Thursday, 4 June 2015

A Cave And Neanderthals

SM Stirling, The Sky People (New York, 2007), Chapter Two.

Marc and his companions shelter and cook in a cave, a scenario familiar from many works of adventure fiction but here written really well, with details of how the meal is prepared.

Meanwhile, the Russian pilot, Binkis, is a captive of the Neanderthals, whose sordid village life makes us appreciate by contrast the amenities of human civilization:

"...the stunning urine-feces-rotting-food-sweat fetor..." (p. 64);

"...roaches and flies were inescapable. Dozens were swarming around the scraps of his dinner in the gourd bowl by the door, consuming the last of the rancid fish-and-roots stew." (ibid.);

"...a few cripples or older males slowly starved to death." (ibid.)

We hope, first, that intelligence exists on another planet and, secondly, that it has advanced far beyond such disgusting disease and dirt.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

And one valid criticism I believe can be made of THE SKY PEOPLE is how S.M. Stirling presented Neanderthals: as gross, disgusting, brutish subhumans. I simply don't believe that was the case in our actual history. True, they MIGHT have been less intelligent than Homo sapiens, but not by much. And what I've read of Neanderthals shows them as having been as fully human as we are. Including taking care of cripples and burying their dead with respect. No, I prefer how Poul Anderson showed us Neanderthals in "The Long Remembering."


Paul Shackley said...

I agree. I think we have to say that the Venerian Neanderthals took a different course for some reason.
Since Poul Anderson is the primary inspiration for this blog, I should have thought to compare THE SKY PEOPLE with "The Long Remembering."

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

That is a reasonable point, suggesting that the Neanderthals we see on Venus in THE SKY PEOPLE took a different path from that taken by the Neanderthals of Earth. However, I am still skeptical, because my belief is that simple numbers and human VARIABILITY would have shown SOME of the Venerian Neanderthals behaving and living like human beings than others of their kind. So, I still think Stirling's treatment of Neanderthals in THE SKY PEOPLE a weak part of the book.

And I can think of a couple of other stories by Poul Anderson giving us his speculations about Neanderthals or earlier hominids comparison of which to THE SKY PEOPLE might bring up interesting points. We see a half Neanderthal as a major character in "The Nest" and the early hominids seen in "The Little Monster" shows them as thinking, reasoning human beings. The latter story is interesting in showing these "primitive" hominids as already venerating "relics" and coming close to having a religion.