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Eifelheim

by Michael Flynn

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9215315,959 (3.7)101
In 1349, one small town in Germany disappeared and was never resettled. Tom, a contemporary historian, and his theoretical physicist girlfriend, Sharon, become interested. By all logic, the town should have survived, but it didn't. Why? What was special about Eifelheim that it utterly disappeared more than 600 years ago? In 1348, as the Black Death is gathering strength across Europe, Father Deitrich is the priest of the village that will come to be known as Eifelheim. A man educated in science and philosophy, he is astonished to become the first contact between humanity and an alien race from a distant star when their interstellar ship crashes in the nearby forest.… (more)
  1. 160
    Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Ape)
    Ape: Far from identical stories, but both are sci-fi takes on the black death (Eifelheim: Aliens, Doomsday Book: Time Travel.) There are numerous similarities, and I think if you like one the other might be worth looking into.
  2. 10
    The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Religion/first contact
  3. 10
    Blindsight by Peter Watts (Waldheri)
    Waldheri: Similar because it also is full of philosophical and scientific concepts, and also has a first-contact theme.
  4. 10
    The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber (sturlington)
    sturlington: Religion and aliens.
  5. 00
    The Plot to Save Socrates by Paul Levinson (FFortuna)
  6. 00
    God's Fires by Patricia Anthony (whiten06)
    whiten06: First contact, religious themes, and medieval backdrops.
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» See also 101 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
In all fairness, I ought to give one or two more stars to this novel for the following reasons.

The sheer amount of research put into the novel to make a complete picture of a small medieval German town and it's surrounding politics, not to mention the great walk-on parts of Occam and the peripheral references to Roger Bacon, made the novel a true tour-de-force.

Mr. Flynn's well-thought out idea behind hyperspace was explored quite thoroughly and also deserves much praise.

Even the basic premise behind the novel, where chivalrous knights meet grasshopper aliens, where priests are successful in converting bug-eyed aliens to christ, and a humanistic treatise on the nature of charity applied equally to the alien and the human during the horrible times of the Black Plague made the novel shine.

Why I am not giving the novel a 4 star or a 5 star is purely upon me. I was bored. It took an awful long time to get through the novel, for me, and I'm generally very forgiving for every text I pick up. I can usually find great things to say about a novel even if I didn't quite like it.

I'm in a different position for this one. I liked it. I liked it quite a lot. Unfortunately, I wanted more action, more reveals, more melodrama, more something that I can't quite put my finger on. Perhaps I would have been as happy with the novel without the present day sequences. Perhaps I would have been more happy with a lot more philosophy shaken in to the situation. These are personal preferences, and I know that's such an obvious thing to say within a review. I want to apologize for not giving the book more stars because I feel like it tried so hard and was brilliant on so many other levels. If I were to say that the novel was technically great, I wouldn't be wrong, but it also drops the hint that something was missing.

Perhaps, in the end, what I was looking for amidst the beautiful detailed description of the world he wrote was something as small and juicy as a theme. Perhaps I just wanted a theme that was beyond the good christian alien.

I really feel guilty. It was good. I just have the feeling that something was missing. Maybe it was me. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Aliens are stranded in a Medieval German village. Some think they are demons and some, like Father Dietrich, recognize them for what they are: strangers in need of charity. Through the use of a Babelfish devise the strangers and the villagers are able to communicate. But everything is translated to the villagers in medieval terms. Miscommunication results in interesting ideas about Christ's sacrifice and resurrection. For example, Father Dietrich comes to understand that they are from the stars, which he understands to be heaven. He believes that through Christ they will reach heaven once again. As do the strangers. They look forward to Easter because they believe the villagers’ 'god in the sky' will arrive to take them home. When their bodies begin to deteriorate because they are lacking an essential amino acid not available on earth, their 'alchemist' commits suicide so that the others may feast of his flesh. Finally, when the town is besieged by the plague, the strangers selflessly assist the sick and dying. Ultimately, the writing was flawed and there was an unnecessary secondary plot, but the ideas were so great, I persevered. ( )
  Seafox | Jul 24, 2019 |
Religious science fiction set mostly in the middle ages with rich references to the history of scientific thought while describing in delicate scenes first contact. I was moved by the richness of research; ok, sometimes too rich for my taste (the physics was beyond me), but I especially liked the sense of stress among those of religious conviction. The author limned this perfectly. Oh, well done - and I look forward to rereading it. How this world was made so real, I don't quite know, but I will never look at a grasshopper quite the same way again. ( )
  MaryHeleneMele | May 6, 2019 |
Eifelheim turns the usual less technologically-advanced culture meets advanced alien culture trope on its head by making the less technologically-advanced culture mediaeval Germans and filtering all those typical advanced SF concepts through a mediaeval mindset and vocabulary. I mean, you have an alien trying to explain advanced multidimensional concepts to the village priest who is talking about God and spirituality. I just thought it was great. Some of the aliens even end up converting to Catholicism!

The present-day parts weren't as interesting, but they do serve to tie the whole book together in what I found to be a satisfactory manner. The mediaeval portion can be a bit grim because this is the era of the Black (or Blue) Death creeping across the land and the aliens are essentially starving to death, but it's still a great book. A reader does need to be willing to accept mediaeval perspectives, though, so if you're not interested in mediaeval historical fiction at all, this may not be your cup of tea. ( )
  natcontrary | May 21, 2018 |
This book is a bit of a slog and the only reason I rated it three stars is because it finally redeems itself [a bit] at the end. One is continually wondering when it's going to get going and because of the low-key aspect of the narrative, it never really seems to do so. The aliens become more human as the novel progresses and I found that a bit of a disappointment. The description of the plague-ridden characters is absolutely brutally gruesome. Much of what transpires does not seem to contribute substantially to the story or move it along - I think it could have used a good editing. ""...We have shown that these numbers can be no other. The smallest change in any, and the world would not stand. All that happens in this world, follows these numbers; sky and stars, sun and moon, rain and snow, plants and animals..."" ( )
  dbsovereign | Mar 28, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
"Flynn credibly maintains the voice of a man whose worldview is based on concepts almost entirely foreign to the modern mind, and he makes a tense and thrilling story of historical research out of the contemporary portions of the tale."
added by sturlington | editBooklist, 103 (2): 33, Regina Schroder (Sep 15, 2006)
 
"Another meticulously researched, intense, mesmerizing novel (based in some part on a 1986 short story) for readers seeking thoughtful science fiction of the highest order."
added by sturlington | editKirkus Reviews 74 (16): 815., Kirkus Reviews (Aug 15, 2006)
 

» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Flynn, Michaelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hunt, StevenCover elementsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
IconicaCover elementsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, EllisaCartographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
StockTrekCover elementsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
For God is dead nowadays and will not hear us,

And for our guilt he grinds good men to dust.

      -- William Langland, Piers Ploughman
C'est le chemin qu'on appelle le Val d'Enfer. Que votre Altesse me pardonne l'expression; je ne suis pas diable pour y passer.

      -- Marshal Villars, regarding the Höllenthal, 1702
Oh happy posterity who will not experience such abysmal woe and will look upon our testimony as a fable.

      -- Petrarch
Dedication
First words
I know where the path to the stars lies.
Quotations
Somewhere, he thought, there are creatures like these.
Stirred, a heart could be a terrible thing.
It's all that reading that does it, Dietrich. It takes a man out of the world and pushes him inside his own head, and there is nothing there but spooks.
Dietrich, watching the young couple depart, hoped the union would prove as loving for the couple as it promised to be advantageous for their kin.
Paul wrote to remind everyone that outward signs no longer mattered.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is a novel. Do not combine it with the 1986 novella of the same name.
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Book description
Over the centuries, one small town in Germany has disappeared and 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. What's so special about Eifelheim?

In the year 1348, Father Dietrich is the village priest of Oberhochwald, later known as Eifelheim, when the Black Death is gathering strength but is still not nearby. Dietrich is an educated man, knows science and philosophy, and — to his astonishment — becomes the first contact person 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. Flynn gives us the full richness and strangeness of medieval life, as well as some terrific aliens.

Tom and Sharon and Father Dietrich have a strange destiny of tragedy and triumph in this brilliant SF novel by the winner of the Robert A. Heinlein award.

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