This is the second book of Sawyer's that I've read, and I'll surely read more. While I do enjoy Sawyer's philosophizing of the big ideas his stories revolve around, I do feel the lack of having an epic storyline to correspond with his epic ideas. Based on the preview I read, I'm guessing that the epic plot-line still doesn't appear in the sequels to this book. Still, it's an enjoyable read.
In this particular novel, Sawyer imagines a man crossing over to our world from a parallel Earth in which homo sapiens have died out and Neanderthals have become the dominant species. The Neanderthal who crosses over is not an idiotic brute as is our general stereotype of his species. Instead, he is a scientist named Ponter whose civilization is more technologically advanced, more ecologically responsible, and more "civil" than ours. The story follows his experiences as a newly-minted celebrity in our world as well as the plight of his partner back in his world who is on trial for murder as a direct result of Ponter's disappearance.
I'm reminded of the novel Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North AmericaIshi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America which tells the true story of a Yahi Indian who finds himself forced to live with modern Americans in the 1910s. What we think of as civilization is barely civil when viewed through the lenses of others. There's much that modern humans could be that we're not. There's much wisdom that our religions should lend to us that we do not exercise. I'm also reminded of the native American who Benjamin Franklin quotes in his Two Tracts: Information to Those Who Would Remove to America. And, Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America. Second Edition "Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America" who says that modern man has "not yet learned those little good things, that we need no //io9.com/5942616/dalai-lama-tells-his-facebook-friends-that-religion-is-no-longer-adequate">"the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate."
Several things in the Neanderthal world that Sawyer has imagined would possibly make for great improvements in our own. They have a Big-Brother-type program in the form of built-in computer Companion and alibi-monitoring systems in their forearm. As long as a person's computer can broadcast a signal, there is never a case of a missing person and rarely a case of violent crime. The low level of crime is further supported by the fact that people who have committed a violent crime along with their genetically closest relatives (siblings and parents) and their descendents must be sterilized in order to clean up the gene pool. Would I ever advocate for such tools for changes in our society? Part of me wishes they were a reality, but they do seem an extreme invasion of privacy. Both legislating morality secularly and religiously have their own sets of problems. Both assume that humanity has not evolved in such a way as to be able to properly interact with their fellow beings without interference from an outside source.
There's much more that I'm leaving out concerning the parallel world in which the Neanderthals live that I find intriguing such as how their houses are constructed, their love lives, and their legal system. However, I'd not want to give away all these interesting concepts which are best absorbed through the reading process.
I'm a little disappointed that that the book ends such that the only part of the plot that might convince the reader to pick up the next book in the series is an inter-world romance. There's no cliff-hanging ending that leaves the reader really wanting more. I may or may not pick up the next book in the series ... or I might give his [bc:WWW: WakeWWW: Wake series a try instead if I'm in a mood for Sawyer again.