Printer Friendly

Eifelheim.

Eifelheim

Flynn, Michael

Tor/Forge Publicity

1403 Flatiron Building

175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010

0765300966 $25.95 1-888-330-8477

History revised: Remote and Recent

Flynn here offers us a most recent novel in a mode somewhat unusual for him. Flynn takes us much further back, to the currently popular era of the Black Death 600 years in the past but both afford us an arresting revision of many contemporary assumptions about human nature.

Flynn tells a convoluted historical tale. His plot is set work in two eras. The first is current time in which partners and lovers, a male and a female are, respectively, historian and physicist. Is assertion is that only because they lived and worked in proximity, and sometimes talked to each other about their work, were they able to solve an historical mystery. The 'modern' pieces are revised from work he published as a short story, one about a historian who is researching the disappearance of a city in what will be present day Germany.

The city Oberhochwald suffered more than depopulation due to the Black Death. It seemed to have disappeared altogether, and his research suggested alien-first contact, and as a side note, the possible explanation for some of the more peculiar Gargoyles on European churches dating from the 14th century. In the novel, he adds the 'backstory', largely as it occurs in 1348-9 in the middle of the plague years, explaining how Oberhochwald become Eifelheim, a place that was razed to the ground, and that ground avoided up into the 21st century.

Immersed in questions of church doctrine, his hero, Father Deitrich lives in this small village as he is escaping the possible punishment for supporting earlier peasant rebellions in the face of church sanctions. Yet his sympathies for the plight of the downtrodden lead him to the support of an odd band of 'strangers' who look like big grasshoppers, operate within a genetically class-based cultural form, and are, in some cases, fascinated by his religion. Yet Deitrich cannot prevent tragedy for their little band of intergalactic castaways any more than he can for the village which houses them, or the bodies and souls of those aliens who choose religious conversion.

One cannot say that this is exactly a romp through the 14th century, but the flavor of village life, the internal conflicts Oberhochwald's people, the abuse, the unfaithfulness of wives and husbands, the crises of faith and the sympathies of kind women all enrich the sort of 'what if' scenario that could easily become cliched. Flynn is known for his careful historical and scientific scenarios. In this novel, his present-day protagonist employs state-of-the-art research but also conveys the now-familiar persona of someone who can almost live in the past. His partner, a brilliant, impatient young woman, escapes the everyday into physics theories of alternative universes. But it is perhaps the drama of the aliens, whose bodies cannot achieve nourishment on earth, that is the most compelling element of the narrative. They are at once rendered not very human and human enough to arouse pathos in the 14th century humans around them and the 21st century humans who uncover their existence. As usually, Flynn's content and form render his work both engaging and engrossing.

This work should be read for the kind of defamiliarizing vision that allows us to rethink contemporary and historical understanding of deep moral questions. Which beings possess souls worth saving and cherishing? Can we sacrifice any beings in order to valorize others? How do we halt the onset of horrors like plague, and war? What is the value of one person's efforts? So one can read the novel for the mystery and art but one enjoys it for the thoughts it provokes.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Midwest Book Review
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Bogstad, Janice M.
Publication:MBR Bookwatch
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Words:622
Previous Article:Survival Of The Slickest.
Next Article:The Wreck of the River of Stars.


Related Articles
Eifelheim.
Flynn, Michael. Eifelheim.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters