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    Review of HYBRIDS by Robert J. Sawyer (see his website)

    TOR, September 2003

    Geneticist Mary Vaughan has fallen in love with neanderthal Ponter Boddit--who comes from an alternate reality where neanderthals rather than our own breed of homo sapien prevailed. The neanderthal version of earth is clean, free of polution and overpopulation, and filled with happy and smart neanderthals--especially smart due to a genetic improvement program that has systematically weeded out troublesome or less intelligent members of the society. For a while it looks like the only fly in the ointment is the fact that neanderthals don't really spend a lot of time with male-female bonding. Despite Mary's wishes, Ponter spends most of every month with his male lover--as do all neanderthal men.

    Although neanderthals and our version of humanity are biologically close, they cannot interbreed--without help. But Mary comes up with the idea of using technology to help. Fortunately there is a recently invented neanderthal machine that will do that. Unfortunately, this machine can also do a lot more--like create the ultimate super-biological weapon.

    Author Robert J. Sawyer creates an interesting pair of worlds. Both the genetic and anthropological bases of HYBRIDS are convincing and feel real. From a plot and character perspective, however, HYBRIDS is somewhat disappointing. As a rape survivor and the first Earth-human woman to enter into a relationship with a neanderthal, Mary should be interesting. Instead, her obsession with religion, her whining about not being with Ponter during the periods he spends with his male mate, and her lack of any real motivation and drive make her uninvolving. Only in the last fifty pages does the plot really spring into action with a threat at a second genocide of the neanderthal people--a threat that Mary discovers by complete chance.

    HYBRIDS is the thrid book in a series about the earth-human/neanderthal reconnection. My guess is that Sawyer had said everything he wanted to say in the first two.

    See more reviews of novels by Robert J. Sawyer.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 10/23/03

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