Cover image for Humans
Title:
Humans
Author:
Sawyer, Robert J.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Tor, [2003]

©2003
Physical Description:
384 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm.
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780312876913
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Item Holds
Searching...
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

Robert J. Sawyer, the award-winning and bestselling writer, hits the peak of his powers in Humans , the second book of The Neanderthal Parallax , his trilogy about our world and parallel one in which it was the Homo sapiens who died out and the Neanderthals who became the dominant intelligent species. This powerful idea allows Sawyer to examine some of the deeply rooted assumptions of contemporary human civilization dramatically, by confronting us with another civilization, just as morally valid, that has made other choices. In Humans, Neanderthal physicist Ponter Boddit, a character you will never forget, returns to our world and to his relationship with geneticist Mary Vaughan, as cultural exchanges between the two Earths begin.

As we see daily life in another present-day world, radically different from ours, in the course of Sawyer's fast-moving story, we experience the bursts of wonder and enlightenment that are the finest pleasures of science fiction. Humans is one of the best SF novels of the year, and The Neanderthal Parallax is an SF classic in the making.


Author Notes

Robert J. Sawyer was born in Ottawa on April 29, 1960, but raised in Toronto. In 1980, while still in high school, Sawyer submitted a short story to the the Rochester Museum and Science Center, which was running a contest for light show ideas. Sawyer didn't win, but the Museum purchased his story Motive anyway and it ran for 192 performances.

Sawyer went on to attend Toronto's Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, majoring in Radio and Television Arts. In September 1979, he had his first piece of fiction published at the end of his first year, in Ryerson's literary annual, White Wall Review. Sawyer graduated from Ryerson in 1982.

Sawyer was hired back the following semester to teach television studio production techniques to second- and third-year students. In the four months interim, he worked for minimum wage at the local SF bookstore, spending all his earnings on books. From 1984 to 1992, while teaching, Sawyer also coordinated a social group of Toronto-area science-fiction writers founded by SF editor Judith Merril. He established a Canadian region of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America; and in 1998, served as that organization's president. Sawyer also retained freelance nonfiction writing contracts, writing articles for newspapers and magazines, press releases and brochures for corporations, newsletters for government departments. He churned out vast amounts of promotional materials and over 200 articles for computing and personal-finance magazines in a span of five years. But in that time, his only really significant publication was the novelette Golden Fleece, which appeared as the cover story in the September 1988 edition of Amazing Stories. The novel-length Golden Fleece was sold to Warner Books a year later in 1989.

The sales of his first five books were uninspiring and Sawyer faced being dropped by his publisher. Sawyer decided to take the time to write a book, without a contract, take as long as necessary, and produce a blockbuster. He also wanted to tackle a controversial issue and deal with it head on. With that in mind, Sawyer wrote The Terminal Experiment, about abortion and the soul. His publisher rejected it on grounds of controversy.

HarperPrism then bought the book and serialization rights were sold to Analog, the number-one best-selling English-language SF magazine. The Terminal Experiment went on to win the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America's Nebula Award for Best Novel of 1995. His novel Frameshift was his first book published in hardcover, and was nominated for the Hugo Award, and won Japan's Seiun Award for best foreign novel of the year.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Ponter Boddit, the Neanderthal physicist thrown into the human world in Hominids [BKL Je 1&15 02], is relieved to be back in his own safe, unpolluted, thoughtfully governed universe, though he misses his human friend, Mary Vaughn, who in her world has been offered a plum research position. Glad to leave the Canadian university at which she was brutally raped, she misses Ponter and worries that, because she never reported her attacker, other women remain at risk. Both universes' governments can't decide whether to permit travel between them, but Ponter forces the question by assembling a first ambassadorial party, though as it happens, he goes on ahead of it. He then persuades Mary to visit his world, where she faces aspects of Neanderthal culture that disturb her, such as Ponter's male lover, Adikor, and near-total male-female segregation. Then another woman is raped on Mary's former campus. Look for the further volume about Ponter and Mary that disquieting ramifications of the interaction of the alternate worlds and their magnetic fields portends. Roberta Johnson


Publisher's Weekly Review

In this solid sequel to Hominids (2002), the much-praised first volume in Sawyer's Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, which introduced an alternate Earth where for reasons unknown our species, Homo sapiens, went extinct and Neanderthals flourished, Neanderthal physicist Ponder Boddit brings Canadian geneticist Mary Vaughan back to his world to explore the near-utopian civilization of the Neanderthals. Boddit serves as a Candide figure, the naive visitor whose ignorance about our society makes him a perfect tool to analyze human tendencies toward violence, over-population and environmental degradation. The Neanderthals have developed a high artistic, ethical and scientific culture without ever inventing farming-they're still hunters and gatherers-and this allows the author to make some interesting and generally unrecognized points about the downside of the discovery of agriculture. Much of the novel is devoted to either the discussion of ideas such as these or to Boddit and Vaughan's developing love affair. Sawyer keeps things moving by throwing in an attempted assassination, his protagonists' confrontation with a rapist and, on a larger scale, the growing danger of what appears to be the imminent reversal of Earth's magnetic field. As the middle volume in a trilogy, this book doesn't entirely stand on its own, but it is extremely well done. When complete, the Neanderthal Parallax should add significantly to Sawyer's reputation. (Feb. 26) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One It was Mary Vaughan's final evening in Sudbury, and she was experiencing decidedly mixed feelings. She had no doubt that getting out of Toronto had done her good. After what had happened down there-- My God , she thought, had it really only been two weeks ago ?--leaving town, getting away from all the things that would have reminded her of that horrible night, was surely the right course. And although it had ended on a melancholy note, she wouldn't have traded her time here with Ponter Boddit for anything. There was an unreal quality to her recollections; it all seemed so fantastic. And yet there were countless photographs and videos and even some X rays to prove that it had really happened. A modern Neanderthal from a parallel version of Earth had somehow slipped into this universe. Now that he was gone, Mary hardly believed it herself. But it had happened. Ponter had really been here, and she had indeed… Was she overstating it? Magnifying it in her mind? No. No, it was indeed what had occurred. She had come to love Ponter, maybe even to be in love with him. If only she'd been whole, complete, unviolated, untraumatized, perhaps things would have been different. Oh, she'd still have fallen for the big guy--of that she was sure--but when he'd reached out and touched her hand that night while they were looking up at the stars, she wouldn't have frozen. It had been too soon, she'd told him the next day. Too soon after… She hated the word; hated to think it, to say it. Too soon after the rape. And tomorrow she had to go back home, back to where that rape had occurred, back to the campus of Toronto's York University, and her old life of teaching genetics. Her old life of being alone. She'd miss many things about Sudbury. She'd miss the lack of traffic congestion. She'd miss the friends she'd made here, including Reuben Montego and, yes, even Louise Benoît. She'd miss the relaxed atmosphere of tiny Laurentian University, where she'd done her mitochondrial DNA studies that had proven Ponter Boddit was indeed a Neanderthal. But, most of all, she realized, as she stood at the side of the country road looking up at the clear night sky, she'd miss this . She'd miss seeing stars in a profusion beyond counting. She'd miss seeing the Andromeda galaxy, which Ponter had identified for her. She'd miss seeing the Milky Way, arching overhead. And-- Yes! Yes! She'd especially miss this: the aurora borealis, flickering and weaving across the northern sky, pale green sheets of light, ghostly curtains. Mary had indeed hoped to catch another glimpse of the aurora tonight. She'd been on her way back from Reuben Montego's place out in Lively (hah!), where she'd had a final barbecue dinner with him and Louise, and she'd pulled over at the side of the road specifically to look up at the night sky. The heavens were cooperating. The aurora was breathtaking. She'd forever associate the northern lights with Ponter. The only other time she'd seen them had been with him. She felt an odd sensation in her chest, the expanding feeling that went with awe battling the contracting sensation that accompanied sadness. The lights were beautiful. He was gone. A cool green glow bathed the landscape as the aurora continued to flicker and dance, aspens and birches silhouetted in front of the spectacle, their branches waving slightly in the gentle August breeze. Ponter had said he often saw the aurora. Partly that was because his cold-adapted people preferred more northerly latitudes than did the humans of this world. Partly, too, it was because the phenomenal Neanderthal sense of smell and their ever-vigilant Companion implants made it safe to be out even in the dark; Ponter's hometown of Saldak, located at the same place in his world as Sudbury was in this world, didn't illuminate its streets at night. And partly it was because the Neanderthals used clean solar power for most of their energy needs, rendering their skies far less polluted than the ones here. Mary had made it to her current age of thirty-eight before seeing the aurora, and she didn't anticipate any reason to come back to Northern Ontario, so tonight, she knew, might well be the last time she'd ever see the undulating northern lights. She drank in the view. Some things were the same on both versions of Earth, Ponter had said: the gross details of the geography, most of the animal and plant species (although the Neanderthals, never having indulged in overkilling, still had mammoths and moas in their world), the broad strokes of the climate. But Mary was a scientist: she understood all about chaos theory, about how the beating of a butterfly's wing was enough to affect weather systems half a world away. Surely just because there was a clear sky here on this Earth didn't mean the same was true on Ponter's world. But if the weather did happen to coincide, perhaps Ponter was also looking up at the night sky now. And perhaps he was thinking of Mary. Ponter would, of course, be seeing precisely the same constellations, even if he gave them different names--nothing terrestrial could possibly have disturbed the distant stars. But would the auroras be the same? Did butterflies or people have any effect on the choreography of the northern lights? Perhaps she and Ponter were looking at the exact same spectacle--a curtain of illumination waving back and forth, the seven bright stars of the Big Dipper (or, as he would call it, the Head of the Mammoth) stretching out above. Why, he might even right now be seeing the same shimmying to the right, the same shimmying to the left, the same-- Jesus . Mary felt her jaw drop. The auroral curtain was splitting down the middle, like aquamarine tissue paper being torn by an invisible hand. The fissure grew longer, wider, starting at the top and moving toward the horizon. Mary had seen nothing like that on the first night she'd looked up at the northern lights. The sheet finally separated into two halves, parting like the Red Sea before Moses. A few--they looked like sparks, but could they really be that?--arced between the halves, briefly bridging the gap. And then the half on the right seemed to roll up from the bottom, like a window blind being wound onto its dowel, and, as it did so, it changed colors, now green, now blue, now violet, now orange, now turquoise. And then in a flash--a spectral burst of light--that part of the aurora disappeared. The remaining sheet of light was swirling now, as if it were being sucked down a drain in the firmament. As it spun more and more rapidly, it flung off gouts of cool green fire, a pin-wheel against the night. Mary watched, transfixed. Even if this was only her second night actually observing the aurora, she'd seen countless pictures of the northern lights over the years in books and magazines. She'd known those still images hadn't done justice to the spectacle; she'd read how the aurora rippled and fluttered. But nothing had prepared her for this. The vortex continued to contract, growing brighter as it did so, until finally, with--did she really hear it?--with what sounded like a pop , it vanished. Mary staggered backward, bumping up against the cold metal of her rented Dodge Neon. She was suddenly aware that the forest sounds around her--insects and frogs, owls and bats--had fallen silent, as if every living thing was looking up in wonder. Mary's heart was pounding, and one thought kept echoing through her head as she climbed into the safety of her car. I wonder if it's supposed to do that … Copyright © 2003 by Robert J. Sawyer Excerpted from Humans by Robert J. Sawyer All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.