Michael Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead is the second book of Crichton’s that I’ve read, and while I enjoyed it a great deal more than I enjoyed Jurassic Park, it wasn’t enough to make me want to pick up another Crichton book. One of the things Crichton does exceptionally well is to research his books in order to ensure the historical/scientific accuracy of his stories. I believe this is his greatest strength, and also his greatest weakness. The first twenty percent or so of the book is horribly boring, and the last twenty percent consists of historical arguments and stories regarding the creation of the book. The middle sixty percent of the book is quite interesting though; the cultures are depicted clearly and interestingly, the characters are unique and work well with each other, and the pacing, while not perfect, is done very well. Ultimately, I do not think I would recommend this book to a friend. While I think it is worth reading, the boring wastes that precede the interesting parts of the story would claim far too many victims.
I did not find the cover of the book to be incredibly effective in its job of making me want to pick up the book and read it. The image of a Viking longships prow is intriguing (I love Vikings and Norse mythology), but it tells me so little of the book. Overall, the cover feels like a half-hearted effort that is drawn from a very minor (but interesting) part of the story.
- The characters in the book are all excellently constructed. I particularly enjoyed the interactions between Ibn Fadlan and Herger. The contrast between the two mens’ cultures and personal philosophies were some of the most interesting and well written parts of the book.
- The cultures within the book are all depicted vibrantly and (as far as I know) accurately. I left the Arab culture with a good basic understanding, and then plunged headlong into the viking culture and really enjoyed the contrast between the two of them.
- The story itself, once you get past the seemingly endless traveling in the beginning of the story, is entertaining and paced well enough to keep you reading. The story is particularly interesting if you are familiar with Nordic storytelling and mythology (and obviously enjoy those things).
- A very significant portion of the version I read was either boring, fluff that contributed very little to the overall story, or it was an essay regarding the potential real existence of the Wendol society and Critchton’s research and development of the book. Overall this equated to nearly half the book. Needless to say I was very disappointed when I found that a good chunk of the pages left ahead of me were not part of the story. I bought this book to read a story about man-eating monsters and the valiant Nordic heroes and their plucky Arabic sidekick who defeat them. Not to read a story about the creation of a story about man-eating monsters.
- The last twenty percent of my book consisted mostly of the authors’ arguments that the Wendol could have been a subspecies of man, specifically Neanderthal Man. Among these arguments you find multiple citations little blurbs about Crichton’s experiences writing the book. This feels completely unnecessary and even a little misleading to me (If this were a physical copy, I would have been really let down when the story ended an entire 1/5th of the books physical pages early) . I understand the desire of some authors to include an afterword, but I feel the afterword is an inappropriate place to make cases for the potential existence of your books antagonists, or for regaling your reader with the multitude of experiences you had while writing the story.
Ibn Fadlan has been sent far from his home on a mission to deliver a message to a foreign kingdom. He must travel a great distance and encounters many different cultures along his trip. During his stay with the Northmen, their mystic woman, known as the Angel of Death, names him as the thirteenth warrior to accompany Buliwyf. Unable to avoid his fate, he is forced to abandon his mission of diplomacy and accompany the party of Northmen as they set sail for a settlement plagued by a terrible problem. This journey will challenge and change Ibn in many ways. He must face many horrors on his journey: sea monsters, politics, Northern culture, but worst of all, the terrible Wendol.