I am a sucker for lists, and use them to find out about interesting books I might like. A website I use often is ‘Worlds Without End’ which enables me to track my collection and see award or best of lists, all in the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror. That’s how I found about Eifelheim by Michael Flynn, which was a Hugo nominee in 2007. The description of first contact in medieval Germany sounded like this was the perfect book for me.
The book has two story-lines, one ‘today’ where two scientists, cliometric historian Tom and theoretical physicist Sharon, figure out what happened to the abandoned and never resettled village of Eifelheim, and the other in the fourteenth century, in Eifelheim itself. In the fourteenth century, the story follows Dietrich, the well-educated village priest who serves as a human ambassador to aliens who have crashed in the forest nearby. Slowly they make contact and rely on each other for help and survival.
Sounds pretty good, and it was, sort of. But the story was too long, with the writer being too eager to display whatever he learned about the fourteenth century in Europe (I’m sure Dietrich met or knew of every famous person that walked the earth back then). The language used in the book, both in the modern parts as well as in the fourteenth century made me think the writer was German and so was the translator (and editor), but I am surprised that he is an American. Why then use the description ‘mouse the Net’ to describe browsing the Internet. And the coincidental knowledge and acceptance of Dietrich was beyond annoying. “Oh, you have information that travels across a wire in small packets? I’ll call those “bits”. And if something goes wrong in the system it is like an annoying bug? I’ll call that a “bug””. Yeah, sure. Like other reviewers I kept waiting for a reveal, for more information about these aliens or the area of Eifelheim, but nope. The book gets 3 and a half stars out of five, but only because I like the originality of aliens in the past and I’d never read a book like that. But I sure wish the writing was a lot better and more enjoyable.