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Reading Group Guide
by Robert J. Sawyer
Many reading groups and book clubs have enjoyed novels by Robert J. Sawyer.
The following questions may help stimulate an interesting
discussion about Hominids. (These questions
might also suggest essay topics for students studying the book.)
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Note that these questions reveal much of the novel's plot; to
preserve your reading pleasure, please don't look at these questions
until after you've finished reading the book.
- The Neanderthal world has males and females living largely separate lives.
What did you think of Sawyer's portrayal of this? What are the appeals
of this concept? The downsides? How would our society be different
if children were only born in discrete generations every ten years?
- Is Mary Vaughan's rape gratuitous? If not, what do you think Sawyer
was trying to accomplish with it? Do male Homo sapiens sapiens get
a raw deal in this novel?
- Sawyer makes a strong case for the benefits of the Companion implants.
Is this really a workable system? Do the Neanderthals give up too much
in the way of privacy for the protection offered by this? Do we really
have any privacy, or is this quote from Scott McNealy at the beginning
of the novel accurate: "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it."
- Some readers think Sawyer spends too much time on the negatives of our
society and the positives of Neandertal society. Is that a fair criticism?
What are the positives of our society? What negatives are implicit
in the Neanderthal society?
- What did you think of the Neanderthal practice of sterilization, instead
of execution, for capital crimes? What about the notion of also sterilizing
those who share fifty percent of the criminal's genetic material?
Is there any circumstance under which eugenics such as this can be positive?
- The Neanderthals have no concept of religion. Is this realistic, or would
all intelligent beings develop creation myths? Does Sawyer reasonably
extrapolate the psychological consequences of having no religion? Is Ponter
Boddit right about all the damage the belief in God and an afterlife has
done to our society? Is Mary Vaughan a reasonable spokesperson for the
religious point of view?
- What do you think of Hak, Ponter's Companion implant? Did you think Sawyer
succeeded in making Hak a real character, or was he just a handy way to
deal with the translation problem?
- Did the Neanderthal justice system seem realistic to you? Do you believe
what the process server said to Adikor Huld:"Justice postponed is no justice
at all." Did Jasmel Ket do the right thing in speaking on behalf of Adikor?
If Ponter had never returned, and Adikor had been found guilty, would Jasmel
have turned her back on Adikor?
Do you think it's likely that our species, Homo sapiens sapiens,
wiped out the Neanderthals 30,000 years ago? What do you think happened
on Ponter's world? Did the Neanderthals there wipe us out? Does it matter
what happened that long ago? Have we evolved from what we were back then?
What did you think of the news items at the beginnings of three of the
chapters in the book? Did they add to the realism of the story, or were
they a distraction? What about the use of real people (Jean Crétien),
real companies (Inco), and real places (Sudbury) in the novel?
Did you feel the story benefited from being set in the here-and-now?
What did you think of the relationship developing between Mary and Ponter?
They are two different species. Could they ever have come to really
understand each other? Were you surprised when Ponter spoke in favor of
re-opening the gateway at the end of the book, given what he thought of
Does Hominids stand on its own as a novel, or is it really only a prologue
to the rest of the Neanderthal Parallax series? Do you like the idea that
there is more story to come? What do you think is going to happen in
Humans and Hybrids, the remaining two volumes?
More Good Reading
Download this Reading Group Guide in Adobe Acrobat Format
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