This book was bleak, but I think was intended to be. The kind of book that makes you take a real hard look at yourself and the way you act, and your ideals/the way you interact with the world. The Neolithic people's story was so sad and hard-hitting. Not an easy book to read, but I would recommend it.
American Neolithic is a short but provocative work that combines a legal thriller with science fiction and brutal satire, and tosses in two sympathetic protagonists to boot. It takes place in a dystopian near-future United States of America that is, unfortunately, all too recognizable. Raleigh got his law degree at Yale before the US became a police state, before the Constitution was amended (including the watering down of the First Amendment), before civil liberties for all were curtailed and every reference to evolution had to be accompanied with a "Fair to Faith" disclaimer. As the USA has declined, so has Raleigh's place in the world. Raleigh lives for cigars, alcohol, and the occasional ministrations of his much-younger girlfriend. But he has gotten a client in a high-profile case.
Blingbling is accused of killing a famous rapper. He was a dancer for that rapper's group, entertaining crowds. He is also one of the world's last surviving Neanderthals. Blingbling is ambitious, the only member of his small, hidden, New York City-based tribe to learn to read and work for pay. Unfortunately, his visibility becomes his, and potentially his tribe's, downfall. When his DNA is tested, a beefed-up Homeland Security department becomes highly interested in the case. The dead rapper takes a backseat to the fate of a person who is not quite a person in the eyes of the law, one who is not supposed to exist anymore (or, if one listens to the right-wing Christian leaders, ever have existed).
Terence Hawkins has written a tragic indictment of American politics and culture, a warning about what we can become if we allow ourselves, and an examination of what it means, really, to be human, with jokes. The perspectives alternate between Raleigh's and Blingbling's. Both have fascinating stories to tell about the past and the future. Despite the heavy lifting Hawkins took on for himself, the cast and scope never expand too far for concentration.
American Neolithic isn't for everyone, but it will hit all the sweet spots for some. If Blingbling in particular doesn't prick your conscience, you don't have one. There really aren't Neanderthals around anywhere anymore...I think. But Homo Sapiens still has an awful lot to learn.
Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
This one stopped me in my tracks because the cover art reminded me a lot of Gravity Falls. I absolutely adored it and was intrigued right from the get go. I really enjoyed this, and I find it hard to find good scifi/fantasy that has a little bit of humour but isn't an out and out "laugh right" if that makes sense. This filled that void well!
4.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase: American Neolithic is a dystopian science-fiction novel full of political satire and dark humor. In a world where the Homeland Police has unlimited legal jurisdiction over all national security and creationism is widely promoted by the government, Blingbling, a present-day Neanderthal who’s a professional musician, is charged for the murder of fellow hip-hop artist Galileo. Raleigh, Blingbling’s criminal defense lawyer, faces a massive problem when he realizes Blingbling is not entirely human. Terence Hawkins’s prose has a sharp wit and themes of trust and loyalty all combined in an eccentric, unique story that is part thriller, part courtroom drama.
When Raleigh was first introduced to his client Blingbling, who had no Homeland passport or Social Security number, he was convinced that he was a gypsy. However, when his former Yale roommate shows DNA results that indicate his strangely-shaped body was not a result of decades of inbreeding but rather because of his genotype, Raleigh starts to worry. He knows that the Homeland Police will instantly turn their attention to this case once there forensic scientists reach the same result.
At the same time, readers are introduced to BlingBling’s and his ancestors’ histories through his point of view. Early Neanderthals were almost hunted to extinction until they were forced into the deepest part of the forest they lived in. Eventually, they migrated to the east coast of America, working as coal miners sometime during the seventeenth century until a mining accident finally forced the remaining Neanderthals to retreat to a different place. Fast-forward to present day, it is revealed to readers that Blingbling learned to read through abandoned magazines and children’s books found in the dumpster. As the only literate Neanderthal, Blingbling’s grandmother sends him on a mission to find a job and Blingbling finally lands a cleaning job, eventually becoming a hip-hop artist after attracting a crowd while dancing in the hair salon. While this might sound unlikely, it’s written in a way that’s well-paced and fairly convincing.
As Blingbling’s genetic history becomes more public, Raleigh is introduced to Blingbling’s family, a group of Neanderthals that are living in an abandoned building called the “Nest.” Raleigh decides to go public with this information, is bombarded by the press, all while trying to maintain his on-and-off relationship with a mysterious young Iranian girl. These are interesting, thoroughly developed characters with well thought-through back stories.
Hawkins’s characters are flawed by realistic. Raleigh is a middle-aged Yale alumnus who’s also an alcoholic, chainsmoker who struggles with self-doubt. Blingbling, though believed to be retarded, is actually well versed in philosophy and science. His thoughts are portrayed as much more articulate and organized than Raleigh’s, even though he is not as educated.
The book is well-written, interestingly conceived, and the ending has some nice unexpected twists. Definitely a worthwhile read.
Comparison to Other Authors/Books:
It’s difficult to know what to compare American Neolithic to. Does it have a lot of legal knowledge and courtroom drama? Yes, of course. But unlike Grisham’s novels, which are tightly wound around real, or potentially real, cases with sometimes unlikable protagonists, Hawkins has created a fantasy world full of neanderthals and hyperbolic-security measures. Is it paced well? Yes, not quite to the level of Crichton’s Sphere, for example, but there are psychological aspects that were quite interesting and I was engaged throughout.
Thank you to NetGalley and The Calliope Group for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I honestly don't know what to say about this one ; I didn't hate it but I didn't love it either.
The premise, a man who is arrested for murder and is discovered to be a Neanderthal did interest me but I found the execution lacking.
I kept waiting for something to happen but not much did. There were quite a few sex scenes that I don't think needed to be there though I understood at the end why they were there.
There was clearly an attempt at some reflection on the human condition and immigration but nothing was really explored to the fullest so I felt quite disappointed overall.
I did however like the characters and the writing quite a bit but that wasn't enough to make the book for me.
A sophisticated, midnight-dark, funny, chilling, terrifyingly Orwellian must-read. America is no longer a democracy, it has succumbed to fundamentalist scaremongering and passed the Patriot Amendments which gave the government sweeping powers similar to what Bashir al Assad holds. Raleigh, a Manhattan lawyer, is called to defend a weird little guy named Blingbling from charges of murder. Blingbling, whose speech is unintelligible, is erudite and clear-thinking when holding a pen. ,Both characters, who each tell the story from their points of view, are beautifully drawn. Blinbling's calm acceptance of his people's history and his clear-eyed analysis of his present predicament is built layer by layer to the finale (do not succumb to the terrible practice of reading the last page!). Raleigh is an unlikely but ultimately noble hero. This ought to be a best-seller.