Michael Crichton’s: Eaters of the Dead

Must Read IconThis week I am reviewing a short novel that was an impulse buy: Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead. The novel is actually a translation and retelling of the manuscript of Ahmad ibn Fadlan, which details a 10th century Arabic messenger’s journeys with a company of Vikings, who were supposedly terrorized by a group of mist-monsters that were said to feast on those they killed. The novel is separated into a few short parts. The first provides historical background information for the reader on Arabic and Viking culture. The second consists of an attempted recreation of Fadlan’s manuscript, with historical and contextual notes inserted when needed. The final section of the novel is where Crichton adds in his unique blend of realism, fantasy, and horror, as this section is actually based on the story of Beowulf. Crichton pulls out all of the stops (in what little space he has) in his depictions of the monsters, and the novel is exciting, mysterious, and entrancing, in a way that only Crichton manages to convey. That being said, the fascination of the novel is really found in the depictions of the Vikings. Working with the source material, Crichton manages to paint a picture of the Norsemen that is a far cry from the images of bloodthirsty savages that are so popularly conceived. In truth, this book didn’t really feel like a Crichton novel as much as a true, legendary account that was reworked by Crichton: which is exactly what the book is! This will please some readers, while turning off others. If you want a Jurassic Park/Andromeda Strain-style Michael Crichton scientific thriller, you won’t find it here. You WILL find a mysterious, almost foreboding account of adventure and cultural discovery, all set on a historical base. If any of the above interests you, be sure to check out Michael Crichton’s often-overlooked Eaters of the Dead: it is a quick read that leaves a lasting impression.

Source: Jake Depew, Assistant Editor