I recently finished Robert Sawyer’s trilogy The Neanderthal Parallax, and it left me thinking. (For those who don’t know me, that’s seldom a good idea.)

The premise of the series is that worlds collide, metaphorically speaking: A universe where Neanderthals survived while Homo Sapiens did not encounters the one we know.  It allows Sawyer a broad sweep in exploring what our species has become, and it isn’t pretty.

But, predictably, it ends on an up-note, as much sci-fi does. A human-designed plague meant to eradicate the pacific, unspoiled world of the Neanderthal so we could take it over backfires on us. As well it should, of course.

Anyway, I’m not writing a book review here. If you want to dissect the themes involved in the trilogy, you can look them out.

No, the conclusion reminded me of a long-ago discussion with the moderator of a website called Smart Asses Online. I wasn't a charter member, but I apparently met the membership criteria later on.

The thing is, while these people were smart, they weren’t asses, at least not in the conventional sense. They were witty (still are, I‘m sure, although they migrated to FaceBook where I don’t venture). In fact, one of them dissected my screenname, knew its origins and what it meant -- about 30 seconds after I joined.

But the exchange I had those many years ago with Diamondback, the moderator, was about how low humanity has sunk. We are raping the world, he and I agreed, and there are far too many of us, just for starters. The term "vermin” occurred.

It was at that point Diamondback wrote something like, “What we need is a slate-wiper virus.” I hadn’t heard it described that way before, but it sure struck home.

I was quick to agree – with one caveat: It had to take me among the first.

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Comment by Anna Herrington on January 20, 2019 at 4:45pm

Sounds like an interesting trilogy, Bo. Are the Neanderthal in the book considered the old-school way: brutes and savage-like, or the more recent reality after finding much more archaeological evidence, that they cared for their own and seem to be more artistic and likely gentle than we ever considered...?

After studying archaeological sites (by book not in situ) over the years, I pretty much assume as do many that we, the sapiens, are the more violent species compared to the Neanderthal, and likely we wiped out the larger brained - yet with less pre-frontal cortex planning, decision-making and likely some say, less social organization ability - Neanderthals.

As to 'the end,' I'm with you. I've said plenty that if there's a huge nuclear bomb headed our way, may we be in an area that is vaporized rather than be the poor suckers who linger. I'd rather not go in this fashion at all, of course, but if....

Comment by koshersalaami on January 20, 2019 at 5:49pm

Though of course there was a certain amount of interbreeding between the two groups and many of us have some Neanderthal ancestry. 

Comment by Anna Herrington on January 20, 2019 at 5:54pm

True. Didn't mean to ignore that aspect. 

I met some in laws recently I hadn't met before who had brow ridges that had me staring... and they apparently are, as is my husband, freakishly strong ; )

Comment by Anna Herrington on January 20, 2019 at 6:56pm

...and to be fair, interbreeding doesn't mean the females were necessarily happy or voluntarily cooperative about it...

Comment by moki ikom on January 20, 2019 at 9:06pm

Wholly applicable and desirable were one is caught in such a crisis in "the lower forty-eight":  - ...  if there's a huge nuclear bomb headed our way, may we be in an area that is vaporized rather than be the poor suckers who linger. -

  Best to be in n.w. quadrant of the lower forty-eight if international nuke exchange of any sort occurs. That's why for most of decade late 1970-early 1980 FEMA paid CH2MHill millions for flood plain data from the Cascades to the shoreline Crescent City to Astoria.  The data to be used for a development scenario to be effected in that region should the area be chosen for relocating U.S. central government and other pre-determined/'necessary' people if a limited nuke war breaks out rendering the East Coast a nuclear wasteland where food is scarce, guns and ammo plentiful and chaos reigns from the Rockies to the Atlantic... too much mad max this one,, vapor in, vapor out  

Comment by Tom Cordle on January 20, 2019 at 10:05pm

According to geneticists, Neanderthals are still very much with us:

"The proportion of Neanderthal-inherited genetic material is about 1 to 4 percent [later refined to 1.5 to 2.1 percent]. It is suggested that 20 percent of Neanderthal DNA survived in modern humans, notably expressed in the skin, hair and diseases of modern people."

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from that is that the two species interbred, and the Smart Ass in me suggests that explains Trump voters.

Comment by Anna Herrington on January 20, 2019 at 10:46pm

For those non-African, yep, there's definitely interbreeding results, with Denisovan humans, too - but there's a lot of back and forth over how much interbreeding, whether the Neanderthal sperm was compatible with modern humans, questions of science 'snobbery' affecting conclusions, climate change affecting/causing their extinction, meteoric events causing their population to weaken, interbreeding the rest, to no, they still exist, they live on in us, to no, Cro Magnons wiped them out with violence....

Personally, it's all fascinating, reading back and forths of scientists arguing points, bringing up studies and 'evidences' and slamming them down with other conclusions... 

I do appreciate the 'caveman' - oldest art of western Europe, Spain, I think, was carried out by Neanderthals, recently found. Artistic ones, those brutes.

But, Bo, what happens in the book??

Moki ~ Agghh. !! Thanks for the info?  : )

Comment by Ron Powell on January 20, 2019 at 11:17pm

"We are raping the world, he and I agreed, and there are far too many of us, just for starters. The term "vermin” occurred."


Glad to know that I'm not alone on this...

Comment by Boanerges on January 21, 2019 at 3:43pm

@JT: Not going to give away any spoilers, old friend. But as an example, Homo Sapiens' approach to warfare is contrasted with that of the Neanderthals, whose worst war ever killed fewer than 800 -- and that was considered such a calamity steps were taken to ensure it didn't happen again. It's a very thought-provoking series.

@Tom: Snork. You'd have fit right in at SAO.

@Moki: Didn't know that. I do know when I studied nuclear, chemical and biological warfare (NCBW) preparations (and outcomes) in the 1960s, one of the clearest lessons was "we aren't coming for you -- you're on your own". Yes, it would be better to be vaporized at the beginning. Where we were put us in the path of prevailing winds bearing, say, nuclear fallout from a strike on the Detroit-Windsor industrial area. As I recall all these years later, we were heading north. Fast.

@Kosh: That is true, from what I've read.

Comment by moki ikom on January 21, 2019 at 3:59pm

Sons of Rage would be prepared to be on their own anytime, especially after a nuke exchange in the northern hemisphere when far northern latitudes will certainly be warmer than they are today once the long winter after a full-blown nuclear war abates.


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