- Mass Market Paperback
- Publisher: Ace (November 1, 1984)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0441805574
- ISBN-13: 978-0441805570
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,753,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Them Bones Mass Market Paperback – May 5, 1955
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That is one of the problems in this adventure. Leake's adventures are initially without much surprise or usual human distrust. Meanwhile, the narration of the trials of the troop, also in ancient times, but not with Leake, are cobbled together so that none of it seems to have much to do with the rest of the novel. Except for Bessie, the archeologist trying to learn the secrets of two burial mounds that are threatened by hard rains, and the breaking of a dam that holds back the river.
There are lot of holes in this tale that the reader must fill on his own, partly from a knowledge of history and partly from one's own imagination. The research is good. The narration is good. The humor is subtle and welcome. But the connections, the details, are lacking. The emotion isn't strong. The characters aren't fully developed. I probably should have started with Waldrop's short stories, which get high praise, and which have been very entertaining when he reads them aloud.
One storyline follows a 1929 archaeological dig in Louisiana targeting the remnants of a Moundbuilder Native American site. When they uncover a historically impossible horse skeleton, followed by a brass bullet cartridge, the race is on to figure out what's going on before the entire area is flooded. The second storyline (and the true heart of the book) follows Leake, a soldier sent from 2002 into the past to try and alter history so that the Third Wold War doesn't engulf the world. As with so many such plots, the timing is a little off, and he ends up in Precolumbian America, in the midst of the Moundbuilder area. The third storyline, written as memos and diary excerpts, follows the rest of Leake's unit, as they hop back in time to the same era and end up hunkered down trying to fend off (rightfully) hostile natives.
From what I understand, Waldrop favors these kind of "what if" scenarios, and does a ton of research to amp up the verisimilitude. What he's clearly less interested in is threading the three storylines together in a meaningful way. Each is compelling enough in its own right, but the archaeologists and other soldiers come across as mere afterthoughts to Leake's stranger-in-a-strange-land storyline. It's not the greatest writing, but I'm a sucker for these kind of time-travel gone wrong plots, so I had a good time with it. Diverting enough for the beach or poolside.
I normally only read a book once, because i tend to remember too much of the story to make subsequent re-reads unbearable. This one I found a bit different and have probably read it a dozen times over, though not always as the author intended. Essentially, this is 3 lightly interwoven stories, connected together only tangentially by that wonderful sci-fi concept of "time travel" -- here used as a literal deus-ex-machina. Two of the stories take place in the same time-lijne, and the third taking place in an alternate time-line where a number of key events in history never occurred, placing the protagonist in a very interesting and different "America". I found the entire story engrossing and well woven together and none of the individual story lines really lacking in concept and excitement.
The book opens on an archeological dig in the mid-west where he scientists are desperately trying to complete their work before the rains and new dam project erase their site from history. It is important to remember this fact throughout the entire book as I believe it underlies one of the themes that Howard was addressing. The second story is about a group of soldiers sent into the past to prevent a 3rd world war, way overshooting their mark and the results of their action. The final story is the one of the soldier's advance scout, who apparently did end up in the right time, just not the right time-line.
Now, each story could have been told as its own short story, and indeed they each work perfectly fine as their own standalone stories, none needing any support from the other stories. How can I say this? Well about 5 years after having last read it, I went back and did a little experiment to test that theory. Luckily each chapter is headed by the story-line title which made it easy to do. I was very impressed with that feat, so I decided to try another experiment: I read the book back-to-front, chapter by chapter. Amazingly, the story still works well that way. It's an amazing accomplishment.
My title says, this is one of two books I would save if required. Guess what, the other isn't Neuromancer. (If you must know, it's "The Unadulterated Cat" by Terry Pratchett.
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It's 1929 and archaeologists are digging in a mound in Louisiana when they find something very exciting:...Read more