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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Nine Lords of the Night by E.C. Gibson

Reviewed on: June 1, 2009


Embella, In: Elgin, TX
2008 (pb)

Back in 2002 I reviewed this novel, when it was available only as an e-book—and an e-book that could not be downloaded. I spent a good portion of my review that month bemoaning practically the very existence of e-books and relatively little about the novel itself. I suspect this said more about me as a technological troglodyte than it did about the book!

I am happy to report that Nine Lords of the Night was published in hardcopy (a quality paperback version) in 2008 and readers can now enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed: late at night in a comfortable easy chair or recliner!

The novel is not without its problems. At times the narrative fails to flow smoothly and often times the dialogue between and among the various characters can seem stilted and wooden. And a more careful editing job might have cleaned up some of the irritating punctuation errors that recur dozens of times throughout the 400+ page work.

Yet there is an undeniable vitality to this first fictional work by E.C. Gibson. If his dialogue can be wooden at times, it positively sings when he describes the archaeology of Mesoamerica. Gibson earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard and had experience excavating in Central America, France, Polynesia and North America. This expertise is evident in his writing about not only the techniques of archaeological excavation, but also the politics of academia. As I noted in my 2002 review, “His descriptions of various locales are vivid and true to life, whether it be Cambridge, Massachusetts. Or its working class and student affordable sister city, Somerville, or more exotic environs like Belize or archaeological sites like Yaxchilan in Chiapas State or Tikal in Guatemala.

The dark and twisting plot of Nine Lords of the Night follows the trails of several young Harvard doctoral students and their faculty mentors. Their lives intersect both personally and professionally and all roads seem to lead to Chanul Tzuk, a Mayan dig site in lowland Chiapas State. Two of the young archaeologists seem to disappear from the very face of the earth, while another appears to have committed suicide in a most grotesque fashion, patterned after ancient Mayan rituals. He is apparently aided in this ghastly endeavor by his faculty mentor, who, according to police investigations, then kills himself. The remaining members of the small group of archaeological friends and colleagues journey to the ancient Mayan homelands in search of their missing friends—only to find themselves enmeshed in an intrigue involving tomb raiders in Guatemala and Mexico, an antiquities smuggling ring that literally leads back to Harvard Yard, and a band of Zapatista rebels that almost shakes the foundations of the Mexican political system in southern Mexico.

This is an action-filled adventure that promises a lot and delivers for the most part. I hope E.C. Gibson will continue writing fiction, hone some of his narrative skills, and present us with another archaeological thriller sometime in the near future. Three trowels for Nine Lords of the Night.

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