Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review: Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton

I was totally surprised by this book and really enjoyed it. First of all, I like books that have layers of narration. So, as in Heart of Darkness, there’s an unnamed narrator quoting the main character (Marlow) the entire story. Or, like in Washington Irving’s stories (i.e. Rip Van Winkle) there’s this guy, Geoffrey Crayon, pretending to be the author who is supposedly writing the book from some documents he found. I love that sort of literary device.

So, when Eaters of the Dead opened by announcing the recovery of a famous manuscript, and that this book was the most accurate retelling of the original account of Ibn Fadlan’s epic adventure of one of the first encounters of an Arab with Norsemen, well, I was eating it up. And the first chapter is actually from a real manuscript which Crichton uses as a way introduce the voice of the Ibn as narrator before taking over the writing process.  

My husband read Eaters of the Dead when he was a kid and remembers it being one of his favorites. So, I decided to give it a try. What my husband didn’t realize, and what I began piecing together while I read, was that Eaters is a retelling of Beowulf. I read Beowulf a couple years ago for a class so some of the names of people and places, like Rothgar (Hrothgar )and Heorot, were familiar. Many names have been changed or altered so I had to wait for the story to unfold before I was like, yeah, this is a sweet retelling of Beowulf! Now, I remember Beowulf being terribly boring. Eaters of the Dead is not boring. It was spooky and sometimes funny.

Some of you may know the movie that was based off of this book – The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas. The movie is ok. It’s fairly entertaining. But no surprise, the book is better. It was just a lot of fun to read.  I think I prefer Crichton’s historical fiction books better than his urban sci-fi books. I liked The Great Train Robbery, too. Technically, Eaters is sci-fi but it’s set a long time ago so I’m saying it counts as historical fiction.

If you like tales of sea voyages, Vikings, cultural clashes or good old fashioned sword fights then this book may be for you.

Publisher: Avon, 2006 (orignally 1976)     Pages: 304
Rating: 4 Stars                Source: IC Public Library

1 comment:

  1. I actually really like the movie version of this book, but I've never read the actual book! How terrible is that? I've read a handful of Crichton's SF, I really need to pick up some of his non-SF titles.