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Hominids: Volume One of The Neanderthal Parallax (Neanderthal Parallax, 1) - Softcover

 
9780765345004: Hominids: Volume One of The Neanderthal Parallax (Neanderthal Parallax, 1)
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Hominids examines two unique species of people. We are one of those species; the other is the Neanderthals of a parallel world where they became the dominant intelligence. The Neanderthal civilization has reached heights of culture and science comparable to our own, but with radically different history, society and philosophy.

Ponter Boddit, a Neanderthal physicist, accidentally pierces the barrier between worlds and is transferred to our universe. Almost immediately recognized as a Neanderthal, but only much later as a scientist, he is quarantined and studied, alone and bewildered, a stranger in a strange land. But Ponter is also befriended―by a doctor and a physicist who share his questing intelligence, and especially by Canadian geneticist Mary Vaughan, a woman with whom he develops a special rapport.

Ponter's partner, Adikor Huld, finds himself with a messy lab, a missing body, suspicious people all around and an explosive murder trial. How can he possibly prove his innocence when he has no idea what actually happened to Ponter?

Hominids is the winner of the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

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About the Author:

Robert J. Sawyer is the Hugo Award-winning author of Hominids, the Nebula Award-winning author of The Terminal Experiment, and the Aurora Award-winning author of FlashForward, basis for the ABC TV series. He is also the author of the WWW series―Wake, Watch and Wonder―and many other books. He was born in Ottawa and lives in Toronto.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One
DAY ONE
FRIDAY, AUGUST 2
148/118/24
The blackness was absolute.
Watching over it was Louise Benoît, twenty-eight, a statuesque postdoc from Montreal with a mane of thick brown hair stuffed, as required here, into a hair net. She kept her vigil in a cramped control room, buried two kilometers-- “a mile an’ a quarder,“ as she sometimes explained for American visitors in an accent that charmed them--beneath the Earth’s surface.
The control room was next to the deck above the vast, unilluminated cavern housing the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory. Suspended in the center of that cavern was the world’s largest acrylic sphere, twelve meters--”almost fordy feet”--across. The sphere was filled with eleven hundred tonnes of heavy water on loan from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited.
Enveloping that transparent globe was a geodesic array of stainless-steel struts, supporting 9,600 photomultiplier tubes, each cupped in a reflective parabola, each aimed in toward the sphere. All of this--the heavy water, the acrylic globe that contained it, and the enveloping geodesic shell--was housed in a ten-story-tall barrel-shaped cavern, excavated from the surrounding norite rock. And that gargantuan cavern was filled almost to the top with ultrapure regular water.
The two kilometers of Canadian shield overhead, Louise knew, protected the heavy water from cosmic rays. And the shell of regular water absorbed the natural background radiation from the small quantities of uranium and thorium in the surrounding rock, preventing that, too, from reaching the heavy water. Indeed, nothing could penetrate into the heavy water except neutrinos, those infinitesimal subatomic particles that were the subject of Louise’s research. Trillions of neutrinos passed right through the Earth every second; in fact, a neutrino could travel through a block of lead a light-year thick with only a fifty-percent chance of hitting something.
Still, neutrinos poured out of the sun in such vast profusion that collisions did occasionally occur--and heavy water was an ideal target for such collisions. The hydrogen nuclei in heavy water each contain a proton--the normal constituent of a hydrogen nucleus--plus a neutron, as well. And when a neutrino did chance to hit a neutron, the neutron decayed, releasing a proton of its own, an electron, and a flash of light that could be detected by the photomultiplier tubes.
At first, Louise’s dark, arching eyebrows did not rise when she heard the neutrino-detection alarm go ping, the alarm sounded briefly about a dozen times a day, and although it was normally the most exciting thing to happen down here, it still didn’t merit looking up from her copy of Cosmopolitan.
But then the alarm sounded again, and yet again, and then it stayed on, a solid, unending electric bleep like a dying man’s EKG.
Louise got up from her desk and walked over to the detector console. On top of it was a framed picture of Stephen Hawking--not signed, of course. Hawking had visited the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory for its grand opening a few years ago, in 1998. Louise tapped on the alarm’s speaker, in case it was on the fritz, but the keening continued.
Paul Kiriyama, a scrawny grad student, dashed into the control room, arriving from elsewhere in the vast, underground facility. Paul was, Louise knew, usually quite flustered around her, but this time he wasn’t at a loss for words. “What the heck’s going on?” he asked. There was a grid of ninety-eight by ninety-eight LEDs on the detector panel, representing the 9,600 photomultiplier tubes; every one of them was illuminated.
“Maybe someone accidentally turned on the lights in the cavern,“ said Louise, sounding dubious even to herself.
The prolonged bleep finally stopped. Paul pressed a couple of buttons, activating five TV monitors slaved to five underwater cameras inside the observatory chamber. Their screens were perfectly black rectangles. “Well, if the lights wereon,“ he said, “they’re off now. I wonder what--”
“A supernova!” declared Louise, clapping her longfingered hands together. “We should contact the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams; establish our priority.” Although SNO had been built to study neutrinos from the sun, it could detect them from anywhere in the universe.
“Paul nodded and plunked himself down in front of a Web browser, clicking on the bookmark for the Bureau’s site. It was worth reporting the event, Louise knew, even if they weren’t yet sure.
A new series of pings sounded from the detector panel. Louise looked at the LED board; several hundred lights were illuminated all over the grid. Strange, she thought. A supernova should register as a directionalsource...
“Maybe something’s wrong with the equipment?” said Paul, clearly reaching the same conclusion. “Or maybe the connection to one of the photomultipliers is shorting out, and the others are picking up the arc.”
The air split with a creaking, groaning sound, coming from next door--from the deck atop the giant detector chamber itself. “Perhaps we should turn on the chamber lights,“ said Louise. The groaning continued, a subterranean beast prowling in the dark.
“But what if it isa supernova?” said Paul. “The detector is useless with the lights on, and--”
Another loud cracking, like a hockey player making a slap shot. “Turn on the lights!”
Paul lifted the protective cover on the switch and pressed it. The images on the TV monitors flared then settled down, showing--
Mon dieu,“ declared Louise.
“There’re something inside the heavy-water tank!” said Paul. “But how could--?”
“Did you see that?” said Louise. “It’s moving, and--good Lord, it’s a man!”
The cracking and groaning sounds continued, and then--
They could see it on the monitors and hear it coming through the walls.
The giant acrylic sphere burst apart along several of the seams that held its component pieces together. “Tabernacle,“ Louise swore, realizing the heavy water must now be mixing with the regular H2O inside the barrel-shaped chamber. Her heart was jackhammering. For half a second, she didn’t know whether to be more concerned about the destruction of the detector or about the man who was obviously drowning inside it.
“Come on!” said Paul, heading for the door leading to the deck above the observatory chamber. The cameras were slaved to VCRs; nothing would be missed.
Un moment,“ said Louise. She dashed across the control room, grabbed a telephone handset, and pounded out an extension from the list taped to the wall.
The phone rang twice. “Dr. Montego?” said Louise, when the Jamaican-accented voice of the mine-site physician came on. “Louise Benoit here, at SNO. We need you right away down at the neutrino observatory. There’s a man drowning in the detector chamber.”
“A man drowning?” said Montego. “But how could he possibly get in there?”
“We don’t know. Hurry!”
“I’m on my way,“ said the doctor. Louise replaced the handset and ran toward the same blue door Paul had gone through earlier, which had since swung shut. She knew the signs on it by heart:
* * *
Keep Door Closed
Danger: High Voltage Cables
No Unauthorized Electronic Equipment Beyond This Point
Air Quality Checked--Cleared for Entry
* * *
Louise grabbed the handle, pulling the door open, and hurried onto the wide expanse of the metal deck.
There was a trapdoor off to one side leading down to the actual detector chamber; the final construction worker had exited through it, and had sealed it shut behind him. To Louise’s astonishment, the trapdoor was still sealed by forty separate bolts--of course, it was supposedto be sealed, but there was no way a man could have gotten inside except through that trapdoor...
The walls surrounding the deck were covered with dark green plastic sheeting to keep rock dust out. Dozens of conduits and polypropylene pipes hung from the ceiling, and steel girders sketched out the shape of the room. Computing equipment lined some walls; others had shelves. Paul was over by one of the latter, desperately rummaging around, presumably for pliers strong enough to crank the bolts free.
Metal screamed in anguish. Louise ran toward the trapdoor--not that there was anything she could do to unseal it with her bare hands. Her heart leapt; a sound like machine-gun fire erupted into the room as the restraining bolts shot into the air. The trapdoor burst open, slapping back on its hinges and hitting the deck with a reverberating clang. Louise had jumped out of the way, but a geyser of cold water leapt up through the opening, soaking her.
The very top of the detector chamber was filled with nitrogen gas, which Louise knew must be venting now. The water spout quickly subsided. She moved toward the opening in the deck and looked down, trying not to breathe. The interior was illuminated by the floodlights Paul had turned on, and the water was absolutely pure; Louise could see all the way to the bottom, thirty meters below.
She could just make out the giant curving sections of the acrylic sphere; the acrylic’s index of refraction was almost identical to that of water, making it hard to see. The sections, separated from each other now, were anchored to the roof by synthetic-fiber cables; otherwise, they would have already sunk to the bottom of the surrounding geodesic shell. The trapdoor’s opening gave only...

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  • PublisherTor Science Fiction
  • Publication date2003
  • ISBN 10 0765345005
  • ISBN 13 9780765345004
  • BindingMass Market Paperback
  • Edition number1
  • Number of pages448
  • Rating

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