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Publisher's Summary

Neanderthals have developed a radically different civilization on a parallel Earth. A Neanderthal physicist, Ponter Boddit, accidentally passes from his universe into a Canadian underground research facility. Fortunately, a team of human scientists, including expert paleo-anthropologist Mary Vaughan, promptly identifies and warmly receives Ponter. Solving the language problem and much else is a mini-computer, called a Companion, implanted in the brain of every Neanderthal. A computerized guardian spirit, however, doesn't eliminate cross-cultural confusion; permanent male-female sexuality, rape, and overpopulation are all alien to Ponter. Nor can it help his housemate and fellow scientist back in his world, Adikor Huld, when the authorities charge Adikor with his murder.

BONUS AUDIO: Author Robert J. Sawyer explains why Ponter Boddit is his favorite among all the characters he's created.

Hunt and gather: listen to more in the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy.
©2002 by Robert J. Sawyer; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Hugo Award Winner, Best Novel, 2003

"Sawyer is a writer of boundless confidence and bold scientific extrapolation." (The New York Times)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

Good Science Fiction

I am a fan of Robert J. Sawyer and this is another great read. This is Science Fiction in it's purest form. We are talking Neanderthals, parallel universes and a little physics thrown in. Character development not the best. Mainly it has neat stuff in it that leads to a lot of deep thought.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Scott
  • Roseville, CA, United States
  • 08-10-09

Scicen Fiction Can Be Literature

I found the book fast paced, well narrated and well edited. Some complain of the politics and religion but this is literature. Since we can't discuss these things at "polite gatherings" literature is appropriate except for those who wish pure escapism (While concise, entertaining and compelling certainly this is not a 'light' read).

It won the Hugo award (Science Fiction Writer's "Oscar" as most likely know), and only rarely are such prizes awarded to art without any merit.

Much fuss is made by some about the graphic sexual assault which is brief but absolutely key to distinguishing two cultures and a woman's feelings about a more sensitive being.

My only critique, is I found the verisimilitude lacking in the other culture regarding their belief system. I would think any being that could contemplate its death might have different views. A line or two more explaining their reasons would have helped. That is my only critique.

Finally, remember this is fiction. If one finds FICTION so offensive why bother reading? I can understand political or religious NON-fiction being offensive but isn't the joy of fiction that it's just "make believe?"

The price is right considering its length.

28 of 30 people found this review helpful

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Great idea, execution a bit flat

The first in a series; great concept and a fun vision of what a "modern" neanderthal culture might be like. Even so the plot speed, complexity, and execution are a bit slow and even at times predictable. A fun read overall and worth the time.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Guillermo
  • Rochester Hills, MI, United States
  • 04-25-09

Without Good and Evil

I'm very glad I listened to this Hominids Book 1 without regard to the numerous member reviews that clearly were blinded by their own hidebound perspectives.

The beauty of this book is that it shows us two entirely different civilizations each of which is in many ways blind to its own flaws and yet each of which has its own strengths and humanity.

It's clearly not by accident that the Neanderthals call themselves human and that the Homo Sapiens call themselves human and that as a whole each civilization is short sighted.

The flaws of the Neanderthals really are both potential and present flaws of our society, too. And the flaws of the Homosapiens are parallel flaws of our own.

It's a book without good or evil. Each society is both compassionate and prejudiced, and each side is worthy of existing and interacting with the other.

Finally, the main characters are for good reason benevolent and often wise. Thus individuals redeem their societies.

Some reviewers are caught up on one side or another, on one character or another, on trivia that misses the whole point. Be willing to accept the evil to appreciate the good.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • sam
  • shreveport, louisiana, United States
  • 05-30-12

Canada's answer to Clark and Asimov

This was the first book I ever listened to on Audible, and I still recall the magic of the experience, how I was longing to discover more even before it was over, and looking back on it all, I couldn't have picked a more perfect book to start than this. Mr. Sawyer does a wonderful job of combining cutting edge science, likeable and believable characters, and even crafts and alternate world that's totally alien, yet still relatable and easy to comprehend. I also loved the vivid descriptions of Canada (both from our world, and the alternate world of the Neanderthals), that almost made it feel like I was there with the characters, though I suppose Sawyer had an advantage as a native (and proud) Canadian. I loved how Sawyer introduces the book, and gives it the quality of being like an old friend when you've read all the books (like I have), and Jonathan Davis did a superb job narrating. For me, this was the start of a wonderful experience that still continues to this day, I only hope this book will do the same for my fellow listeners.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • brenty
  • United States
  • 09-11-14

Ended too soon

I guess that's what sequels are for, but the only thing disappointing about this book is that it ends. This is a eminently believable and intimately humanistic work of science fiction. The beginning is a bit dense, because there is quite a bit to set up. But for all the technical detail and description, this is ultimately a story about personal connections.

I've had this in my library for years. I don't remember why I bought it, and I'm not sure why I have only read it now after eyeing it curiously every month or so. I only wish I would have read it sooner, because it probably would have given me plenty of time to read it again.

It isn't something that's often -- if ever -- said about science fiction, but this book is just lovely. And the only other book I can recall being similarly wonderful is Stephen King's 11/22/63.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very thoughtful

While this is a very interesting book, listeners/readers should be warned that it isn't fast paced, and the story unfolds slowly - this is not a criticism, but if you are impatient, you may not enjoy this. However, if you are willing to commit, it should be pretty enjoyable.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Paul
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 12-27-11

Another Great Story by Sawyer

Two nuclear physicists have a breakthrough in the design of a quantum computer, only in doing so, they create an openning into a parallel world, only the physicists are neanderthals and one of them gets sucked into our world.

An incredible story is used to draw interesting and well educated comparisons between humans and what neanderthals could have been like. It's not great science fiction... Instead, it's great science... and great fiction.... and a little bit of a mystery.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Seriously! Freaking awesome! I can totally understand why it won a Hugo award. I would have driveway moments just as I got home from work listening to the book in my parked car. It is a good sci-fi book because it focuses on the characters and their interaction to the technology. The sci-fi part itself is spectacular and raises a bunch of what-if questions. It is the kinda sci-fi where it seems like it could almost happen, that it is not so much of a stretch. Another great thing about it, is that the storyline is episodic, so you almost get several stories at once. My next Audible purchase is going to be the next book in this series. I might actually put this up there with Ender's Game, and Starship Troopers, as one of my favorite books.

27 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Adi
  • OxfordUnited Kingdom
  • 07-09-09

Brilliant book - going straight to the next one!

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!

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Philippa
  • 04-22-09

Really Good

I had no real preconceptions about this title, I'd never heard of the writer and only got it because I have an interest in Neanderthals - but I wasn't disappointed at all! I'm not really interested in science fiction in general, Star Trek and Star Wars leave me cold! But this is really a human interest story, looking at an outsiders view of our humanity, as well as exploring what our lives might be like if our ancestors had made different descisions - for example what would we be like without religion?

I thoroughly reccomend; it is gripping, thrilling and really gets you going and wanting more! I'd want to carry on listening even when I was not driving or down the gym!

The thing that got me was that there was loads of science in it, real detailed information that was accurate and relevant to the story and that thoroughly interested me.

The world Ponter comes from is explained in vivid detail and you want to go there and see it for yourself - however, when Ponter asks Mary, Louise and Reuben about our lack of conservation and how we've destroyed our habitat it really makes you question humanity's motives and mistakes. If you want to feel positve about your species this is probably not the best book - if you want a bit of science fiction and romance this is for you!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • lesley
  • 07-30-10

most enjoyable

This book was much more interesting than the title lead me to expect. How the neanderthals structured their society gave me much food for thought.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jon
  • 12-10-09


I like science - not people. I like ideas too - not fantasies. I especially alternative histories. And this story absolutely gripped me with the brilliant way it asks questions, using science and the excellently conceived alternative world of the Neanderthals. It also explores people and their issues - so you might like it too! Fascinating attack on religion with a few novel ideas to interweave makes this an entertaining yet thought-provoking listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Bee
  • 12-02-15

Totally enjoyable

Loved the ideas put forth here, I found it very thought provoking. The Narrator is skilled and creates distinct voices for each character.