After skimming through the other reviews...I am surprised that so few mention the key thing about this book---Crichton wrote in on a dare....it is an imaginative retelling of the events behind BEOWULF, using an real historical figure (Ibn Fadlan) as a foil for the story. Read with that in mind, this is a great book! If you aren't a fan of historical fiction or literary reworks, skip this.
The only complaints I have is that the 1st person narrative account was a bit difficult to get in to at first, and the footnotes, while insightful, tended to distract from the story. Otherwise, it's a quick read and was entertaining enough to keep me turning pages - and authentic enough to truly have me believing it was all real until I read the factual note at the end, lol.
Much better than it sounds. A very, very different work for Crichton. It is NOT a horror book, it's historical/action/adventure. The ending is a tad of a let-down because of the nature of the work (read it and you'll see what I mean), but it was really interesting.
I found this book to be educational as well as entertaining. The observations this foreigner made in the company of his Norse companions were enlightening. It was like going back in time, and tagging along.
Excellent! If you loved the movie, you will love the book. The book goes into more detail than the movie, but I should note, it's written as if it were a true account of real events, but it is "historical fiction".
I really like the unique way this was told, and the historical facts about the vikings and the other people in that time period was really interesting. The novel is not one that triggers constant suspense, but I liked the fact that it was unique and told in an interesting way. It is set up like the story is an ancient writing found in the modern day, and the illusion is very complete. I really enjoyed this.
I don't think it's any kind of spoiler to say that if you've read Beowulf, you essentially know the plot of this story. The twist that Crichton adds is to retell the epic through the eyes of ibn Fadlan, an actual Arab traveler/ambassador who here becomes entangled in the mythical adventures of Beowulf, Hrothgar, and Grendel.
It's an interesting idea, the blending of truth and fiction, and provides a little different perspective on the Beowulf story. The narrative, though, is flat and rather pedantic, and lacks the dramatic impact of the original saga.
Crichton did a fantastic job of retelling Beowulf in a believable and entertaining way while working in details of two distinctly separate cultures. The narrator, Ibn Fadlan, is an Arabian emissary who winds up in a madcap adventure with these wild, dirty Norsemen. I felt that Ibn, although we're told at the beginning that he's an extremely reliable narrator, was kind of a snob the way he referred to these guys as filthy, like animals, unclean, etc. Yet he didn't mind partaking of their honey mead or ravaging their slave women. He was not allowed to drink fermented grape drinks but is okay with fermented honey drinks? Needless to say, I didn't care a bit for Ibn.
The story, though, brought back amazing memories of reading the adventure tale in high school. I loved the detail of the hunt, the chase, and the fights (well, maybe not that last one).
The cultural differences between the monotheistic Ibn and the polytheistic Norsemen interested me. Sprinkled throughout the book are tiny bits of conversation that shed light on the reasons for their beliefs. I think the last conversation Ibn has with the interpreter, Herger, sums it up in a beautiful and thought-provoking way. I do believe I now understand the logic behind polytheism. And the idea of Valhalla has never been presented so clearly - or given so much insight into why the Norsemen lived as they did, fighting so much.
The footnotes only add to the complexity of the story, completing the details with historical information to back them up. Oddly, though, at the end, Crichton included thoughts from scholars about the history behind the story and I felt myself shivering at the thought that it may not have been Cro-Magnon man killing Neanderthal man (Beowulf vs. Grendel and his furry mom) but a different one entirely.
Easy to read, short, and had short chapters.
This doesn't get five stars because women and slaves were treated horribly, which I realize was likely true to the time. But I don't have to like it and I'm not going to.
In the year A.D. 922, a refined Arab courtier, representative of the powerful Caliph of Bagdad, encounters a party of Viking warriors on their journey to the barbaric North. He is appalled by Viking customs--the wanton sexuality of their pale, angular women. their disregard for cleanliness, their cold-blooded human sacrifices. But only in the depths of the Northland does he learn the horrifying truth: he has been enlisted to combat a terror that comes under cover of night to slaughter the Vikings and devou their flesh.
I'm a Crichton fan, so I snapped up what looked like a new novel. (The old "Slap a new cover on it- the dummies will eat it up." trick.) This one is an antique- 1976 copyrights. You might like this improbable effort just to see how far Crichton has improved as a storyteller. I gave up on it.
From Back Cover....
In the year a.d. 922, a refined Arab courtier representative of the powerful Caliph of Bagdad, encounters a party of Viking warriers on their journey to the barbaric North. He is apalled by Viking customs - the wanton sexuality of their pale, angular women, their disregard for cleanliness, their cold-blooded human sacrifices. But only in the depths of the Northland does he learn the horrifying truth: he has been enlisted to combat a terror that comes under cover of night to slaughter the Vikings and devour their flesh.....
n A.D. 922 Ibn Fadlan, the representative of the ruler of Bagdad, City of Peace, crosses the Caspian sea and journeys up the valley of the Volga on a mission to the King of Saqaliba. Before he arrives, he meets with Buliwyf, a powerful Viking chieftain who is summoned by his besieged relatives to the North. Buliwyf must return to Scandanavia and save his countrymen and families from the monsters of the mist.... -- Amazon.com
In A.D. 922 Ibn Fadlan, the representative of the ruler of Bagdad, City of Peace, crosses the Caspian Sea and journeys up the valley of the Volga on a mission to the King of Saqaliba. Before he arrives, he meets with Buliwyf, a powerful Viking chieftan who is summoned by his beseiged relatives to the north. Buliwyf must return to Scandinavia and save his countrymen and family from the monsters of the mist.
Join them on their stunning adventure to the mysterious land where the day's length does not equal the night's...where after sunset the sky burns in streaks of color...where Buliwyf and his band of brothers must lock in mortal combat with the dark, hairy brutes who threaten to empty the land...
In A.D. 922 ibn Fadlan, the representative of the ruler of Bagdad, City of Peace, crosses the CAspain sea and journeys up the valley of the Volga on a mission to the King of Saqaliba. Before he arrives, he meets with Bullwyf, a powerful Viking chieftain who is summoned by his beseigned relatives to the north. Bullwyf must return to Scandinavia and save his country men and family from the monsters of the mist.
Join them on thsi stunning adventure to the mysterious land where the day's length does not equal the night's...where after sunset the sky burns in streaks of color...where Bullwyf and his band of brothers must lock in mortal combat with the dark, hairy brutes who threaten to empty the land...
Michael Crichton takes the listener on a one-thousand-year-old journey in his adventure novel Eaters Of The Dead. This remarkable true story originated from actual journal entries of an Arab man who traveled with a group of Vikings throughout northern Europe. In 922 A.D, Ibn Fadlan, a devout Muslim, left his home in Baghdad on a mission to the King of Saqaliba. During his journey, he meets various groups of "barbarians" who have poor hygiene and gorge themselves on food, alcohol and sex. For Fadlan, his new traveling companions are a far stretch from society in the sophisticated "City of Peace." The conservative and slightly critical man describes the Vikings as "tall as palm trees with florid and ruddy complexions." Fadlan is astonished by their lustful aggression and their apathy towards death. He witnesses everything from group orgies to violent funeral ceremonies. Despite the language and cultural barriers, Ibn Fadlan is welcomed into the clan. The leader of the group, Buliwyf (who can communicate in Latin) takes Fadlan under his wing.
Epic tale of the encounter in 922 AD between a refined Arab courtier and a group of Vikings. The Arab is taken to the North and shares in their heroic adventures. A well written story of clashing values and customs.
I didn't read it. My husband did. He won't tell me diddley squat about a book because he "doesn't want to ruin it for me." I've sat on it for several years. I doubt I'm going to get around to reading it. My loss, your gain.