Michael Flynn

In 1349, one small town in Germany disappeared and has never been resettled. Tom, a contemporary historian, and his theoretical physicist girlfriend Sharon, become interested. Tom indeed becomes obsessed. By all logic, the town should have survived, but it didn’t and that violates everything Tom knows about history. What’s was special about Eifelheim that it utterly disappeared more than 600 years ago?
Father Dietrich is the village priest of Oberhochwald, the village that will soon gain the name of Teufelheim, in later years corrupted to Eifelheim, in the year 1348, when the Black Death is gathering strength across Europe but is still not nearby. Dietrich is an educated man, knows science and philosophy, and to his astonishment becomes the first contact between humanity and an alien race from a distant star when their interstellar ship crashes in the nearby forest. It is a time of wonders, in the shadow of the plague.
Tom and Sharon, and Father Dietrich, have a strange and intertwined destiny of tragedy and triumph in this brilliant SF novel by the winner of the Robert A. Heinlein Award.

Eifelheim book cover

“Rescued by them, I take it. How?”
“One came in his flying harness and spread a paste around the slit window. There followed a thunderclap and the wall collapsed, whereat my rescuer gathered me up and flew me here.”

I adored this, and although I see the figure in front of me proving it was only four hours and twenty-eight minutes of reading time, it felt like considerably more. I think I rate it so highly, not for the story or its resolution, but for the setting out of it: the tone and style, indeed, the “milieu of the mid-fourteenth-century Rhineland”, to quote – that is captivating.

“They used many of the same words as we do—motion, intuition, realism, natural, occult—but their meanings lay often at odd angles to ours.”

It’s truly freshening, to see the perspective of an alien culture filtered through what to us is now an alien time, even with nothing extra-terrestrial about it. There is a lot of forwardness about Dietrich’s perception, and indeed one reviewer of this book thought that ruined the book for him because of the speed with which he absorbs new terms and fits them into already established patterns. To me, the biology and methods of the visitors are quite alien enough, without having to entangle newly coined terms by the OBERHOCHWALD folk as well.

“Much as I would tend my manor in peace, peace needs the consent of all, while one alone may raise a war.”

I found the modern parts of the book almost Heinlein in their management of the womenfolk, which appealed to my sense of whimsy more than my male chauvinism. But to be truthful, I didn’t focus on them overmuch because the historical detail was so rich and vivid, the action powerful and overwhelming, and so though it’s not what I’d call a five star rating for everyone, it’s a book that has impacted me deeply and that I enjoyed very much indeed.

Published by Sean Randall

I am an avid reader, technologist and disability advocate living in the middle of England with my wife, daughter and pets.

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