24 November 2007

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

An odd, but interesting novel. It's about a 14th century village in Germany who have some aliens crash land nearby. The events occur on the eve of the plague ravaging that part of the world, which is how Flynn fits in events that might otherwise have had massive effects on history.

There's a framing story about a couple in the present piecing together the story of what happened there, but this is largely irrelevant (it appears that he built the novel from a shorter work in which this was the main story).

The core of the novel is the way that the village priest - previously a scholarly monk and heretic rebel - deals with the aliens and observes the rest of the village dealing with them. Flynn has made a real effort to get into the medieval mindsets (and there are several distinct mindsets you meet) and fill the story with the day to day things that did (or would have) occurred. There's also a great deal of ethical and theological speculation, as this is one of the priest's concerns about the visitors. One slightly annoying side note is that Flynn has this character almost instantly grasp concepts that the aliens explain to him, often in modern terms and making up the modern terms for them (or close analogs). That doesn't affect the story, but it did seem kind of silly to me.

A good novel, but really mostly as an exploration of some ideas about modernity and religion in the context of the situation. The plot - in terms of things that happen - is really just setting to hang the rest on.

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