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Eifelheim Mass Market Paperback – August 4, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A present-day scientific odd couple who are longtime domestic partners, physicist Sharon Nagy and historian Tom Schwoerin, look into the fate of the Black Forest village of the title, which apparently vanished in the plague year 1348, in Flynn's heartbreaking morality play of stranded aliens in medieval Germany. Most of the narrative focuses on the consequences of the discovery in the 14th century by Eifelheim's pastor, Father Dietrich, of a crashed space ship carrying the "Krenken," horrific grasshopperlike aliens. Despite Inquisitorial threats, Dietrich befriends, baptizes and attempts to help the aliens return home. Flynn (The Wreck of the River of Stars) masterfully achieves an intricate panorama of medieval life, full of fascinatingly realized human and Krenken characters whose fates interconnect with poignant irony. Through human frailties, the very Christianity by which Dietrich hopes to save Krenken souls dooms them all. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In the fourteenth century, the Black Death ravaged Europe. Most towns decimated by it were eventually resettled, except for Eifelheim, despite its ideal location. Mathematical historian Tom discovers this anomaly and an unexpected connection to his domestic partner Sharon's research in theoretical physics, which seems to be leading to a method of interdimensional travel. In fact, as Eifelheim's priest back then, Father Dietrich, relates, before the plague's arrival, an interstellar ship crashed nearby. The encounters between its passengers and the people of Oberhochwald, as Eifelheim was first called, reflect the panoply of attitudes of the time, from fear of the foreign to love and charity for one's neighbors to the ideas of nascent natural philosophy (science), and the aliens' reactions are equally fascinating. 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. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Science Fiction; Reprint edition (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765340356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765340351
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #252,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Wayne Klein HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
EIFELHEIM starts out as a puzzle; why did residents in Germany abandon their village after the 14th century and why hasn't the area ever been resettled? Cliologist (a math historian)Tom Schwoerin tries to crack the mystery at the heart of this hard SF novel by Heinlein Award winner Michael Flynn. A parallel story set in the 14th century details the events that led to Eifelheim being abandoned. We meet Pastor Dietrich an enlightened priest of the village, Brother Joachim a Franciscan friar who has issues with the wealthy and the various villagers of the city of Oberhochwald (as Eifelheim used to be called). We discover that somehow the town's disappearence may somehow be attributable to the Black Death that was roaming the countryside of Europe or something...far different. Somehow it may be tied into the accidently first contact between humans and aliens from another world.

Well written with the rich tapestry of the 14th century as its background (as well as the present day), EIFELHEIM may at first put you off because the hard science aspect of the novel really begins on the very first page. If you give it a chance, however, you'll discover a thoughtful, compassionate story with a rich mystery at its core.

Some readers may find the style to be a bit stiff and formal. I wouldn't say that Flynn has a breezy style as a writer but what he lacks in that area he more than makes up for in creating a detailed world for his characters to inhabit. I hadn't read much by Flynn before this novel but immediately dived into one of his earlier novels that I had purchased but didn't quite get around to reading.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Thospowers on October 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Like in his much-acclaimed "Wreck of the River of Stars", Flynn again displays his literary talent to blend plausible "hard" sf with humane themes, all with sophisticated, well-crafted prose. This time Flynn turns his considerable skills to historical fiction meshed with satisfying, complex speculative science. I was truly impressed how Flynn handled the sometimes incomprehensible world of the medieval with the deftness of Umberto Eco, and thoroughly managed to preserve the authenticity of historic characters faced with extra-terrestrial events. One of the best, most believable and unconventional treatment of a first-contact situation I've read. Flynn obviously did considerable and respectable research for this work, and the result is thought-provoking and intellectually satisfying. If you like shoot-em-ups, look elsewhere. Flynn writes for a different SF audience, and I'm glad he does.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kari Gritzan on January 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a fabulous book. It's part scifi, part historical fiction. Set in a small town in Germany in 1348, there's a bit of plague, a bit of aliens, and a whole lot of interesting history. I really recommend this book, even if you're not a fan of aliens (which I am not.) I got the book because I love historical/plague fiction. But it really all comes together in a very rational way. This book really captured me and took me vividly into small town Germany in the middle ages.

The aliens are brought into the story in a very natural way. And they end up...well...I don't want to spoil it. Some turn out to be very sympathetic, some not. The author really lets each alien being become their own "person", and that's a huge part of the charm of the book. It's not your usual "alien" story. Again, I am NOT a fan of alien stories, but these folk are made very "human", most of all through the wonderful narration of the local priest, Dietrich. He's the heart of the story, and combining a holy man with aliens from a distant world seems odd, but by this author's hand, it is made marvelous and believable.

If you enjoy historical fiction, and you enjoy stories about alien visitors, with a difference, I highly recommend it! It's extremely well written. I kept a German dictionary with me while I read, however I think a medieval German dictionary would be more to the point.

Definitely an unputdownable read, for me.
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Ashley Megan VINE VOICE on August 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Aliens visit a medieval German village? Sci-fi meets historical fiction, my two favorite genres? How could I pass this one up?

Unfortunately, mashing together two completely different books works better in theory than in execution. It's like the time on 'Friends' when Rachel made the trifle - you know, lady fingers, yum, shepherd's pie, yum, together? Gag. "Eifelheim" isn't exactly bad, but it's not really very good, either.

The action is intercut between the present, during which passive-turning-aggressive couple Tom (historian) and Sharon (physicist) complain and aggravate each other over the frustrations in their respective research fields, only to discover that they each hold the key to solving the other's problems (and let's hear a cheer for having the hard-scientist in the couple be the woman, for once!), and the fourteenth century, where the priest of a small German village finds his faith tested by the arrival of strange beings from beyond the stars. The 'now' portions of the book constitute only about a fifth, with the remaining 80% focusing on the drama taking place in Oberhochwald, which will eventually be abandoned and renamed "Teufelheim," or "Devil's Home," before being corrupted into the titular "Eifelheim."

The aliens themselves remain enigmatic throughout; we learn very little about them or where they come from. That's partly because, with the exception of Father Dietrich, few of the villagers they come in contact with particularly care about where the aliens come from - besides Hell, of course. Most are convinced - and can you blame them? - that the aliens are demons, and the only controversy is whether they present a danger to the village, or a chance at salvation. This being the mid-1300s, history buffs know what comes next, and it ain't pretty.
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