This novel by the New York Times–bestselling “master of alternate history” explores an America reshaped by a twist in prehistoric evolution (Publishers Weekly).
What if mankind’s “missing link,” the apelike Homo erectus, had survived to dominate a North American continent where woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers still prowled, while the more advanced Homo sapiens built their civilizations elsewhere? Now imagine that the Europeans arriving in the New World had chanced on these primitive creatures and seized the opportunity to establish a hierarchy in which the sapiens were masters and the “sims” were their slaves.
This is the premise that drives the incomparable Harry Turtledove’s A Different Flesh. The acclaimed Hugo Award winner creates an alternate America that spans three hundred years of invented history. From the Jamestown colonists’ desperate hunt for a human infant kidnapped by a local sim tribe, to a late-eighteenth-century contest between a newfangled steam-engine train and the popular hairy-elephant-pulled model, to the sim-rights activists’ daring 1988 rescue of an unfortunate biped named Matt who’s being used for animal experimentation, Turtledove turns our world inside out in a remarkable science fiction masterwork that explores what it truly means to be human.
Turtledove specializes in carefully researched alternate histories involving the Roman and Byzantine empires. This time, though, he applies that expertise to a more striking premise. What if homo erectus (called "sims'' here) had lived on in America while homo sapiens elsewhere developed into the European civilization we know? The sims, a living missing link of limited intelligence and half-human, half-simian appearance, challenge traditional ideas of humanity's special, God-given place in the world. With an eye for historical turning points, Turtledove develops his thesis through vignettes from 1610 to 1988. The later, longer chapters become increasingly involving and intricate as the issues grow more complex, from slavery to (all but human) guinea pigs for scientific research. One of the best entries in the ``Isaac Asimov Presents'' series.