Archaeology was a passion of mine when I was younger, so perhaps it’s no surprise that I find the basic premise of “The Tablet of Scaptur” intriguing. Sixteen-year-old Violet has the eponymous ancient tablet stuffed into her hand by a scientist as she’s being arrested, and Violet and her friends take it upon themselves to both translate the tablet and determine what to do with it.
The revelation of what, exactly, the tablet says is fascinating for its take on linguistics and Martian history. But the power of that revelation is tampered somewhat by the short story format; it’s clear that this tablet has world-shaking potential, but with limited information on the world, it’s hard to truly comprehend the full import. It feels very much like this story requires reading the author’s full novel in this world to truly understand the stakes.
That said, the choice Violet makes at the end is not the one that I expected. For a sixteen-year-old, Violet shows a powerful understanding of how information can influence a society in ways both good and bad–and that maybe there is some information that should be kept secret.