BRIEF SYNOPSIS: “An anthology of alien archeology, hidden mysteries, and things that are better off left buried,” with stories by such writers as Ken Liu, Alex Shvartsman, Mae Empson, David J. West, and K.V. Taylor.
PROS: Well-written, quick-paced stories; no clunkers.
CONS: A few stories with similar plots, characters, settings.
BOTTOM LINE: An interesting batch of stories about “things that are better off left buried.”
As any fan of the most famous fictional archeologist knows, Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones Junior thinks artifacts belong in museums. Editor Carrie Cuinn disagrees. In her opinion, you should leave those ancient pottery shards the hell alone. In her afterword, Cuinn writes, “The best chance we have to understand what we find is to keep it in situ for as long as possible so that we can photograph it, study it, and most importantly, put it in a context of other artifacts it was buried with.” She also relays the story of inept amateur archeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who excavated ancient Troy in the nineteenth century and, in the process, destroyed much of it. The 15 stories in this anthology are Cuinn’s cautionary tales to stop any would-be Schliemanns.
My favorite one is Alex Shvartsman’s lighthearted The Field Trip, about a group of xenoarchaeology students who are tasked with explaining the purpose of an obelisk on a ruined planet. In Ken Liu’s You’ll Always Have the Burden With You, a young couple interpret an ancient alien text in very different ways. Mae Empson’s Vessels of Clay, Flesh, and Stars tells the story of a group of female students who are led into a Lovecraftian nightmare in Peru. David J. West’s The Dig is about a captain in Mussolini’s army who gets more than he bargained for when insists on breaking into an ancient vault beside the Nile river.
All the stories in In Situ are solid, quick-paced reads. There are no clunkers. If I had one gripe it’s that a few of the stories are a bit too similar to one another. Still, In Situ is an interesting collection and should make you think twice before dropping that artifact into your shoulder bag and heading for the nearest museum.