Book Reviews

Review Rating

With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

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The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

Reviewed on: March 1, 2020


Grand Central Publishing:  New York City
2019 (pb)

Throughout the years that the Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center has published these monthly book reviews, we have included a number of sub-genres, such as thrillers, mysteries, romances and even a bit of science fiction.  The Anomaly may be the first example of cryptoarchaeology to be reviewed; in part because I think I just made up the term.  It is, of course, a take-off on the term “cryptozoology,” which refers to the study evidence tending to substantiate the existence of, or the search for creatures whose existence is unproved, such the Yeti, the Loch Ness monster, etc. etc.  – Sometimes also known as humbug, gibberish, or nonsense.

But Michael Rutger has written a thoroughly engaging first entry in his “Anomaly Files” series, populating its pages with sometimes funny, sometimes tragic characters who have set out on an odyssey that even they believe is preposterous.  By way of background, in 1909 the real-life explorer G.E. Kincaid reported to the Phoenix Gazette, Arizona’s leading newspaper, of an expedition led by the Smithsonian’s Professor S.A. Jordan to explore a cave—modestly called Kincaid’s cave—some 1,500 feet above the floor of the Grand Canyon.  This cave was said to contain amazing relics and antiquities never before unearthed in the New World.  The discovery was then discreetly “lost” to the ages and the Smithsonian denied any knowledge of the expedition!

Stepping into this void more than one hundred years later were the rogue adventurer, crypto- and pseudo-archaeologist Nolan Moore and his TV film crew from the NewerWorld Cable Network reality show, “The Anomaly Files.”  Previously the Anomaly Files had been a seat-of-the-pants YouTube production until NewerWorld picked it up with the generous support of the Palinhem Foundation, dedicated to “fighting mainstream scientists, the government and the liberal autocracy.”  Nolan Moore sets out to re-discover Kincaid’s Cave, along with his crew consisting of Ken, the foul-mouthed and cynical but incredibly loyal producer;  assertive and over-bearing assistant producer Molly; egocentric and incredibly talented cameraman Pierre, of no known French connection whatsoever; fan girl Feather,  the hippy-dippy representative of the Palinhem Foundation; and uninvited and acerbic journalist Gemma Heisenberg, who tags along to de-bunk the pseudo-scientific claims of the Anomaly Files.

Nolan Moore, for all his flaws—and they are legion, his an endearing and sympathetic character.  He realizes his fan base is certainly limited in number and primarily made up of conspiracy nuts, but it is a living.  He accepts his failings and foibles but in his own stubborn way does strive to ferret out the truth.

This motley crew perseveres on its quest, heroically re-discovers the cave and then proceeds to be trapped within a labyrinth of claustrophobic tunnels and chambers that hold terrors that challenge both the tenets of evolution and the myriad creation stories that underpin virtually all human societies.  It is a tale told with great gusto, great humor and great anxiety.  It is also tale longer on “crypto” than on archaeology, but perfect for a read on a snowy evening or on a sunny beach.  Violent imagery and crude language may be offensive to some readers, but it is a tale brimming with high adventure and plot twists and turns that should delight many readers.

Three trowels for The Anomaly, and I hope there will be more entries in the entertaining Anomaly Files!

Twenty Years in the Trenches: Archaeology in Fiction

William Gresens, longtime MVAC supporter and volunteer, has been writing reviews of archaeological fiction as MVAC’s book reviewer for twenty years.  In this interview Bill shares how he got started writing reviews for MVAC, how the genre has changed, highlights, and his thoughts looking forward. 

Bill Gresen’s Book Review 20th Anniversary

While Bill's reviews go back 20 years now, his relationship with MVAC goes back more than twice that long! The reviews capture some of the things we enjoy most about Bill-- he's perceptive, methodical, a clear thinker, and a whole lot of fun! We look forward to this relationship--and Bill's reviews!--continuing for many years to come.

The March 2021 review marks the 20th anniversary of reviews of archaeological fiction.  It has been my pleasure and great fun to while away the hours reading these books—for the most part, at least—and writing the reviews!  My thanks to MVAC allowing me to prattle on and I look forward to the years ahead.

Bill Gresens