Gallob’s debut sci-fi novel poses the question: What if Neanderthals never went extinct?
The answer proves complicated, spanning generations, continents and meandering storylines: Hidden “Neandertals”—as they prefer to spell it—communicate nonverbally through “hlashing” and “furring,” and they call themselves “Human”; non-Neandertals are weak “Sumballies.” Trouble starts when Sumbally Kevin hits his Human wife, Kit, because she refuses to leave Colorado to help further his career. He can’t understand why—and she can’t tell him it’s because she’s a Neandertal and she must raise their youngest child, Toby, near kin. Their other child, Tyler, seems fully Sumbally; Kit’s not worried about her. Shaken and bruised, Kit retreats to her grandparents’ Colorado ranch. There she interacts with Robert, Kit’s father, a professor who opens certain classes only to Neandertals; Robert’s wife, Cassie, a compassionate physician; and Kit’s sister, Mary, who falls in love with Rashad, a Sumbally from the Middle East. Memorable among other secondary characters is Tyler’s lovable, mischievous best friend, Kippy. Multiple storylines radiate from the central couple, some spinning far from the central narrative. Among the topics discussed: child custody laws, the Colorado court system, tourist caves with secret passages, ranch life and veterinary medicine, teen bullies, swift frontier justice, nursing homes, Neandertal rituals and myths, hair, and killing as a rite of passage. It all boils down to the brutal attempt to extinguish Sumballies by an extremist Human sect. The novel’s digressive summaries of the world’s major religions and linguistic backgrounds should be relegated to an appendix, no matter how interesting. The final pages come to a conclusion with disconcerting speed, as if the author grew weary of this sprawling, entertaining saga. The author’s doctorate in anthropological linguistics informs many “lectures,” which hinder the pacing but can also result in felicitous phrasing, such as describing how a cow eating afterbirth “hides the weakness of the new calf.” Ultimately, Gallob’s provocative epic subtly jabs at contemporary prejudices, leading readers to suspect that the title’s “fallacy” concerns all presumptions of superiority.
An engaging, meaty sci-fi saga.