(Reviewed by Kirstin Merrihew JAN 4, 2008)
What if, in the mid-fourteenth century, extraterrestrials resembling medieval monsters -- "buffered" in an intense electrical shock wave -- unceremoniously landed within walking distance of a humble town in the German Rhineland?
What if history had buried such a momentous materialization under the Black Death "shock wave" that struck about the same time, leaving uncovered only a few tantalizing clues such as the abandoned location where the town once thrived being labeled as a demon place in obscure, handed-down references?
What if in the here and now an enterprising cliologist (someone who studies history mathematically) and his physicist girlfriend began unraveling threads that could lead to broad exposure of this secret?
And what if while they were busy unraveling, the reader could transport back in time and look over the shoulders of the villagers of then-named Oberhochwald and of their otherworldly neighbors?
If so, then presto, Michael Flynn's astounding new book, Eifelheim.
Flynn's attention to detail and his creation of believable human and alien characters commands reader attention as the author inexorably counts down to Oberhochwald's sad extinction. Dietrich, the village priest, possessing a violent past and a natural philosopher's intellectual inclinations, struggles, along with the Herr/Lord and the other humans in the community, to understand the foreign interlopers who resemble giant, scary grasshoppers. Despite head gear that permits a level of language translation, the conversations between the man of the cloth and his scientifically light-years advanced friends hover on different planes, seldom truly connecting. Yet, the "Krenken" and the humans manage to hone a wary comradeship -- at least for a while. The losses both sides sustain in the end binds them and sympathetically immerses the reader in their parallel, hopeless survival situations. No pagan magic, Christian miracle or Krenkish technology can save them, and the tragedy bitingly inflicts itself on the sensitive reader.
Meanwhile, twenty-first century Tom (who regularly vociferates in untranslated German and other tongues) researches all data and documents he can find about Oberhochwald-later-Eifelheim, while somewhat short-tempered Sharon step-by-step invents a convincing new cosmology that could eventually reveal how extraterrestrials might have shot to earth in the Middle Ages...and how we might make a reciprocating house call to them!
Eifelheim is superb science fiction, the type that draws one in so convincingly that one almost thinks perhaps the tale isn't fiction. The aliens are fascinating. And readers become immersed in the daily life of pre-plague Germany and the horrors of the plague-infested land, Krenken notwithstanding. The book bursts with profound deliberations about the nature of belief, faith, truth, social convention and organization, genetic constraints, friendship, communion, love, honor, altruism, medical boundaries and ethics, organized religion, science, life, and death. It is a grand "tour de force."
In words character Tom might use: Grossartig, Herr Flynn, ausgezeichnet! (Wonderful, Mr. Flynn, excellent!)
- Amazon readers rating: from 31 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- The Nanotech Chronicles (1991)
- The Forest of Time and Other Stories (1997)
- In The Country of the Blind (2001)
- Eifelheim (October 2006)
- Firestar (1996)
- Rogue Star (1998)
- Lodestar (2000)
- Falling Stars (2001)
- The Wreck of the River of Stars (2003)
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- Wikipedia page for Michael Flynn
- SF Reviews on Firestar
- SF Site review of The Wreck of the River of Stars
- SciFi Weekly interview regarding Eifelheim
- NESFA review of Eifelheim
- Scott Orson reviews Eifelheim (amonst others)
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About the Author:
Michael F. Flynn was born in 1947. He holds a master’s degrees in mathematics. (His first publication was an original theorem in general topology.) After several years as a quality engineer, he joined STAT-A-MATRIX, Edison, NJ, as a consultant in quality management, working with clients on five continents.
He began selling science fiction in 1984, rapidly becoming a mainstay of Analog SF. He has been nominated for the Hugo Award several times including for Eifelheim.
He lives in Easton, PA, with his wife Margie. He has two grown children and three grandchildren.