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Title: Eaters of the Dead
Author: Michael Crichton
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
The novel is set in the 10th century. The Caliph of Baghdad, Al-Muqtadir, sends his ambassador, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, on a mission to assist the king of the Volga Bulgars. Ahmad ibn Fadlan never arrives, as he is conscripted by a group of Vikings to take part in a hero’s quest to the north; he is taken along as the thirteenth member of their group to comply with a soothsayer’s requirement for success. In the north, the group battles with the ‘mist-monsters’, or ‘wendol’, a tribe of vicious savages (suggested by the narrator to have been possibly relict Neanderthals) who go to battle wearing bear skins.
Eaters of the Dead is narrated as a scientific commentary on an old manuscript. The narrator describes the story as a composite of extant commentaries and translations of the original story teller’s manuscript. The narration makes several references to a possible change or mistranslation of the original story by later copiers. The story is told by several different voices: the editor/narrator, the translators of the script, and the original author, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who also relates stories told by others. A sense of authenticity is supported by occasional explanatory footnotes with references to a mixture of factual and fictitious sources.
Earlier this year Dave reviewed this book and it caught my interest. I’d watched, and enjoyed the movie that was produced based on this book: The 13th Warrior. I’d seen this book on my libraries shelf ever since I was a tween but the title really turned me off. In all honesty, it still does. Without Dave’s review I never would have mustered up enough interest to dive into this.
Sadly, the book isn’t nearly as interesting as the movie and is filled with pointless and fake footnotes. This purports to be a historical document and as such is one of those “Historical Fiction” books where the author makes up wholesale yards of crap to further his story but will insert real historical bits and bobs as well. This has all the historicity of Shakespeare’s Henry V.
I was bored for most of this. It wasn’t exciting, fast paced or very interesting. While not nearly so boring as the Andromeda Strain (I read that back in 2001 but have not yet gotten the review into it’s own post) there were several times that I looked down at the percentage bar on my kindle to see how much I had left. That really isn’t a good sign.
On the bright side, I will end up watching the 13th Warrior sometime this year because of this and can expound on how the movie is a much better product than the book. Thinking about it, that seems to be the case for MANY of Crichton’s books. Feth, even Congo was a better movie than the book!