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3 settembre 2003

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A few days ago I read that Robert J. Sawyer’s Hominids had won the 2003 Hugo Award as best novel, so I put aside Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures for a while, grabbed a copy of Hominids and started reading.

I finished the book tonight, and I have to say I am a bit disappointed. The book, as many sf/fantasy books or movies (one of my favourites being the movie Groundhog Day), is built around an interesting idea involving space or time. In Hominids, Sawyers imagines that somewhere in Earth’s past a duplicate universe split off from our own, where Neanderthal men evolved instead of our race.

Unfortunately, this idea is just about the only good thing I found in this book. The plot is mediocre, the characters lack depth and psychological introspection, and the artifices the author uses to bridge the language barrier between the two worlds are really simplistic. Moreover, a good part of the book deals with a court case between the Neanderthals, and I found the topic really boring (maybe it appeals to US and Canadian readers) and its development superficial.

What I (somewhat) liked in this book is its rythm, and the wealth of notions about quantum theory and anthropology. All in all, it’s not one of the worst books I have read lately, and if you liked Michael Crichton’s Sphere or his Jurassic books maybe you will find Hominids a good read, though a simplistic one.

update: Out of curiosity, I had a look at the Amazon reviews for Hominids, and among all the celebrative reviews there’s one by JR Dunn which is worth quoting

This is Wellsian didactic SF on the kindergarten level. Intelligent Neanderthals turn out to be bisexual, atheist Canadians, and are willing to tell us about. And tell us about it. And tell us about it. Passage unto page unto chapter. (And just think–this is the beginning of a trilogy.)

If that sounds like your thing, go to it. Otherwise, your time would be better spent reading… oh, the government-mandated cooking directions in chicken packages. You’ll learn a lot more of value there.

Ouch! Well said, and in far less words than I used. Glad to know I’m not the only one to think that this book is overrated.