The year is A.D. 922. A refined Arab courtier, representative of the powerful Caliph of Baghdad, encounters a party of Viking warriors who are journeying to the barbaric North. He is appalled by their Viking customs - the wanton sexuality of their pale, angular women, their disregard for cleanliness...their cold-blooded human sacrifices. But it is not until they reach the depths of the Northland that the courtier learns the horrifying and inescapable truth: he has been enlisted by these savage, inscrutable warriors to help combat a terror that plagues them - a monstrosity that emerges under cover of night to slaughter the Vikings and devour their flesh.... Eaters of the Dead was adapted to the screen as The 13th Warrior, starring Antonio Banderas.
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The full name of this 1976 novel was "Eaters of the Dead: The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in AD 922." After being made into a movie under the title, *The 13th Warrior,* the book was republished for a time under that name.
The idea for the book came after Crichton heard his pal giving a lecture including BEOWULF as among the "Bores of Literature."
The book is basically told as a edited translation of the account written by Ibn Fadlan, a Persian ambassador conscripted by a group of Vikings (probably from Sweden) as the 13th warrior in a hero's quest to save a northern kingdom from a group of "mist monsters" called "wendol," a group of vicious savages, perhaps surviving Neanderthals, who wear bear skins in battle. After battling with the wendol (probably based, in part, on Grendel since Crichton notes in an appendix that the book is based partly on the myth of Beowulf), they must fight Grendel's mother.
I was somewhat disappointed by the lethargic lulls and the story's underdevelopment. Yet, at times, the action sequences were quite thrilling. As usual, Crichton's research was impeccable and provided an education on the Vikings and a more modernized account of Beowulf. If you enjoyed Beowulf or you're a Viking connoisseur, you should like this relatively inexpensive book.
- W Perry Hall ""There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays"
I am not a Crichton Fan and I don't know why!
First off, I am not a Michael Crichton fan. Yet I have always loved this story. I came across the audio version of this when there were audiotapes and a walkman. For the longest time, I have tried to find this again on audio, and now it has been reissued. I am so happy!
This novel, set in the 10th century, is supposed to be the “scientific accounting” of Ibn Fadlan, a disgraced courtier. There are three voices in the narration although we only see two. First we have the editor, who discusses the background of the story. Second, we have the narrator, Ibn Fadlan, himself. Yet, we are also visited by the inconsistencies of the “translation” by other scholars. This is all done so seamlessly, that it isn’t clear unless you are listening for it. BTW, I believe this was done on purpose by Michael Crichton to prove a literary argument that people can read/hear a telling of Beowulf and not be bored. (I happen to agree with Crichton)
There are so many times that Ibn says, “I have seen with my own eyes…” This lends credibility to the narration because at the beginning we see him as this judgmental, snobbish man who is content to do his job by the letter of the law and report facts. His language in the beginning is derogatory as he describes the horrific habits of the Norsemen. It is clear to the reader that Ibn has no desire to get in with this group. Yet, he is forced to do just that during a particular visit with the Norse when the new King embarks on a mission to kill a tribe of Animals who have supernatural skills. At this meeting, an oracle determines that instead of twelve warriors, if this quest is to be successful, they need 13 warriors. Ibn gets enlisted as the thirteenth warrior.
We follow his journey from staunch follower of his customs to Ibn’s transformation into a friend who both honors and respects other customs. As he learns the language and pushes the boundaries, he finds fellowship, camaraderie, and even love in places he never thought he would know.
This is a short book, but to me, worth a credit. It is well crafted and well executed. It isn’t easy to do Beowulf justice and make it interesting in the modern context, but Crichton has done it. I loved Beowulf and I love the retelling of this by Crichton. Now, if only I could get my head out of bottom to become a true fan of his. Seriously, what is wrong with me????