Sawyer (Calculating God, 2000, etc.) returns to a familiar device: parallel universe civilizations weighing each other’s values. In the first installment of a projected Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, both civilizations are afflicted with cancer. Long ago in a parallel world, Neanderthals took the Great Leap Forward over Homo sapiens and developed a civilization to rival ours. Down in a deep shaft, Neanderthal research scientist Ponter Boddit, whose mate has died of leukemia, is working on a new quantum computer measuring hydrogen particles when he is transported to a similar experiment in our world. That experiment is also taking place deep in a Canadian shaft, and Ponter finds himself drowning in a huge ball of heavy water being used to observe neutrinos. The very big scientist, who has the usual Neanderthal cranial features, is rescued by sapient Louise Benoît and taken to the surface. Radiology shows his bone structure to be truly Neanderthal. While we follow the terrors of DNA specialist Mary Vaughan, who gets raped at knifepoint but survives, we learn that Ponter wears a wrist implant, a black box that records his entire life history, including his immediate physiological experiences, follows his movements through Global Positioning, and talks to him through cochlear implants. Neanderthals have few crimes of violence in part because they all have this box (called a Companion), which follows their every movement and allows judicial scrutiny should there be a crime. Back home, as it happens, fellow scientist Adikor is being tried for Ponter’s murder. Big question: How about humans having Companions? Lots of crimes would be stopped.
With the quantum computer gateway now working, will sapiens travel to Ponter’s home in volume two? And in volume three, will they go for a synthesis of civilizations? You betcha.