Apparently the old science fiction standards are becoming difficult to use as our understanding of physics increases. Time travel and faster than light travel seems to be giving way to a new science fiction plot device: dimensional travel. Heads up– it’s not nearly as cool.

“Indeed, nothing could penetrate into the heavy water except neutrinos, those infinitesimal subatomic particles that were the subject of Louise’s research.”

page 16

In Hominids, by Robert J. Sawyer, Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis meet after a freak inter-dimensional/split-timeline accident involving a quantum computer in one dimension and a neutrino detector in the other.

Unfortunately Sawyer spends very little time exploring the details and consequences of this accident and very much time attempting to develop a doomed-before-it-started love story between Human and Neanderthal, mixed with not-very-subtle poking at how much we suck as a species.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

Hominids won the Hugo Award — an annual award for the best science fiction novel of that year — in 2003. Truth is, this is probably enough of a reason to land in our geeky library, but for kicks, let me outline a few other things that Hominids advertises:

  • I can’t imagine Anthropologists not liking the idea of hypothetically exploring the concept of an alternate timeline where Human and Neanderthal’s fates are reversed.
  • The first scene in the book is that of a hugely expensive and massive neutrino detector
  • The Neanderthal is a physicist working on a quantum computer
  • One of the lead characters is a very sexy French Canadian Physicist who, by page 22, is stripped down to lacy lingerie.
  • Inter-dimensional travel!
  • Future alternate timeline technology

Rating (2 stars)

Hominids offers a lot of potential, but then completely fails to captivate and deliver. The characters are developed, but not enough to feel a connection. Once the science gets a bit tricky it starts getting glossed over. Religion pops in to help explain the science. The is said not felt. The list goes on, but to summarize. I just didn’t care.

Sadly enough, the best part of the book for me was the Author’s note about his choice to write “Neanderthal” instead of “Neandertal.”

I should also mention that there are three books in this series dubbed the Neanderthal Paradox. Only the first, Hominids, won the Hugo Award for Best Novel.