The Neanderthal Parallax

The Neanderthal Parallax

The Neanderthal Parallax is a trilogy of novels by Robert J. Sawyer published by Tor. It depicts the effects of the opening of a connection between two alternate Earths: the world familiar to the reader, and another where Neanderthals became the dominant, sentient hominid. The societal, spiritual and technological differences between the two worlds form the focus of the story.

The trilogy's volumes are titled Hominids (published 2002), Humans (2003), and Hybrids (2003). Hominids first appeared as a serial in Analog Science Fiction, won the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novel,[1] and was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award the same year;[1] Humans was a 2004 Hugo Award finalist.[2][3]

The initial contact between the two worlds takes place at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Sudbury, Ontario, which is also the location of a scientific research facility in the Neanderthal world.



As the books unfold, both species agree to use the Neanderthal terms to distinguish between them; thus a gliksin is a member of Homo sapiens, and a barast is of Homo neanderthalensis. Human refers to either species.

Barast society

Barasts are dedicated hunter-gatherers, and have no developed concept of agriculture. Despite this, they are still technologically advanced, possessing quantum computers, helicopters, communications and biological recording instruments. They live in harmony with their environment, using clean energy, living homes, and keeping a constant population. They measure long periods of time in lunar months, not years. The total barast population is much lower, numbering only 185 million worldwide compared to the gliksins' 6 billion.

Family life

Due to their advanced senses of smell, barasts are very sensitive to pheromones. Accordingly, women and men live in separate communities for 25 out of every 29 days. The four days when they do come together — known as two becoming one — are the cause of a monthly celebration and holiday. All barast women have synchronized menstrual cycles, and the meeting-times are set so that conception is unlikely — except every 10 years, when another generation is purposely conceived. Generations thus grow in synchronized, ten-year cycles; no barast needs to give his age, as simply stating his generation (if this is not simply inferred from his appearance) will give the needed information.

All children live with their mothers until they reach the age of ten; boys then go to live with their fathers. Children remain with their appropriate parent until the approximate age of 18.

While opposite-sex couples form long-term bonds similar to marriage, the same is true of life during the rest of the month. All barasts would consider themselves bisexual by the gliksin definition; they form same-sex bonds while two are not one. Thus each adult who so chooses, no matter their gender, has a man-mate and a woman-mate; one for procreation and the genetic family basis, the other for companionship and a family unit base when their opposite-sex partner is not present. The larger, intertwined family networks that result add cohesion to barast society.

Government and justice

The barast world has a single government hierarchy: each region of the globe is governed by a local Gray Council; these in turn answer to the High Gray Council, the world government.

About eight decades before the time of the novels, companion implants were perfected and issued to all barasts. These are comprehensive recording and transmission devices, mounted in the forearm of each person. Their entire life is constantly monitored and sent to their alibi archive, a repository of recordings that are only accessible by their owner, or by the proper authorities when investigating an infraction, and in the latter case only in circumstances relevant to the investigation.

Any serious crime has a single punishment: the castration of the offender and all others who share at least half his genes (parents, siblings and children). This eugenic practice serves to keep any undesirable elements out of the gene pool without severely punishing an offender, beyond his loss of genetic heritage.

As a result, serious crime of any sort is virtually unknown in the barast world.


Lower population levels and the absence of large-scale agriculture mean that many species exist which are extinct on the gliksin version of Earth. These include not only birds such as the passenger pigeon, but also megafauna such as the woolly mammoth. Also, forests are much more extensive because there was no need to cut them down on a large scale. Barasts have domesticated wolves as companions, but have not bred them into the many varieties of the domestic dog. A gliksin may become fearful upon seeing a barast dog, thinking it a wild wolf. A barast, seeing a gliksin's dog such as a dachshund, may wonder if the creature really is a dog.

The climate in the barast world is also somewhat cooler, because of the lack of greenhouse gases compared to the gliksins' Earth. Barasts are not as heat-tolerant as gliksins, probably because they evolved on a cooler Earth and also due to their greater muscle mass. As a result, tropical regions of their Earth are just as underpopulated as the polar regions on the gliksins' Earth. A significant story feature is the state of the Earth's magnetic field. In the barast world a reversal of polarity happened shortly before the story starts and caused no noticeable harm to the barasts. As to why the pole reversals are off by several years, it is ascribed to random small differences over the intervening 40,000 years. In the gliksin world it is happening as the stories take place; this has an effect on the minds of gliksins, whose brain structures are different from the barasts' (see Religion).


With the use of computer-aided communication devices, readers get to see only a glimpse of barast language. A dooslarm basadlarm refers to something like a judicial preliminary hearing with a literal translation of "asking small before asking large." The phrase Dusble korbul to kalbtadu is translated as "In a quantum-computing facility." Barast language is rendered as English when the action takes place in the barast world. One aspect of the language which can be discerned through the use of words like "gristle!" and "marrowless bone" for curses is that this register of speech is derived directly from real-world items. The customary barast greeting is "Healthy day."


The Barasts have no religion and no concept of religion. This is not due to a simple disbelief or worldwide atheism. The Barasts never had a religion and are not physically capable of believing in a god or gods or having religious experiences due to the structure of their brains. Prior to contact between the gliksins and the Barasts the Barasts had no concept of a creator; an afterlife or souls never occurred to them. The Barasts do not understand how the gliksins can possibly believe in the stories their religions tell and are sometimes frustrated with the gliksins' insistence of the truth of their beliefs. Nevertheless, the Barasts do accept religion as a part of who the gliksins are. The Barasts also do not believe that the universe had a beginning and do not adhere to the Big Bang theory. Instead, they believe the universe has always existed.


  1. ^ a b "2003 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  2. ^ Van Gelder, Lawrence (April 14, 2004). "Arts Briefing: Sci-Fi Nominees". The New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2010. 
  3. ^ "2004 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 

External links

At Robert J. Sawyer's website:

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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