The Archaeologists is the first novel in ten years from the author of the acclaimed novel The Program and the scathing work of social criticisms Trees On Mars: Our Obsession with the Future and The Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbours. Harnessing his well known capacity for sharp-tongued commentary and cutting edge fiction, Niedzviecki breaks new ground with this, his third novel and fifth work of fiction.
He tells his simplest story yet, a story that manages to capture the essence of the huge issues facing society today – the environment, consumerism, ennui, repatriation – by harnessing the quotidian passions and desires of people who want nothing more than an ordinary life they can believe in.
Equal parts Desperate Housewives, Camus, and Salinger, Archeologists tells a simple story fraught with dark comedy, wry observations, and complex emotion.
When feckless pot dealer Tim finds out that his father, whom he hasn’t seen in a decade, is dying, he panics and bolts back to his childhood home bordering the riverbank in the fictional edge city of Wississauga, Ontario. Ostensibly there to confront his dying father and finally discover what really happened to his mother, who disappeared suddenly when he was a child, Tim finds himself inexplicably drawn to the forest river gully behind his old childhood house. Peering through the trees into the backyard he smokes his dwindling supply and witnesses a woman digging up bones.
When listless June starts having visions directing her to dig up her suburban backyard, she figures she’s got nothing better to do. Her older husband Norm is a dentist busy with his expanding practice, and there’s little else in Wississauga’s collection of malls, roads and box stores to distract her. But what begins as a weird whim quickly takes on the characteristics of obsession. Convinced that she’s discovered the bones of an ancient Native explorer pioneer, June stakes her identity and marriage on getting to the bottom of a secret she believes she’s been chosen to solve.
These two characters, plus four others including Wississauga’s oldest living resident, a cable community news reporter, and a 6th grader who goes by Charlie, pursue their separate but interconnected obsessions, but time is running out: the river gully, once home to the people of the Wississauga nation, is slated for demolition and a new road. Meanwhile, Tim’s almost out of pills and pot, Norm’s starting to wonder what’s going on with his wife, and a cub cable community reporter thinks he’s about to break the first big story of his fledgling career.
Set entirely in the fictional suburb of Wississauga, Archeology is a provocative vision of 21st century life. This is a novel about the end of history, the foundational collective guilt shoring up consumer society, and the yearning for simple feeling in an age of hyper-speed digital communication. The Archaeologists is also a novel about people whose lives intersect as randomly and inevitably as fate. A lonely housewife loses herself in a dream; a young man fleeing his future returns to the site of his childhood past; and a cadaver of bones buried in a backyard poses as either the answer to everything or the portal to a phantasmagoric collective madness.