Friday, February 09, 2007

Sawyer, Robert J. Hybrids. New York: Tor, 2004. 396pp.

This is the third installment in Sawyer's Neanderthal Parallax trilogy and it brings everything to a nice conclusion. The overall plot of the trilogy revolves around a portal (in Sudbury, Ontario, of all places) between our earth and a parallel reality where neanderthals have evolved as the dominante humanoid species. The main characters are scientists from the two worlds, Ponter Boddit and Mary Vaughn (of York University!) and their relationship, eventually their falling in love and wanting to have a child. Thus the title of this volume, Hybrids. As the novel progresses we see the struggles that Mary and Ponter must undergo, both personal and scientific, to realize their dream. We also continue to see Sawyer use the contrasts between the two worlds, on violent and one peaceful, to make some interesting commentary on our world, for both good and bad.

Sawyer asks some interesting questions about human/humanoid nature: why are we peaceful, where is the root of sexual violence, can curtailing our privacy make us more peaceful, what lengths can we legitimately go to to save ourselves, to what lengths can we go to reproduce ourselves , what does it mean to be gay or straight -- is it cultural or biological. As you can see, he doesn't shy away from the big questions and he certainly should be congratulated for his courage to tackle big issues. Of course, he really doesn't have the answers, anymore than our politicians do, anymore than our scientific knowledge can offer complete and final answers either. But at least he asks the questions. This another fine example of Sawyer at his best -- a good story well told that also gives lots of food for thought.

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Server, Lee.Over my dead body: The sensational age of the American paperback: 1945-1955. San Francisco, 1994. 108pp.

A pretty cool book, basically a quick overview of the first great age of the paperback novel. A bit of an uneasy balance between a serious study and history and being an art book, to the extent that it doesn't function that well as either. If you take it as a kind of taster book, leading to a search for a more serious art book and history of paperbacks, then it is quite successful. There's certainly enough cover art from the paperback era to whet my appetite for more. And the history part is also certainly going to lead me to more resources as well. The book covers a multitude of genres from hard boiled mystery to romance, so each section doesn't get too much coverage. On the other hand, it's certainl pointed out a bunch of authors for me to keep an eye out for, such as Henry Kane, Harry Whittington, Irving Shulman and Hal Elson.

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