Friday, 27 March 2015

The Viking's ring — part four

My first-edition copy of Eaters of the Dead (with
its rather tattered DJ) and a "Venus of Willenfrog"
ceramic sculpture by Megan Evans.
The only identification of the first edition of Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead as a novel is on the dust-jacket. Contrary to the Wikipedia article, the appendix does not state that the book was based on ibn Fadlan's account of his travels with the Rus and a retelling of Beowulf but instead is an account of Ibn Fadlan's description of the "Wendol" and how it describes Neanderthals. Of course, ibn Fadlan's account does no such thing but Crichton's book has fooled a few people as described here.

I'm also not buying Michael Crichton's explanation that he wanted to create an interesting version of Beowulf. The names in the latter work are changed slightly in Crichton's book and it has the appearance of a spoof, rather than a novel. Most people, you would think, would realize that it was wrong as soon as the subjects of Neanderthals and the Venus of Willendorf figures were mentioned. Less obviously, some of the reference citations are fictitious (but not all, just those that would seem to be difficult to obtain). Yet, it is all taken on faith by some readers. Did Michael Crichton speculate about becoming another Erich von Däniken under a pen name? After talking to someone who knew him personally, it would not surprise me too much. Spoof or novel? You be the judge.

The summation to this series will appear on Monday.

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