Eaters of the Dead - Michael Crichton

***** Another trick of the master

Sometimes Crichton had fun by writing his books in a way that they seemed true stories of which he was doing a pure narrative. The attention he puts in fake introductions or prefaces is such that, at a first reading, you don’t realise that they are the beginning of the novel.
This is what happens in “Eaters of the Dead”, in which the author pretends he is translating the manuscript of the protagonist, Ibn Fadlan. His attempt is a complete success. The text seems really written by this historical figure, which probably never existed, both thanks to its style and the missing parts, which are explained as if indeed the book was the result of putting together real pieces of a manuscript. It is actually a work of fiction partly inspired by the story of Beowulf and partly by actual documents.
Despite the deliberately dated style, the plot is compelling and opens a gap of knowledge on the civilisation of the Normans, seen from a more civilised Arabian from Baghdad. After the time necessary to adapt to this kind of narrative, I could see the scenes forming before my eyes, such was the interest aroused in me.
The author also manages to insert something scientific within the story, which makes it even more fascinating: the encounter with a hominid (maybe) still existing at that time.
The truncated final is genial and adds further credibility to Crichton’s deception; with this novel he shows once again, if proof were needed, that he is a great storyteller.
The only downside to this book is that, having read it, it has further reduced the number of works that I still have to read by this author, who left us too soon.

Eaters of the Dead on Amazon.