Robert J. Sawyer
Hominids Cover



Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer is the 2003 Hugo winner for best novel. Although this was the first novel in his "Neanderthal Parallax" series, it was the only winner. Mr. Sawyer is a "one and done" Hugo winner, in that this novel was his only winner. He is not in bad company and is not necessarily a sign of anything, I just wanted to point this out. I actually quite enjoyed many parts of this novel.

The plot and storyline was an original one to me. A "modern" Neanderthal man is transported to "Homo Sapiens" Earth. Fortunately, his society is much more technologically advanced and he has an implant that learns English quickly. This was a novel set in Canada by a Canadian author. I'm not sure if this is why the scientist who meet Ponter, the name of the Neanderthal physicist, are so very naive. I mean there is a Geneticist and a Physician, as well as several Physicist in the "team" that interact with Ponter and not one of them consider that Ponter has no immunity to our bacteria. Hell, I'm not any kind of doctor and I was questioning this line 100 pages before he got sick! The reality of this situation would be that the minute that man walked through the portal he would have been sept away to a secure location and kept in a clean room where he would be examined and interrogated until he eventually died in captivity, and the world would never know anything about him except in whispers on some strange conspiracy website. At least as an American, that is how I feel it would go down.

I'm pretty sure it shows some kind of sick weakness on my part that I found the budding romance between Ponter and Mary to be one of the best aspects of the book. That and the murder trial being held on "Neanderthal Earth." I'm not sure if it is a reflection of my lack of sci-fi "chops" or I just never got completely over that Harlequin romance obsession I had at 12 years old. I was secretly (and now not so secretly) hoping that the next novel is about this relationship.

The character development was pretty good, although most of the secondary characters read a little flat to me. Again this could be because all the characters were just so damn nice. And trusting. And innocent. One aspect of the character development did bother me. We are introduced to one of the characters, Mary Vaughan, right before she was brutally raped. Now I understand why the author chose this action. It was a way to create tension between two characters, Ponter and Mary, but I found it to be a lazy way to do it. This was a for all intents and purpose an alien creature, it would totally reasonable to have had Mary to be hesitant to enter into anything but a scientific relationship with Ponter.

All in all, I loved this book, but you know, was not in love with. It was more than ok, but less than good. I just know I will be reading the next two books in the series.

I'll give this one 2.5 of 5 stars.