by Robert Sawyer
Review by Ann Cecil

In my opinion, this is Sawyer's best yet. The concepts are familiar: dimensional travel (better dressed in new quantum clothing, but familiar from older sf), and the suggestion that the Neanderthals were brighter and more capable than we traditionally view them. These are cleverly twisted into a surprisingly entertaining, well-crafted mix, with solid characters and plotting. Of particular interest is the society Sawyer has developed for the Neanderthals; as always, trying to guess what would be different and what would be the same is a fascinating game, and Sawyer gives us a very satisfying and logically worked out extrapolation.

Two stories are intertwined. One is the reactions by scientists (and non-scientists) to the dramatic arrival of a Neanderthal named Ponder in our world, with the suspense provided by Ponder's increasing awareness of how poorly he fits here, and his poor chances of going home. There are sub-plots involving Ponder relationships with the Human scientists, particularly Mary Vaughan, a Canadian geneticist.

The second story is a kind of detective thriller on the Neanderthal world, where Ponder's partner is accused of his murder, and is in serious danger of conviction, in spite of the absence of a body. The conclusion manages to bring both stories to a happy ending, though there is a suggestion of 'more to come.' Sawyer has already published a sequel called Humans, which I am looking forward to.

Highly recommended.

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