationship between Ponter and Mary as Ponter continues his investigation of the human world and develops a growing interest in the preoccupation of its residents with religion. Meanwhile, intercut scenes of Ponter in therapy on his homeworld contribute to a growing tension in the story, as the reason for Ponter's feelings of guilt is slowly revealed. At the same time, scientists are beginning to notice that there is something odd happening with the magnetic fields of both Earths.

Although it's the middle volume of a trilogy that began with Hominids, the main story in Humans stands alone. Sawyer's enjoyable prose is sprinkled with sly comments on the mutual foibles of Canadians and Americans and Ponter in particular is given several good lines. Set firmly in our present, Humans relies on hard science for its set-up, but the heart of the novel is Mary and Ponter's acceptance of their love for each other. It's a hard-science-fiction romance and Sawyer tells this story of love across boundaries very well. --Greg L. Johnson, Amazon.ca


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It was Mary Vaughan's final evening in Sudbury, and she was experiencing decidedly mixed feelings. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portal for philosophy 4 Jan 2004
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Trilogies have inherent dangers. A second volume must stand alone, which this one does. The characters must build and not slip into static postures. Sawyer accomplishes this by the simple expedient of increasing the interaction of the two protagonists. The plot must move in new directions. This is also achieved, not least by Ponter's return to this "Earth" and Mary's journey to the Neanderthal universe. In their respective universes, Mary and Ponter encounter new people, achieve new levels of interaction and struggle to resolve contentious issues. This last, of course, is but partially successful. This is, after all, a trilogy.
Sawyer's "poetic licence" must run many pages, imposing few constraints. Travel permits are included. He takes us across many borders - between nations, between universes, between species, and over into gender relations. We tour around many fields - geophysics, genetics, cosmology, and, of course, paleoanthropology. If any writer can keep the science in "sci-fi," it's Sawyer. It's a fascinating journey, undertaken at a headlong pace. Through it all, we follow the complex lives of human Mary Vaughan and Neanderthal Ponter Boddit. If all this seems heady stuff, fear not. Sawyer's skillful prose and vivid portrayals will keep you reading steadily. It's all realistic, if not real.
Most readers of this book will have read Hominids, and will go on to finish the trilogy. Readers must be warned, however, Sawyer has a poorly hidden agenda. As in many of his other works, Sawyer seems intent on bringing us to his god. An astonishing amount of time is spent in both volumes on discussions of faith and, that old bugaboo, the "afterlife." Little of Ponter's science is discussed, but his personality is drawn as cool, rational almost to an extreme.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bridging the divide 12 Nov 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
With HUMANS, the second volume in the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, Sawyer is drawing the reader deep into the parallel worlds of Mary Vaughan and Ponter Bobbit. Most people who delve into the story will have read HOMINIDS and understand the basic philosophical and scientific concepts presented. Those who have not would be well advised to pick up the first volume before getting too deeply into this one. Otherwise they may miss out on depth and complexity of what is presented.
HUMANS is a very entertaining read, fast paced and engaging. There are also very funny moments. The two key representatives, Mary, from “our” Earth and Ponter, from the Neanderthals’ universe, continue to explore their respective realities in a multitude of ways. Ponter ‘returns’ to Canada and Mary has the opportunity to explore the ‘other side’. Their continuing dialogue and interaction form the centrepiece of the novel. Subjects range from such topical scientific questions as the impact of the possible collapse the Earth’s magnetic field to the exploration of societal structures and human relationships. Above all, discussions return regularly to Mary’s religious side of life. Ponter, having reflected on faith as a conundrum for a Neanderthal scientist ever since he left this earth, becomes more deeply drawn to the question of spirituality and morality on his return visit.
Sawyer introduces new players to complement the set of characters well know from HOMINIDS. In particular, the Neanderthal women round off the depiction of life in their world. The global leadership in the Neanderthal’s universe, the High Gray Council, deliberates at length whether to reopen the portal to the “Gliksin” world.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A tepid follow-up to Hominids 5 Mar 2007
By Ifty
Format:Hardcover
'Humans' turns out to be a somewhat tepid follow-up to the fascinating 'Hominids'. The story picks up where it left off in the previous book and revolves around the growing relationship between the Neanderthal Ponter and the human Mary (technically Neanderthals are also human, but for brevity's sake I'm using the term to stand for Homo Sapiens). Mary travels with Ponter to her world as the portal between the two alternate Earths is opened up for trade. There we get a closer look at Neanderthal society as Mary tries to adjust to its norms. Ponter also finds that he has to come to term with how his time on our Earth and his love from Mary has changed him.

In terms of plot structure and inventiveness, Humans is inferior to its predecessor. Ponter and Mary aside, the other supporting characters don't develop at all and seem to recede into the background. None of the new characters take on three dimensions. We don't see much of Neanderthal society that we haven't already seen before. Even the social and political ramifications of the establishment of links between the two worlds is avoided altogether. The only plot threads with any weight are those of the love between Ponter and Mary and Ponter's growing ambiguity about religion - a concept he had initially dismissed as illogical and even detrimental to the functioning of a well-adjusted society. These are interesting themes but neither are handled well enough to give the book the kind of depth and pull of 'Hominids'.

This is not to say that 'Humans' is a poor read. Sawyer's prose is as fluid and easy on the eye as ever, and our interest in this interweaving of the two Earths carries over from the first book. The urge to discover what happens next provides a powerful incentive to keep reading. All in all, it's a decent read and forms a bridge to the third book that is sufficiently entertaining, for the reader to want to complete the journey.
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