[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
Hugo and Nebula Winner

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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.

  1. 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?

  2. 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?

  3. 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."

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

  6. 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?

  7. 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?

  8. 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?

  9. 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?

  10. 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?

  11. 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 our world?

  12. 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

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More about Hominids

Reading Group Guide Index
Reading Group Guide for Quantum Night
Reading Group Guide for Triggers
Reading Group Guide for Wake
Reading Group Guide for Rollback
Reading Group Guide for Mindscan
Reading Group Guide for Calculating God
Reading Group Guide for FlashForward
Reading Group Guide for Factoring Humanity
Reading Group Guide for Frameshift
Reading Group Guide for Illegal Alien
Reading Group Guide for The Terminal Experiment
Reading Group Guide for End of an Era
Reading Group Guide for Golden Fleece

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