Six impossible things before breakfast.

A library science student's perspective on life, the universe, and everything.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Death by Theory

Time for another book review.

Death by Theory was first brought to my attention when it appeared on the reading list of one of my classes (Anthropology 101) in my very first semester of undergrad. While I was in the class, I never actually got around to reading more than the back cover and the first chapter or two, but I hung on to the book for years because I always thought it sounded like a neat read. The author, Adrian Praetzellis, set out to write a book that would be both an entertaining story and a sort of introduction to the world of archaeology and anthropology for students. In the book, one of the characters, Dr. Hannah Green, is actually engaged in the process of writing an introductory "ABCs" of archaeology for students with the hope of motivating and educating new students in the field; as a reader you get the feeling that Dr. Green's mix of enthusiasm and anguish for her project is definitely part autobiographical.

The plot revolves around Dr. Green and her nephew, Sean, a recent graduate from college who majored in archaeology who is now out in the world looking for his first job. The two find themselves accepting positions on a team of archaeologists working on a very secretive dig site in Washington state, Dr. Green as a consulting specialist, and Sean as, well, as a dig bum. The mysterious site, which resembles a European Neolithic burial ground, complete with a Venus von Willendorf-esque goddess statue, is impossibly out of place on an island off the coast of Washington and events become more and more bizzare as Dr. Green attempts to confirm the authenticity of the site.

Praetzellis' eccentric cast of characters include Dr. Ian Tuliver, the elitist professor in charge of the dig, Mr. Ollie Bott, wealthy benefactor, a team of well-exploited student workers, and a band of some sort of Neopaganists calling themselves the Children of Odin. The transitions between the often high-energy plot-driven scenes and the occasionally lengthy exposition on archaeological terms and theories are a little lacking, and sometimes the lecturing by Dr. Green or the discussion between the students can seem a little forced, but I really like the concept behind the book. Praetzellis wants to provide students with a different way of learning and I think that his amusing characters and tongue and cheek diagrams are a good step towards that goal.

Marxism illustration from Death by Theory

No comments:

Post a Comment