The Dig, by Michael Siemsen, is an account of archeological mystery and a depiction of human nature throughout time. In the novel, a seedy archeological big-shot is using museum funds to search for diamonds and uncovers an aberration. The artifact is dated, due to the rocks surrounding it, to be in a time when it could not have possibly existed. Matthew Turner and his special power are brought in to uncover the secrets of the artifact, but not everything is going to be so simple.
Garrett Rheese is your typical arrogant, racist bastard who only seeks to fulfill his own wishes. Using near-slave labor and museum funds, he excavates sites looking for diamonds, though he inadvertently comes across an artifact that is puzzling to all scientists that see it. Due to the dating in the rock areas around the artifact, the obviously man-made metal object was from around the Triassic period – far before humans were known to exist and definitely before they were known to use tools to work metal. Rheese reports the find and to his chagrin the museum sends in a dating expert to help with the piece.
Nineteen year old Matthew Turner has a special ability. By holding an object, he gets visions of its past and those that interacted with it. This has been lucrative for him; he has made a name for himself among the group of scientists working on the artifact and they contract him to come out toAfricato help, though he is reluctant because of trying past experiences with his father’s police department exploits using his ability. With assistance from a woman named Tuni, Matthew makes the trip and ends up delving into the story of the artifact.
The artifact depicts the life of a people that lived in the correctly dated period of the object. The Pwin-T have a social culture and build houses, farms, and even have a complex astrologically based system of counting and time. This astonishes all the archeologists and get’s Turner interested as well – he eventually decides to stay in order to find out more about the story. It is discovered that the Pwin-T people are on the verge of destruction, due to a vision of an asteroid impact seen by one of the members of the society.
Meanwhile, Rheese is upset because he has to hide his diamond excavation plans. Working with mercenaries inAfrica, he eventually disrupts the research by having a man kidnapped, then rendering Matthew into a coma like state that no one can figure out. In the end, everything is figured out and more artifacts are found, changing the course of history as we know it. Matthew and Tuni share a fledgling romance and go off toTahition vacation, with one unfortunate turn of events at the ending of the book.
The Dig was unique to me in a few ways. I have never read a book involving someone with a special ability like Matthew and it was interesting to see the gift and curse aspects of his power. The author did a fairly good job of establishing a history for Turner, but in many ways the boy seemed much younger than his supposed age. His identity was often confusing because of the transitions between the Pwin-T person he saw the world of the archeological find through and his own; this may have been intentional.
Not many other characters got this same level of development. Rheese is identifiable as a crusty and devious participant in the story from the very beginning. Everyone else seems to be teetering on a slippery slope of near-forcing Matt to assist and do groundbreaking research. For the most part, though, the archeologists are likable and you get the sincere feeling that they do care about their ‘dating expert’.
The whole situation of a civilized human culture existing in the Triassic was the most interesting part of the book. Well done and believable, the Pwin-T people are fascinating and seem real enough to be an actual archeological find. Though not too much of the technology and social aspects of their culture are explained, I found that I was still satisfied with the character and societal development. Things also seemed right for the periods that were being looked at scientifically and information given was relevant and valid. This was not a hard science based book, so not too many difficult assumptions were made involving archeology; however, it was obvious that the author had done his research.
Though a little slow at times and with an ending that seemed a bit quick and a little too contrived, the book was fairly enjoyable. It was nice to read something that I’d never read anything like before, thus gaining a new literary experience. The ending had a twist that paves the way for another book to be written, although I feel it was kind of a last-ditch cop out attempt from the author to make sure he could write more using the same characters. Emotionally, I didn’t invest much in the book and it took me a few days to read, probably because I didn’t feel as intimately connected with it as I have with other books.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an interesting, easy read with supernatural aspects. It poses interesting questions about the nature of humanity and uses real world situations right next to fictional ones. The story seemed almost like it should have taken place in a much darker, grungier setting. The whole thing was a bit too lighthearted to me. For the price, $0.99, it was definitely not a waste, but I would feel jilted had I paid more than $3.99.
Speculative Fiction Challenge 2012 – book # 5