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Eaters of the Dead

Narrated by: Simon Vance
Length: 5 hrs and 18 mins
4.2 out of 5 stars (138 ratings)

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Summary

The year is A.D. 922. A refined Arab courtier, representative of the powerful Caliph of Baghdad, encounters a party of Viking warriors who are journeying to the barbaric North. He is appalled by their Viking customs - the wanton sexuality of their pale, angular women, their disregard for cleanliness...their cold-blooded human sacrifices. But it is not until they reach the depths of the Northland that the courtier learns the horrifying and inescapable truth: he has been enlisted by these savage, inscrutable warriors to help combat a terror that plagues them - a monstrosity that emerges under cover of night to slaughter the Vikings and devour their flesh....

Eaters of the Dead was adapted to the screen as The 13th Warrior, starring Antonio Banderas.

©1976 by Michael Crichton; Copyright renewed 2004 by CrichtonSun LLC. (P)2015 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A very interesting book in Crichton’s catalog

Eaters Of The Dead by Michael Crichton Now then my readers…it is time I feel to leave the world of the Imperium and the God-Emperor for a decent length of time. Those of you who have read my reviews prolifically will be aware that alongside enjoying science fiction and fantasy and the odd classic crime story here and there I have a fondness for history. Be it a discussion of the Roman Republic by Mike Duncan, Dan Carlin’s ‘Martian’ view of numerous topics in history or Paul French’s investigations of early twentieth century Chinese murder cases. All of those topics I’ve covered in the past are in some way discussions of or opinions on actual historical events. But today’s topic is slightly different. Eaters Of The Dead by Michael Crichton – author of numerous famous books some of which have been adapted into films such as Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain – as well as the ER television series is a 1976 novel that is something of a what if story or alternative history. In the 10th century there was an Muslim traveller called Ahmad Ibn Fadlan most famous for his account of his travels (called a Risala) as part of the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the Volga Bulgars. This was a historic state of Bulgar people which was in modern day Russia and has very minimal connection to modern day Bulgaria. Fadlan’s record is notable for containing a large section discussing an encounter with a tribe of Vikings and being a first-hand witness to a ship burial. It is commonly believed that Fadlan and his group encountered the Rus’ Vikings, progenitors of modern day Russia. This much is historically accurate albeit with some debate. The basic conceit of Eaters Of The Dead is as follows: Instead of continuing on his originally assigned task, Ibn Fadlan somewhat against his will initially, is taken on a journey with the Rus’ as the thirteenth member of an expedition (to comply with the mandates of a soothsayer) to save another group of Vikings from the Wendol or ‘mist-monsters.’ Over the course of the book Crichton’s version of Fadlan describes numerous traditions of the Rus’ Vikings – as accurately as he could at the time with what was known by the early 1970s – and describes numerous battles with the Wendol. From that description you may be able to divine Eaters’s other main inspiration: the classic epic poem Beowulf. The book is written as though the events of Beowulf are historical occurrences albeit somewhat reworked hence the changes to names and events with narration and ‘scientific commentary’ on a version of Ibn Fadlan’s manuscript with a blend of voices between Fadlan, the text’s ‘translators’ and the editor or narrator. A pseudoscientific tone is maintained through a series of occasional footnotes with references to factual and fictional sources. This includes in the bibliography – for no explicit reason I can discern – H.P. Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. (For those of you who’ve read the book can any of you tell me…WHY the Necronomicon is referenced…aside from just for the hell of it? This genuinely confuses me.) I found the book a very entertaining listen. The idea of listening to an fictionalised annotated manuscript inspired by Fadlan’s travels and writing style was rather intriguing. Crichton manages to maintain his illusion with a few rather entertaining moments. As a result of the basic idea this book doesn’t really have characters in the traditional sense but Fadlan and some of his Viking companions are certainly interesting people to go on a journey with! I’m not going to claim this book is for everyone. It certainly isn’t. But if the concept intrigues my readers I certainly recommend it. I quite literally bought it on impulse during a sale on Audible and loved the entire thing! The narration for the audiobook edition by Brilliance Audio – who also released the 25th anniversary audio edition of Jurassic Park – is performed by Simon Vance an EXTREMELY prolific and talented narrator who among his many other credits includes the Macmillan Audio edition of the original Dune and the famous and highly respected Sherlock Holmes pastiche Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye. Vance is wonderful in this book. He is expertly able to differentiate the voices for all the characters be it Fadlan himself, the various different editors and translators of the text, Herger – the closest thing Ibn Fadlan has to a friend or translator among the Vikings as he knows some basic Latin – or the various other figures. Vance also manages to approximate a voice for someone from the Caliph long enough as Ibn Fadlan that you can believe it for the sake of the story and doesn’t, unlike certain other narrators, massively over do it to the point of parody. Vance is honestly one of those narrators where his involvement in anything audio makes me at least consider it. Interestingly as a small curio, the book was adapted in 1999 to a film project. One which is rather infamous for multiple reasons I won’t go into. However shortly after the release of the film version as well as a few other times consequently there are certain printings of this book which were released under the name The 13th Warrior rendering Eaters Of The Dead both the book’s main title and an alternative title depending on which version of the book you happen to own. In conclusion if the description of this book in my review makes it seem interesting to you I highly recommend hunting down a copy. Especially the audio version I myself enjoyed. However if this book doesn’t sound like your cup of tea in the first place? It is not one I would consider taking a risk on if the topic, concept or name of the author doesn’t already appeal to you. Now what shall I review next? Perhaps it is time once again to check in on the crew of the good ship Serenity? Who knows what we might find when we return to the ‘Verse. Sayonara! Nephrite

3 people found this helpful

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Does Historical Documentation Make a Thriller?

Not for the first time with Crichton I find myself thinking that he has great ideas but sometimes doesn't execute on them. It is a hell of a tale, arab explorers partying with the Vikings is something you good go a hell of a long way with. Crichton also had the interesting idea of structuring the whole thing on a mostly fictional ancient manuscript written by one of the explorers interspersed with odd moments of documentary-like commentary. For me it just sucked the life out of the story with it's extremely matter of fact approach. It is interesting to note that the early chapters are loosely based on a real account by Ahmad ibn Fadlan who genuinely was an arab traveller that visited the Vikings. Crichton then bolts on a Beowulf-like story to complete his tale. Simon Vance does a decent job of the narration but the text style isn't easy to breathe a great deal of life into. So maybe this will prove unpopular as a review but for me I was put off by the 15 minute historical lecture at the start and never managed to engage with the dry delivery of the story that followed.

5 people found this helpful

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Well worth the wait

I loved the film, unashamedly, and loved reading this through when I bought the novel. I've been periodically checking Audible for this title and when I saw it was available for preorder, didn't hesitate.
I'll be listening to this A lot. love it.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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An interesting fable, still short and a decent movie.

Great movie but short, too abrupt. I read it years ago and while enjoyable it is still abrupt. This rating is for the audiobook, and while a very accomplished audiobook, the flaws are more apparent. The footnotes are downright annoying. They are useful in print (there if needed) but it makes the audio seem disjointed when listening as they aren’t always necessary. The source commentary is very informative, and it it had been kept at the end it would have worked better. An interesting fable, worth a listen and you’ll wish you never come across verily for some time.

1 person found this helpful

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Great historical "fiction" !

Excellent historical adventure story from a great story teller.
Vikings, mist monsters and adventure. Worth a listen.

1 person found this helpful

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Blurring of the line between fact & fiction

Spoiler Alert —- Having recently re-watched the film “13th Warrior” I was curious to read (listen in this case) the book on which it was based. If you enjoyed the film, you will enjoy the book. The plot is a retelling of the tale of Beowulf but through the eyes of an observer at the time. The narrative is along the lines of a telling of the tale uncovered by scholars in an ancient Arab text. By the inclusion of numerous asides, footnotes and a comprehensive bibliography, the illusion of the tale being factual is held through to the end. Only in Michael Crichton’s end notes does he explain the work is indeed almost entirely a fiction. A good listen.

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A great spin on the tale of Beowulf.

I always enjoy a re-telling of a common tale or legend. The mythos is kept alive as the original also intended, as should all our mythology.

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Boring, no seriously boring

I can find nothing to recommend in this book. After waiting a couple of hours for it to begin I realised that, "this was it". Almost managed to finish it but it just became too mind numbing. There is no "plot" and no "characters, beyond silhouettes. A first person narrative drags us through faux history to nothing of substance. If you do find anything of interest here then may I recommend that you try reading the Old Testament in the St James version. Some degree of similarity of style.

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Thirteenth Warrior

This book was fine. Nothing special. A good time filler while you are travelling or working.

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Not at all what I was expecting

Strangely compelling but this is not a story in a normal Michael Crichton sense. Ancient texts recast as fiction

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-01-17

Time well spent

I've always enjoyed the movie the 13th warrior, but this is one of those situations where the book manages to squeeze out so much more...as they usually do.

25 people found this helpful

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  • Thomas J. Lawrence Jr.
  • 01-08-18

One of my favorite Crichton books.

Good flow and good performance. I thought it came alive well in this audio version.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Clefspear
  • 06-05-18

Go in blind

Seriously. Don’t google this book. Don’t look at reviews or the Wikipedia page. Don’t even read the box blurb. Go in as cold as you can, and just enjoy the experience of gradually realizing exactly what in the blue heck you’re listening to.

38 people found this helpful

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  • Jesse
  • 22-08-19

Just listen. Don’t listen to the negativity.

Lo, There do I see my Father, and Lo, there do I see my Mother, and Lo, There do I see my Brothers and my Sisters and Lo, There do I see my people back to the begining, and Lo they do call to me, and bid me take my place among them in the halls of Valhalla, Where the brave will live forever.

8 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Zap Smith
  • 30-08-18

Dear god the footnotes

I really wanted to like this book. I love the movie John Frankenheimer made, 13th Warrior, and expected this would be at least somewhat like that. I guess in a very small way, it is. The plot roughly follows that of the movie, although the book reads more like a graduate student's thesis about the texts on which the story is based. Essentially, the book while fiction is written to appear as a nonfiction translation (?) of an ancient Arabic text. If it was just the story, that would have been enough. Simon Vance is a great narrator and brings a lot of gravitas to anything he chooses to read. But Crichton can't help but be Crichton. Since he doesn't have any computers in 900 A.D. to explain for pages upon pages about how they work, he instead includes copious footnotes that unfortunately Simon Vance has to read. Imagine how annoying that is to read then multiply times 100 when you are trying to stick with the story and get interrupted every two minutes by a page and a half of sources and footnotes. It basically takes the place of the main problem with almost every single book by Michael Crichton: At some point he has to show off how much he knows about a technical subject as if the reader either a) knows nothing about it or b) begging to be thrown off course in the middle of a story. Just go watch 13th Warrior — it's way better and takes about a third of the time to get through.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Jim "The Impatient"
  • 15-04-17

FEAR HAS A WHITE MOUTH

BY TRICKERY, DECEIT
I suppose I should KEEP MY TEETH TOGETHER, but it is something that bothered me the first time I read it and still bothers me in this second reading. Crichton tries to convince the reader that he is writing a factual novel based on some long lost manuscripts of a long ago adventurer. The book is filled with footnotes and references to non existence texts. He does come forward with the truth at the end of the book and tries to explain why he did it. I suppose it was to warn us, to not believe everything we hear and to check out references for their authenticity. All I know is, that I felt like he was making fun of me. Once I got over that, I could not deny that this is a exciting, well written, sort of fantastical, sort of historical story and The 13th Warrior is one of my favorite movies.

STRANGE THINGS CEASE TO BE STRANGE UPON REPETITION
Some my think my first paragraph is a spoiler, but I believe if you know ahead of time, you will enjoy the book better and not have that sick feeling at the end of being duked. If you liked the movie you will love this book. If you have not seen the movie, but like books with high adventure, macho Vikings, historical aspects, Dragons, Witches, sword play and Neanderthals among others than you too, will love this book.

Simon Vance was the perfect fit for this book.

79 people found this helpful

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  • R. Armstrong
  • 24-04-19

If you like his novels, you’ll enjoy this

Like most MC novels, this short retelling of Beowulf is masterfully written, suspenseful and ultimately unsatisfying. Even in a story as already familiar as this one, I was left aching for closure, for the rest of the story. He was the ultimate story teller and perfect for serial TV because he always left the door open for a “sequel.” But when you know that will never come, it can be frustrating. But still, I crave reading his books! His later books are filled with terrible language and vulgarities - I stopped reading them when that started, so I was glad to get back to an old one like this which is clean and fascinating - If mildly irritating for readers who like stories to have an ending.

2 people found this helpful

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  • W Perry Hall
  • 27-11-15

a/k/a 'The 13th Warrior'


The full name of this 1976 novel was "Eaters of the Dead: The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in AD 922." After being made into a movie under the title, *The 13th Warrior,* the book was republished for a time under that name.

The idea for the book came after Crichton heard his pal giving a lecture including BEOWULF as among the "Bores of Literature."

The book is basically told as a edited translation of the account written by Ibn Fadlan, a Persian ambassador conscripted by a group of Vikings (probably from Sweden) as the 13th warrior in a hero's quest to save a northern kingdom from a group of "mist monsters" called "wendol," a group of vicious savages, perhaps surviving Neanderthals, who wear bear skins in battle. After battling with the wendol (probably based, in part, on Grendel since Crichton notes in an appendix that the book is based partly on the myth of Beowulf), they must fight Grendel's mother.

I was somewhat disappointed by the lethargic lulls and the story's underdevelopment. Yet, at times, the action sequences were quite thrilling. As usual, Crichton's research was impeccable and provided an education on the Vikings and a more modernized account of Beowulf. If you enjoyed Beowulf or you're a Viking connoisseur, you should like this relatively inexpensive book.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Stacey
  • 25-11-15

I am not a Crichton Fan and I don't know why!

First off, I am not a Michael Crichton fan. Yet I have always loved this story. I came across the audio version of this when there were audiotapes and a walkman. For the longest time, I have tried to find this again on audio, and now it has been reissued. I am so happy!

This novel, set in the 10th century, is supposed to be the “scientific accounting” of Ibn Fadlan, a disgraced courtier. There are three voices in the narration although we only see two. First we have the editor, who discusses the background of the story. Second, we have the narrator, Ibn Fadlan, himself. Yet, we are also visited by the inconsistencies of the “translation” by other scholars. This is all done so seamlessly, that it isn’t clear unless you are listening for it. BTW, I believe this was done on purpose by Michael Crichton to prove a literary argument that people can read/hear a telling of Beowulf and not be bored. (I happen to agree with Crichton)

There are so many times that Ibn says, “I have seen with my own eyes…” This lends credibility to the narration because at the beginning we see him as this judgmental, snobbish man who is content to do his job by the letter of the law and report facts. His language in the beginning is derogatory as he describes the horrific habits of the Norsemen. It is clear to the reader that Ibn has no desire to get in with this group. Yet, he is forced to do just that during a particular visit with the Norse when the new King embarks on a mission to kill a tribe of Animals who have supernatural skills. At this meeting, an oracle determines that instead of twelve warriors, if this quest is to be successful, they need 13 warriors. Ibn gets enlisted as the thirteenth warrior.

We follow his journey from staunch follower of his customs to Ibn’s transformation into a friend who both honors and respects other customs. As he learns the language and pushes the boundaries, he finds fellowship, camaraderie, and even love in places he never thought he would know.

This is a short book, but to me, worth a credit. It is well crafted and well executed. It isn’t easy to do Beowulf justice and make it interesting in the modern context, but Crichton has done it. I loved Beowulf and I love the retelling of this by Crichton. Now, if only I could get my head out of bottom to become a true fan of his. Seriously, what is wrong with me????

14 people found this helpful

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  • Nelson
  • 07-08-19

not quite what I expected I guess...

Not bad really, well performed, just not really my cup of tea. It was however... entertaining... informative, might be the more accurate word to use. There were parts that were pretty cool but I'm the back of my mind, kinda read as "textbook" to me. I am aware, it at least had heard, that M. C. is renound for the " accuracy" and sheer amount of nonfictional info that he puts into his novels. I've only read 5 or 6 of his books... but maybe I've just been lucky and not noticed it before as much.

1 person found this helpful