I'm glad I chose to ignore some of the less good reviews this book got because I really really enjoyed it. It's a great story that shines a (not always flattering) light on our own society as well as exploring an interesting fictional world as well.
I've gotten so involved in this novel that I've listened (unusually for me) at all sorts of times outside of my normal commute and that I'm going straight on to book 2 as soon as my next credit becomes active!
I really don't see what other people do in this novel. The premise itself I found excellent. The author really started well, but the novel really turned into a vehicle to cram the author's social ideas onto the reader. That wouldn't necessarily be so bad if it were not for the fact that the guy posits caricatures of people to criticize them. For instance, he uses an allegedly Catholic character to contrast with his atheist neanderthals, and yet NOTHING that comes out of that character's thoughts and words reflects any reasonable representation of what a lifelong Catholic would think or believe. It was almost like the characters were taken as cartoon characters from one of the vapid New Atheist books. Yes, I realize bitter atheists will thumb down my review because they only vote for their dogma over any criticism, but this book truly was a poor attempt at positing a valid alternate society. For instance, if you read one of Orson Scott Card's novels, even the characters with whose beliefs he would never agree are given a fair place. In short, this is NOT a 21st century Stranger in a Strange Land. To do so it would need accurate human beings with which to contrast the alternate ideas. Instead you get a lot of straw characters that have little to nothing in common with the beliefs of actual people. If it were not for that, I think the novel would have so much more merit.
The most interesting aspect of the story is the depth with which the author developed this alternate society. He developed a basic naming language to make it more realistic. He built a solid culture and everything. The least interesting aspect is that he failed to accurate represent homo sapiens.
This is one of those books that really makes you stop and look at how we fit into the overall picture. I LOVE these types of books. You may, or may not agree with Sawyer's take on humanity, but it really makes you step back and evaluate where the human race is, and where we are going...
Jonathan Davis was a treat to listen to as well. Well done!
Explaining the parallel universe concept and outsider criticism of society seemed to be far more important to the author of this book than actual plot was. The assortment of characters were kind of interesting enough to get you through, but the whole thing left me wishing that there was more to the novel. It kind of reminded me of Brave New World, where the author has spent so much intellectual time on the backdrop that they don't have any effort left for making the characters do things. The only conflict in the novel which seems to have anything hanging on its outcome is the trial in the Neanderthal universe, and even that is so bogged down by repetition and talk of social order that it looses any weight.
As always, Jonathan Davis is the world's greatest narrator. The novel seems determined to highlight Canada's multiculturalism, so there are tons of accents, which Davis does admirably. Ok, I won't lie, his French Canadian accent maybe leaves something to be desired, but he's so great at everything else that I'm not going to hold it against him.
It took me several tries to get into the book, but it was well worth the effort. The story is very intriguing and thought provoking.It also made some of my stagnant brain cells work again. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.
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I really enjoyed this book. The concept of a parallel universe where Neanderthals evolved to be the dominant species instead of us was interesting. Nothing really too technical in here, more of a stranger in a strange land story. Adding in a murder trial and a budding love story just raised the level a notch or two. A very good story matched with a very good audio performance led to a book that kept me engaged throughout.
Hominids fell short a star for me only because the sci-fi elements were overly detailed in some aspects, but lacking in others. It was also a little funny to me that the people who first encountered the Neanderthal came up with the parallel universe theory so quickly.
However, once you get over the leaps and lulls in the technical aspects of the story, Sawyer presents a perfect opportunity for his characters to juxtapose our society with his fictional Neanderthal society. Many ideas about gender and justice are presented in this book that I found very thought provoking.
Overall, this book was a fast, easy listen. I’d highly recommend it as an enlightening read.
A word of warning: There’s a rape scene in the beginning of the book. Much to the chagrin of my American Airlines neighbor, I scowled & white-knuckled my drop-down tray for a full 10 minutes. Now that you know, you might want to reserve that part for home listening.
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Such an interesting idea! Two parallel universes, one in which Neanderthals became extinct and Humans became the dominant species on Earth (our reality), and then the opposite - a universe in which Humans became extinct and Neanderthals became the dominant intelligent species.
Who cares how one person crossed into the other Universe; it was just fun to read about his adventures on "The Other Side". I was fascinated by the Neanderthal's Society: their advanced technologies, relationships, culture, laws, philosophies, and ways of life etc - so interesting! I bet the author had fun making it all up too.
My only real complaint is with Mary, and the events that happened to her in the beginning of the book. I don't want to give too much away, but I think it was unnecessary to make her live through what she did in order to establish that she was emotionally cautious and reluctant to start a new relationship. I think a bad break-up in her past might have achieved the same end. As it is, I thought it was exaggerated and really kind of dumb.
I am definitely in for the sequels!
One of the best books ( part of a series) that I've listened to.
I found that the story was sort of a summary reflection on human civilization, more specifically, why are the rules of our society what they are? An alternative is offered, and is presented logically in the form of a captivating story. I found it to be thought provoking and I have to admire the author's skill at weaving all the threads together. I think it is more than just a story.
Having said that, it is a great story, and you can ignore the philosophical discussion if you wished, and still enjoy it.
I would classify the theme more along the lines of a romantic novel, using the sci-fi aspect as a very good reason for the story to take place. The story is upbeat and positive. Lots of humor in it as well.
The narration is excellent: the characters are readily recognised by the vocal inflections used, which seem quite consistent throughout. Some other books I listen to, I get confused by characters that have different names but sound the same, like it is being read from a book, but that is not the case in this performance.
Be prepared to buy all 3 in the series!
I love, love, love to read. Until I found audio books and now I love to listen: esp great stories told by great narrators.
I loved Robert J Sawyer's Parallex Series (there are 3 books in the series) so much, I've listened to it twice! Using a parallel universe, Sawyer sets the stage whereby he can compare the current state of the universe with a more ideal one of his own creation. And I would love to live in the world Sawyer’s created, along with Ponder Bondit – the Neanderthal that travels between the two universes – with a “Companion” implanted in my arm (a prescient take and extrapolation on today’s smart phone mini-computers).
I’ve listened to a lot of interviews with Robert J. Sawyer, and read quite a bit about his views and philosophies, and find many of his interesting ideas coalescing in The Neaderthal Parallax trilogy. For example, I read somewhere that Sawyer does not believe in citizen privacy. He reasons that if citizens are behaving legally then they have nothing to hide. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. If you’re not shirking your responsibilities to family, paying your taxes, and not causing anyone any harm, then what do you really have to hide? (Face it, everyone in government is an adult that knows that everyone else masturbates too; so what else is there to be shy about? And I can’t see a good government being interested in outing its citizens for perfectly normal biological behavior? Can you?) So it’s these sorts of ideas, along with a myriad of others, that flesh-out Sawyer’s parallel universe.
If you like science fiction (or speculative fiction, as Margret Atwood calls it) do yourself a favour and listen to: Homids: The Neaderthal Parallax, Book One, today. You’ll be glad you have two more books in the series to look forward to!
PS I love the Canadian-like multi-cultural characters that people this series. I think they truly represent 21st century Canadian cultural mores.