Tantalizing premise for a story but such a let-down once you read the book.
What would happen if a Neanderthal from a parallel universe came to our world? What would civilization be like if the Neanderthal had dominated and Cro-Magnon become extinct? The answers that Sawyer gives are thin and implausible.
While I'm open-minded enough to entertain Sawyer's unlikely theories, what I really disliked about this book was the rape of Mary Vaughan and her immediate (next day) sexual attraction to the Neanderthal, Ponter. This part of the story was unnecessary and irrelevant to the basic premise. Besides, what woman who was just raped would even look at a man, much less a "he-man" Neanderthal that exudes mega masculinity?
Sawyer needs to understand the real world of "Gliksins" before he should write about Neanderthals.
What if Neanderthals built a civilization and all that was left of the Homo Sapiens was bones? What would modern Neanderthal society be like? Sawyer gives us a chance to look at ourselves through Neanderthal eyes (shades of Star Trek!) -- with environmental issues, ethical and privacy issues and religion vs. science.
Ponter and his partner, Adikor, are building a Quantum computer underground. When Ponter and Adikor tell it to factor a huge number, the computer's demand for parallel computers go off into another universe -- ours. Ponter is standing near the machine while it is processing, and he disappears into thin air. In his place are puddles of heavy water.
Meanwhile in our world, 2 kilometers beneath the surface at the Neutrino Observatory in Canada, an explosion rocks a sealed water tank. The scientists find a man floating unconscious -- wearing bizarre clothes and a biotech implant on his arm. They save him, rush him to a hospital and X-rays of the man's head say that he's a Neanderthal.
Which introduces our third character -- a DNA expert, Mary Vaughan (introduced by way of a HORRIFIC rape scene) is brought in to authenticate what is indeed a Neanderthal. And a physicist at that.
Back in the Neanderthal world, Adikor is accused of the murder of Ponter. The biotech implants record everyone's activities and locations, storing the records in a main city computer, but they can't record or get a fix on people deep underground. Innocence must be proven -- the Neanderthals have no trust for what hasn't been recorded. Their society, overseen by revered elders, has bred out aggression. Violence is a genetic defect in their society -- and the sentence for violence is an overdose of chlorine in the gene pool.
On our earth Ponter's implant (named Hak) has become a translator, and Ponter is learning about our world. The mammoths are gone. Men and women live together. Overpopulation and hunger. Air pollution -- which is a major problem with his great nose. Crime. War. And a thing called 'God'. The reader starts liking Ponter's Neanderthal society -- but Gliksins (his name for humans) have been to space and walked on the moon.
Then Ponter gets sick -- bringing about the quarantine of Ponter, Mary and 2 other scientists. The media is pounding on the door. Governments around the world are arguing about Ponter's immigration status. Dave Letterman does a Top Ten List. And Adikor cannot explain Ponter's disappearance.
Sawyer develops the Neanderthal world well, on what little is known about them. He focuses on his characters, but throws in plenty of science that is understandable and not boring. I would really like to sit on Ponter and Adikor's patio at sunrise, watching the mammoths wander by. I liked the bio-implants and wish someone would actually invent them, but I don't have a problem with privacy the way some people do. I had trouble with Mary's character -- but Sawyer may have wanted her emotions to be on a roller coaster.
There is an introduction in which he explains the issues concerning the Neanderthal and Neandertal spellings and pronunciations.
The book is the first of a trilogy. It stands on its own, but I couldn't wait for Book Two.
Thumbs up :)
Alright but not great. It seems preachy to me. Humans bad, Neanderthals good. We finally figured out that the hunter gatherer groups of the paleolithic era were heavy hunters and not the tree hugging, at one with nature, paleohippies of myth so now we have to find another group of "Good" humans to populate the earth. Who better than the Neanderthals especially when we can accuse ourselves of genocide at the same time? There were some interesting ideas and people in the story and I want to read more but I wouldn't call it a great story.
If you are into alternate history, this trilogy is for you!! It's very well written. You fall in love with the characters, the world is very well developed and the entire trilogy is richly evolved. From the beginning to the end it is full of really great action, science, human interaction, and surprises. I liked it so much as well as adding the physical books to my collection, I also obtained the ebooks.
In this polished anthropological SF yarn, the first of a trilogy from Nebula Award winner Sawyer (The Terminal Experiment), Neanderthals have developed a radically different civilization on a parallel Earth, as both sides discover when a Neanderthal physicist, Ponter Boddit, accidentally passes from his universe into a Canadian underground research facility. Fortunately, a team of human scientists, including expert paleoanthropologist 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. Ponter's daughter Jasmel believes in Adikor's innocence, but to prevent a horrendous miscarriage of justice (Adikor could be sterilized), she must try to reopen the portal and bring her father home. The author's usual high intelligence and occasionally daunting erudition are on prominent display, particularly in the depiction of Neanderthal society.