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Ruins Extraterrestrial Paperback – October 1, 2007
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I did also a quick reread of this one to write a little on Fantasy Book Critic about it and it was as good as I remembered. The minireview below was originally published on Fantasy Book Critic and all notes and references are to be found there.
Editor Eric T. Reynolds comments on Ruins Extraterrestrial in the introduction.
"We have long been fascinated with ruins. Even people who lived during ancient times were interested in the artifacts left by even more ancient cultures. Ruins hold so much mystery that even the best analysis can give only an impression of a long-vanished culture. Whether future ruins of Earth or those found on distant worlds, their artifacts are small pieces to larger puzzles that can never be absolutely complete. To study them we have to think beyond our present world experience. This is true of earthly ruins as well as those of non-human origin.
Cultures that evolved independently of us will have developed societies far beyond our imagination. And yet, that's what carries us forward and motivates us to take those long trips across the void, confronting unknown obstacles in order to bring back knowledge from the remnants of a vanished civilization. How safe the visits will be will vary. Exploring alien ruins can be dangerous, both unintentionally on the part of those who left them, as well as by design. Some might still have a presence that can be triggered by the arrival of an unsuspecting archaeological team. Others will be completely dead."
Table of Contents: Ruins Extraterrestrial:
Introduction by Eric T. Reynolds
Stonework by Wendy Waring
Beyond the Wall by Justin Stanchfield
The Empty Utopia by Christopher McKitterick
Borrowed Time by Gustavo Bondoni
Charybdis by Sue Blalock
Introduction to the Findings of Team 150B-T.2U by Raiden Mesc Gerarti by Elizabeth Kate Switaj
The Dam by Harvey Welles and Philip Raines
The Fateful Voyage of Dame La Liberté by Lavie Tidhar
Memories by Robert B. Marcus, Jr.
Watcher in the Dark by Suanne Warr
Jigsaw by Douglas Smith
Heartcry by Willis Couvillier
When All Is Known by Cheryl McCreary
Red City by Rob Riel
Combustible Eden by Davin Ireland
The Price of Peace by Tristan S. Davenport
Song of the Child-Prophet by Jonathan Shipley
Flies by Paul L. Bates
Planetfall by Jack Hillman
Inheritance by Trent Walters
Inclusions by Camille Alexa
I, Fixit by Ted Stetson
Among the Shards of Heaven by Jennifer Crow
Looking back at the anthology I notice some familiar names that have become mainstays in the sff community since I've read the book, most notably Lavie Tidhar and Douglas Smith, while I also got and plan to soon read Christopher McKitterick's 2010 novel Transcendence.
The stories range from dark to humorous, from human perspective to alien one, from explorers from civilizations that are like ours, to explorers that come from strange cultures, from pure exploration to accidental findings and from peaceful settings to warlike ones. As they are only a few pages short, the stories feature usually only a few characters but almost always something interesting either happens or is discovered, so there are a few twists, great atmosphere and world building that is just exceptional given the few pages each author has to work with. There is even a two pages story where the place is the only character!
Overall I would say that Ruins Extraterrestrial (highly recommended) is the perfect place to start the exploration of this superb trio of anthologies.
I have always been fascinated by ruins. Studying them, we catch glimpses of other people, doing other things. Ruins give one a feeling of mortality and also immortality. Here we are, receiving something from those who lived long ago. Some of what we get is passed on unintentionally, and this can be at least as revealing as estimates that are meant for posterity. Considering the past reminds us that we could pass something on too. The fact that we may only have a few crumbs from the biscuit just makes vanished worlds more intriguing. We can take as a premise that ancient people were not so different, really, from us, because varied circumstances have the same basic human material to work with in creating cultures and societies. Could the same be true of ruins left by aliens? Maybe, maybe not. In _Ruins: Extraterrestrial_, a couple of dozen authors consider this question and others
A few excavations.
I'm not familiar with very many of these authors, which may be a function of my ignorance more than anything else. I was quite impressed the quality of writing.
In "stonework" by Wendy Waring, an archaeologist of sorts encounters a relic of a civilization that isn't quite as dead as it seems. This story doesn't answer any questions, but it raises a few.
Justin Stanchfield takes us "Beyond the wall." The concept of a mysterious wall whose far side is unknown is almost a cliché in science fiction. Stanchfield does manage to bring a new twist to the idea. I like the way he like the way he shows, rather than tell, what is going on. And what is that exactly? Is the wall a device that manipulates time? Does it merely manipulate minds? Maybe the difference really makes no difference.
Christopher McKitterick introduces a new riff on the end of humanity theme, so wonderfully played by John W. Campbell and others over the past few decades. "The empty utopia" isn't completely empty, but the last cup is about to be drained when the Martians show up in the nick of time. It is a sweet story.
I don't really mean to say something about every single story in this book, because that would make this review longer than it ought to be. The truth is I like just about every story in this book well enough to tell you something about it. I am afraid that talking about these stories is a bit like eating leaves potato chips. "Borrowed time" by Gustavo Bondoni left me wondering what the ending meant. That doesn't happen too often and I quite enjoyed it.
Harvey Welles and Philip Raines use "The dam" to look back from the far side of a profound cultural transition. Something like the singularity of Vernor Vinge. It's almost impossible for us to understand what the far side of such an event would be like, but this story provides a few clues.
One more. "The fateful voyage of _Dame la Liberté_" by Lavie Tidhar reminded me strongly of RA Lafferty. There's nothing like surreality to enhance a story about archaeology.
The bottom line is that Eric has done something really remarkable in this volume. If you are anything like me, you will like every story. Don't wait until it goes out of print!
In the interest of full disclosure: Eric and my wife are old friends.