Neandertal-Tal des Lebens #bookreview

I preparation for my ‘fifty classics reading challenge’.  For pure training purpose here’s my attempt to write a critique for one of the books I’ve recently finished. Did a quick one on Goodreads. This one should be a bit more detailed.

Here we go:

Neandertal – Tal des Lebens by John Darnton (‘Neanderthal’, 1996)

Neandertal-Tal des Lebens

Read the German translation, no translator mentioned in the book (disgusting !)


My translation of the text on the back of the book.

A famous scientific vanishes under mysterious circumstances in the Pamir region. His last sign of living was a parcel he sent. Containing the skull of a Neanderthal, extinct for 40.000 years. Miraculously the skull was only twenty-five years old. A forgery ? Or the confirmation of an unbelievable speculation – somewhere a tribe of hominids has survived.

Plot from Wikipedia:

The plot of Neanderthal revolves around two rival scientists, Matt Mattison and Susan Arnot, who are sent by the United States government to search for missing Harvard anthropologist James Kellicut. Their only clue is the skull of a Neanderthal. Carbon dating shows that the skull, which should be 40,000 years old, is suspiciously only 25 years old.

The Russian and American governments are competing to study the surviving Neanderthals in Tajikistan in order to learn more about their “remote viewing” capabilities. The Neanderthals are split into two tribes, a peaceful valley tribe and a cannibalistic and violent mountain tribe. Soon, the protagonists are captured by Neanderthals and must try to escape from the cannibals. They hope to do so without jeopardizing the safety of the peaceful tribe. It eventually, however, becomes necessary to train the peaceful tribe for war. The novel explains that a completely peaceful society like that was doomed in any case, and would have been destroyed soon by the mountain tribe.

What I liked about the book:

–          it was an interesting story. A nice background story to start (enigma of Khodsant, no traces whatsoever on the web). The plot does not have any dull moments. Anything about the plot is, at least, imaginable. And it’s, for me, working. It could be.

–          The two different tribes of the Neanderthals are imaginable, too.

What I didn’t like:

There are 2.5 sex scenes between the two main characters. Neither of them is necessary for the story. The half first one is as unbelievable as can be. It just doesn’t work for the character of the female protagonist. Can’t imagine it would work for any of the women that I know or knew, either. It’s just too unbelievable. At least the scenes aren’t porn.

There is suddenly a member of the Russian expedition coming to the rescue. Out of nowhere ? With two tribes that could sense your presence ? Just not believable.

The last scene with the professor. I don’t get it. As a famous scientist you should be remotely intelligent. In this scene the professor is nothing but committing suicide. Thinking several seconds about his plan he must have realized that he would be killed. There’s no other possibility. If his plan would have worked he would have condemned an ancient student, an ancient lover to be sacrificed. It might be in line with his character changes, but I can’t believe it. I simply can’t.


On ‘Goodreads’ I gave the book three stars. This still means ‘I like it’. Yes, I like it. But there are these mentioned flaws. I would not downgrade a book for unnecessary sex scenes. But the flaws are just a bit too much to give a higher rating.

Would I recommend this book to a friend  ? Depends on the friend. If you just want something nice to read for a commute. OK, you might not regret it. I’m not regretting the time I spent with it. There won’t be a lasting impression, that’s all.

…my ‘shut-out-the-WURLD’ go-to place…

If I could only find words…

Seumas Gallacher

…born at the tail end of the of the 1940s, this ol’ Scots Jurassic is very much a child of the ’50s and ’60s... scholastic gadgetry such as pocket calculators, followed by desktop compoooters, and ultimately by the plague of  iPhones, iPads, iThis and iThat and iWhatevers were unknown learning tools… sliderules and logarithm charts, abundant with algebraic components, sines, cosines, tangents, vectors and quadrolililililililiograms kept active what little grey cells we possessed back then…


…fast forward to the modern day, and the curse/blessing of nano-technology and insta-communication offers up the WUNDERS-of-the-WURLD-WIDE-WEB… this wee Caledonian scribbler, rooted firmly in days of yore, consistently railed defiantly against each successive wave of new-fangled ‘stuff’ as the ‘50s and ‘60s yielded grudgingly to the ’70’s, ’80’s, and beyond… employing old-fashioned mental arithmetic and owning a staunch supply of academy-level vocabulary, the Google route for Master Gallacher was a

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Wednesday Wing…..Let’s Talk About Libraries #wwwblogs

Saturday will be the next visit in the local library. And we even have a library bus from spring to autumn (once a month) Unfortrunately everything in the “wrong” language

Rosie Amber

Wednesday Wing is a series of posts where we look at books from the POV of the reader.

Rosie's Notebook

Let’s talk about Libraries.

Local libraries are dying out.

Reading Original

In the last year I think I have visited Fleet library just three times. On each occasion I have headed for the upstairs non-fiction section. Before I began reviewing I was a regular visitor devouring all the shelves of their books. I’ve always liked to read, as a child we lived in the countryside and had a mobile library van come and visit once every two weeks. I was lucky enough to be able to introduce my kids to the magical experience of the library bus (as they called it) when we visited their Grandparents. There’s nothing like standing at the dis-used official bus stop watching the vehicle containing dreams and adventure driving down the road and stopping just for you.

Now it’s over to…

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