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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. A major scene in this novel, and its most inconsistent one, is Mary and Ponter's visit to Washington, DC. For reasons wholly inexplicable in a Canadian who wished to keep Toronto's CN Tower in view from Rochester, NY, she drags him to the Viet Nam Memorial, engaging him in another sermon about "faith." This time, unlike in Hominids, where he resolutely rejected her ideas, he waffles. Volume three, Hybrids, is almost certain to have him converted. After all, against all logic, he claims to be in love with her. What is motivating Sawyer in these efforts remains a mystery. Perhaps it's time for him to produce a non-fiction statement of his philosophy.
Even with the "faith" shortcoming and some severe bending of anthropology and cosmology, this book remains an excellent read. Sawyer's writing is masterful and his use of real science, no matter how contentious the topics, must be applauded. If he "takes sides" why should we condemn his choices? The final volume will be welcome and the entire trilogy a valuable asset as an exhibit of his skills and the readers' taste. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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on 8 June 2016
A fine sequel to Hominids. As well as the sci-fi aspect of parallel worlds where humans died out on the other world, the author has a dig at some aspects of our beliefs. Particularly religion and war. Neanderthals do not believe in a supreme being or an afterlife. They also find Wars pointless. This has resulted in some negative reviews. I actually enjoyed the story more because of the questioning of humanity.

Ray Smillie
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on 12 November 2003
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. The opportunities of this new kind of globalization are too tempting to miss. Tentative exploration of cultural, commerce and scientific exchange, however, does not turn out as easy as the proponents might have liked and even anticipated. But then, there is the last volume in the trilogy to clear up and explain all the "ox-uh-mor-ons" encountered. [Friederike Knabe]
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on 16 September 2014
Poor followup to Hominids with plot being replaced by polemic. There are several "discussions" which seem more like rants to me which can easily be skipped (as can the long sex scene) without harming the plot at all. I would have liked more show with less tell.
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on 19 November 2003
I've a relative newcomer to Mr. Sawyer's works. I rather enjoyed Hominids, the first in this trilogy, but frankly, I was disappointed by this sequel. It is mildly diverting to find out a little more about Mary and Ponter, but beyond that, the rest of the book is really pretty flat. Where new characters are introduced, they seem one-dimensional, and plot-lines never develop significantly. The book becomes a thinly disguised rant at gun ownership, and also has a good go at our "civilisation", contrasting it with the utopia enjoyed by the Neanderthals. No objection to these themes being used -- but I would like a little thought to be put into them, and perhaps opposing points of view contrasted.
Some mildly diverting bits, and the section based at the Vietnam memorial was moving; however, this book left a nasty taste in my mouth. I doubt if I'll bother with the 3rd installment, and Mr. Sawyer is not likely to be an automatic buy for me, based on this outing.
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on 5 March 2007
'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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VINE VOICEon 6 June 2010
If you enjoyed Hominids then you'll probably like `Humans' too - although it's not quite so tautly plotted as its predecessor. Sawyer continues to make the most of his interesting premise though, and encourages the reader to reflect on the differences between Neanderthal and human society, usually, though not always appearing to come down on the Neanderthals' side.

Ponter Boddit is an amiable and engaging protagonist and yet we learn at the very beginning of the novel about some terrible act he has committed. The novel is thus a series of flashbacks, leading up the final revelation of his crime, punctuated by brief exchanges between Ponter and his `personality sculptor'.

Although the plot is absorbing enough, it lacks the excitement of the initial `first contact' experienced by Sawyer's human characters - and human readers - in `Hominids'. However I am still looking forward to reading the final instalment.
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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2011
A generally pretty good sequel to Hominids. There are some further interesting discussions between characters about differences in human and Neanderthal customs, attitudes and technological development. However, unlike its predecessor, there isn't a great deal of action throughout much of the book, the main focus being on Ponter Boddit's growing relationship with Mary and the conundrums and tensions this throws up. The ending was rather unpleasant. Given the sex scene in this novel, and the fact that the third one is called Hybrids, it's fairly obvious what that will be about!
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on 10 June 2015
All good. Quick delivery and well packaged. Exactly as advertised
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on 25 June 2004
I think I may still have a few Robert J. Sawyer books around, but I've destroyed most. He has quite an anti-Catholic bias, and in fact I was told at one time that his Quintagilio Ascension series was an analogy used to poke fun at the Church. This series also isn't free from this bias with the main character, Mary, who is meant to be a Catholic, using Birth Control despite the fact that the Catholic Church sees it as a mortal sin and it being condemned explicitly by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. Also I faintly remember her talking about a confession (in regards to the use of birth control) - I think that the character withheld information during the confession - again something that would be a mortal sin (i.e. sacrelige).

But that those aren't the only objections I have to this series - besides any anti-catholicism that lurks within it I am also upset by it unnecessarily diverting the plot with rape, and sex scenes between the Mary and the Neanderthal (I forgot his name).

I would definitely not recommend this book.
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