SFWRITER.COM > Novels > Hominids > Review Excerpts
Robert J. Sawyer's Hominids
"A polished anthropological SF yarn; a novel that appeals to both
the intellect and the heart. The author's usual high
intelligence and erudition are on prominent display, particularly
in the depiction of Neanderthal society."
"A meticulously conceived piece of anthropological
science fiction. Hominids shuttles smoothly
between its two main plots, building toward a
San Francisco Chronicle
"Hominids takes sophisticated paleoanthropological
data, cutting-edge theoretical physics, and characters that will
warm your heart, and mixes them into a charming, witty, and
provocative novel. Hominids is anthropological
fiction at its best."
W. Michael Gear & Kathleen O'Neal Gear
"Robert Sawyer combines entertaining
science-fiction with advanced scientific concepts
as skillfully as any author alive. Sawyer succeeds
in making the improbable seem likely and uses his
gift for metaphor to show the foolishness of our
world by contrasting it with what might have been."
The Rocky Mountain News
"Hominids is an exploration of evolutionary pathways, of male/female relations, of sexual power struggles and ultimately of moral decision making but damned if you don't breeze through it like a Nancy Drew mystery! That's a major compliment to the author. Most SF writers have to choose between being intellectually meaningful or entertaining and action-oriented. Sawyer, somehow, consistently does both at the same time.
"Hominids has that patented Robert J. Sawyer charm that will keep the pages turning. You may not always be able to agree with the author's characters, or indeed, with the author himself, but that doesn't change the fact that this book will keep you glued. You'll be entertained and, like it or not, you'll be forced to think.
"Hominids is the first book in an upcoming trilogy. If the first book
is any indication, the series will make a mark on SF history. Look
out Hugo voters, here he comes ..."
"An amazing journey. One of those rare page-turners where the reader
regrets turning to the last page. Sawyer writes good books and
good science fiction."
The Edmonton Journal
"An enjoyable read real sense-of-wonder, clearly written, well-paced.
The pages fly by. Full marks to Sawyer."
"I own every book Sawyer has written, from The
Terminal Experiment, FlashForward, and
Calculating God to his latest and greatest,
Hominids. Sawyer's books always rich in
science, action, and profound thinking never
fail to surprise, delight, and cause us to
transcend our ordinary thinking. I've read
Crichton, Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, King, and
Koontz and Sawyer outdoes them all."
Clifford A. Pickover, author of
The Paradox of God and Time: A Traveler's Guide
"A blurb on the jacket of Hominids, the latest novel from
Toronto science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer, suggests that he
be considered 'Canada's answer to Michael Crichton.' Talk about
damning with faint praise. While the financial implications of
the comparison are attractive, Sawyer utterly outstrips Crichton
with the richness of his imagination, the breadth of his
research, and his skills as a writer.
"The Neanderthal society is richly imagined and convincing. Sawyer
has studied the anthropological and evolutionary underpinnings of
human society and extrapolates a fully rendered Neanderthal
society. Everything, from gender relations to religious ideas,
from issues of privacy to conflict and urban planning, is given
"Sawyer takes tremendous care in the creation of his characters.
Their relationship gives the novel an emotional weight that never
stoops to melodrama or pathos.
"The first novel of the planned trilogy, Hominids
is, nevertheless, a highly satisfying novel in its own right."
Quill & Quire
"In 2008, I became the reviews editor at Cosmos. Books for review suddenly filled my bookshelves. They piled up on my desk, overflowed onto the office chairs around me and, much to the annoyance of some of my work colleagues, eventually covered the floor in a kind of bizarre mosaic. But, to my distress, I couldn't just review books on popular science. The editor-in-chief made me review science fiction as well.
"I rolled my eyes, imagining that I had better things to do than evaluate stories involving jet packs and gun-touting space cowboys. But I wanted to do it well, so I reluctantly decided to re-acquaint myself with the genre, beginning with a friend's stained, dog-eared copy of Hominids by Robert Sawyer. It was my first foray into science fiction in a decade.
"I was transported. I read the book from cover to cover in less than two days, forgoing sleep and distractedly trying to complete my real-life tasks while I secretly waited for the moment I could resume the story. And when I'd finished the book, I started the sequel.
"Since then, I've taken joy in discovering the rich, literary world of science fiction." Jacqui Hayes in Cosmos (Australia's leading science magazine)
"Entertaining, funny, touching, and thoughtful particularly useful in a classroom, especially in a course devoted to utopian literature. The ecological ideas, the questioning of gender roles and sexulaity, and so on, could prove quite fruitful. A utopian lit course with Hominids, The Dispossessed, and The Fifth Sacred String should have some fascinating class discussions; Hominids could be used in a human anthropology course as well. Recommended." SFRA Review
"Hard science fiction is easy. Rising above the facts, figures, phenomena, and fancy gadgets to create a story that is so much more is where the true artistry lies. That rarified air is where you will find Robert J. Sawyer's novels. Near the top of that even more select list you will find Sawyer's latest novel, Hominids, a blend of physics, anthropology, and sociology that snatches up the reader with a sharp hook of a first sentence and just keeps gaining speed.
"Of course, there is science aplenty, but Sawyer broadens his story to focus on what really goes on inside people and how they interact, even when the interactions are as savage as rape and as tentative as the first steps toward recovery. The love between his characters is as simple as a first glance and as multifarious as jealousy and want. Never is Sawyer afraid to reveal the emotions inherent in every connection. And that's when you soar above the equations to produce genuine artistry.
"Hominids is only the first of Sawyer's new series, but I'm already champing at the bit for the next volume. Lucky for all of us he's constantly at work on the next surprise." Lisa DuMond for SF Site
"I have a new favorite S/F writer. Hominids was fascinating. Sawyer commingles hard science (quantum mechanics, anthropology, genetics, evolution) with cultural and philosophical observations (violence, sex roles, law and justice systems, religion) in the sort of brain-teasing, curiosity-piquing fashion that I adore. What struck me about Sawyer's writing is his attention to what really makes us human: our culture, not our technology." Sacramento News & Review
"Here's the ultimate what-if, going way back beyond the origins of human society to when humans and Neanderthals coexisted. What if they went on to build civilization, and not us? What would modern Neanderthal society be like? Sawyer develops a full-fledged Neanderthal world but a utopian Neanderthal society would be too facile a contrast, and Sawyer is clever enough to crack the looking glass." Science Fiction Weekly
"An ambitious work. Sawyer has given much thought to how a very different species of hominid might arrange society and impact the world. What makes his novels so memorable is the combination of thought-provoking ideas with detailed research, served up with Canadian backgrounds and believable protagonists. I look forward eagerly to seeing more of Sawyer's Neanderthals." The Hamilton Spectator
"An interesting twist on the parallel-universe theme, and liberally mixed with a fish-out-of-water plotline, Hominids belongs on the same shelf as Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land and Harry Harrison's West of Eden. Sawyer writes Ponter as more than just a mirror of human habits, and creates a full-fledged character whose world is just as anchored in its own logic as ours." Starlog
"Robert J. Sawyer's novels have always been accessible tales that deal equally with ideas and characters. Hominids is no exception, and I highly recommend it." SciFi Dimensions
"The series contains Sawyer's usual sprawling examination of the questions of humanness, quantum science, archaeology, justice, evolution, and a dozen other thoughts and asides. His Neanderthals are notable because they have developed modern technology, and aren't just remnant populations still banging rocks together. It's an interesting thought experiment." The Barnes & Noble Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog
"Sawyer has obviously done his research. The alternate version of Earth where the Neanderthals exist is amazingly well thought out. Everything from the social ramifications of an enhanced sense of smell to the 1984-esque communicators that monitor everything the Neanderthals do is integrated into the story perfectly.
"Sawyer's writing is simple and to the point. He has a way of explaining complicated concepts without being overly confusing or long and drawn out. The 400+ page novel is actually a fairly quick read. Don't get me wrong although the book is easily digested, it manages to inspire. Also, despite the fact that this is the first novel in a series of three, it stands very well on its own. In fact, had I not known that there were two more novels dealing with the same characters being released over the next year or so, I would have been completely satisfied.
"Hominids comes highly recommended. If you're at all interested in
hard-SF, you owe it to yourself to head down to the bookstore and
check it out."
"Rob Sawyer has carried the banner of Asimovian science-fiction into the
twenty-first century. Hominids is based on
cutting-edge contemporary science paleoanthropology,
quantum computing, neutrino astronomy, among others and
furnished at the same time with touching human (and parahuman)
stories. Precise, detailed, and accomplished. The next
volume is eagerly anticipated."
Robert Charles Wilson, author of Darwinia
"Robert Sawyer hits another SF home run with Hominids:
an utterly intriguing conceptual seed, state-of-the-scientific-arts
theory, challenging social consciousness, and characters you
want to take home for dinner."
Jane Fancher, author of Groundties
"Fascinating. Vintage hard sf, filled with ideas, both from science and
from sf. I loved the read. Sawyer promises that this is volume one of the
Neanderthal Parallax; we eagerly wait for more."
The New York Review of Science Fiction
"Sawyer has created a viable species capable of appealing both to the SF
fan and to the literary-minded. Sawyer sells so well in Canada because of
his celebration of our culture; citizens seek him out for both a good story
and affirmation of our identity. Here he has written a rapidly plotted,
anthropologically saturated speculative novel, endearing because of its
counter-economic Canadianness and its Sawyer-signature wide appeal. By
writing about us, he has pried himself loose from the SF purgatory and onto
the bestseller lists."
The Globe and Mail: Canada's National Newspaper
"Every once in a while you run across a novel that's both an enjoyable
reading experience and an intellectually stimulating one. Let me share one
with you. It's called Hominids, by Robert J. Sawyer. It's an
interesting window on our own world and times, in the manner any good
science fiction provides. A really good brisk read, which I found I
wanted to continue until I'd reached the end of this story and
the bridge to the next one."
Bob Smith for sffworld.com
By the end of the twentieth century, Neanderthals had come back in vogue for science fiction and speculative anthropology. Canadian sci-fi writer Robert Sawyer drew heavily on the then- most up to date paleoanthropology for the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids, published in 2002-2003. Sawyer's details like those of Rosny were well-researched and rang just true enough to lend anthropological legitimacy to the stories.
In the trilogy, Sawyer lays out two different Earths an Earth, as we traditionally consider it, and an Earth where Neanderthals became the dominant hominin 250,000 year prior. In this parallel world humans (or gliksin) went extinct, not Neanderthals. (Sawyer's Neanderthals posit that the extinction of gliksin was due to technological superiority of Neanderthals, an inability to adapt to climate conditions, and a general inferiority of intelligence.) These two Earths cross when the Neanderthal physicist Ponter Boddit manages to travel between the Neanderthal world and our own Earth, through a portal that opens up at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory's physical lab.
The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy asks: What if Homo sapiens came from a dark and violent evolutionary history? How would that shape and explain how we make sense of culture today? What if Neanderthals "won" the Pleistocene and outcompeted modern humans? How would those hominins read human evolutionary history?
The winner of a Hugo Award,
examines those what-if scenarios through Neanderthal and human
interspecies relationships. Sawyer's attention to detail and his
paleoanthropological research provide the same gestures toward
scientific legitimacy as Rosny's survey of La Chapelle and the
ODK literature. The paleoanthropological research Sawyer does
and the experts he interviews is meticulous and
thorough. The Neanderthal Parallax trilogy centers around the
question of how to define humanity. By anatomy? By society? By
history? Agency? By juxtaposing the Earth that's familiar to
readers with an Earth where humans, rather than Neanderthals,
become extinct during the Pleistocene, Sawyer generates a plot to
explore these themes. In Sawyer's trilogy, Neanderthals live in a
world where crime is unheard of and culture is completely
cooperative. By "humanizing" Neanderthals in such a way, Sawyer's
trilogy draws on more recent decades of Neanderthal research;
research that demonstrates Neanderthal culture was complex and
more nuanced than people like Henry Fairfield Osborn had
Lydia Pyne for
The Appendix: Futures of the Past (July 2014, Vol. 2, No. 3)
More Good Reading
More about Hominids: Volume One of The Neanderthal Parallax