Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Good Story 007: Eifelheim

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

In Episode #7, Julie and Scott discuss Eifelheim by Michael Flynn.

Centuries ago, one small town in Germany disappeared and was never resettled. Tom, a historian, and his theoretical physicist girlfriend Sharon, become interested. By all logic, the town should have survived. What's so special about Eifelheim?

Father Dietrich is the village priest of Eifelheim, in the year 1348, when the Black Death is gathering strength. To his astonishment, Dietrich makes first contact between humanity and an alien race from a distant star, when their ship crashes in the nearby forest. Flynn gives us the full richness and strangeness of medieval life, as well as some terrific aliens.

Download or listen via this link: |Episode #007|

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Julie's new book!

Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist by Br. Guy Consolmagno

In the Country of the Blind by Michael Flynn


  1. This is such a good novel and one I also need to reread. How he combines the history of the time and aliens is more like history than a story. Though like most people who are great fans of the book, the parallel story line could have been removed with no damage to the novel regardless of it's genesis from a short story. Michael Flynn was even nice enough to comment on my review of his book.

    I've read seven of Mr. Flynn's books and I just bought his latest "Up Jim River." I have really enjoyed all of his books and find that often the dialog he has in his book is so good it is quotable at times.

    As for "in the Country of the Blind" I really loved that book. He takes psycho history from Asimov's foundation series and takes it to the next level. He really does it better than Asimov did in the consideration of what would happen and what would be the pitfalls. And I say that even bearing the fact that Isaac Isamov was my first love as a reader and his books turned me not only into a reader, but a SF reader.

    Mr. Flynn's blog is also great which often takes an apologetic view of the phony science vs. faith thing. He once wrote a quite excellent essay on this subject in Analog magazine which reminded me of the work of the lat Fr. Jaki the physicist and science historian.

    I do hope you guys do cover "The Mote in God's Eye", one of my favorite all time novels which I read first when it came out as a teenager. I think it is time to reread that one also which would make it my third read. Pournelle's daughter recently wrote a sequel with the universe of the mote called Outies. I picked it up on Amazon recently on the cheap. I am quite the Pournelle/Niven fan and love the books they wrote together and apart. Jerry Pournelle was raised Catholic and I don't know if he continued in his faith, though he is quite politically conservative. His Chaos Manor blog is always a good read and this was a continuation of his articles in Byte magazine for so many years.

    Speaking of Catholic SF authors I wonder if you will ever get around to Tim Powers? I know Julie is really not a Tim Powers fan as I remember, but I certainly am. Declare is one of my favorite books and there is nothing of his I don't like. The latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean will be based on his book "On Stranger TIdes."

  2. I also love Mike Flynn's blog. He is great at both the pithy, pointed comment and the longer explications. I like them all.

    I must have read The Mote in God's Eye 7 or 8 times. Strangely enough it is one of my "comfort" sf books, perhaps because it has genuinely likable characters, fascinating first-contact/alien race concepts, and hearkens back in a way to the Heinlein novel feel of older sf. Obviously I'm a fan. :-)

    I am rather hoping that Scott will pick a Tim Powers book and that will force me to finish one. Rather as a friend recently chose The Story of a Soul for our book club on the grounds that this would make her read the entire thing at long last. (No pressure, Scott!) :-D

    I was recently thinking that I needed to read Flynn's January Dancer. I reviewed the audiobook for SFFaudio and it didn't work in several ways (mostly due to a lack of aural signals in switching from one section to another). Also I went in expecting space opera and it really only flirted with that genre (to my way of thinking). However, I think that if I read it as a straight sf novel without that expectation, I might like it much more.

  3. Hi all - I picked up "In the Country of the Blind" and am really looking forward to it. After that, I'll consult with you two about which Flynn to read next.

    As for Powers, yes, definitely I'll pick a Powers novel. I recently read "On Stranger Tides" and liked it quite a bit, even though it wasn't structured like a typical novel. It was a bunch of excellent stuff, all strung together. I want to read "Declare" and "Last Call". I've got them both here.

    I'm also a Niven/Pournelle fan. I loved "Lucifer's Hammer" and "Oath of Fealty" and "Footfall"... but for some reason, I skipped "The Mote in God's Eye". Going to check Paperbackswap... done! On the way.

  4. just finish listening to this podcast...nice...and wanted to put in a quick comment. I agree that the 'current time' sections really weren't as satisfying or well rounded but still much preferable to when lesser authors try to frame the action in terms they think a modern reader will understand. I'm thinking here of the current rage of self-referential history in movies - "A Knight's Tale" screams to mind with the get-down dance scenes...I understand it comes from a desire to demonstrate how universal themes translate from history in a way that modern readers can connect with emotionally as well as intellectually but it annoys me when it is also comes across as talking down to the audience.
    Perhaps that is what I enjoyed about the latest incarnation of Robin Hood, it kept faith with the historical reality and never stopped to make a nudge, nudge, wink wink aside about how quaint they were back then and how much cooler we are today...

    Anyway, gotta get back to my chores...thanks for this show, I enjoy it especially for the intelligent discussion that maintains a faith perspective. (def gonna check out Brother Astronomer, thanks for that...)

    maureen (call me moe)

  5. Hi Moe! :-)

    It is funny how different things appeal to different people. I absolutely loved A Knight's Tale because of things like the dance scene ... or the pan over London that showed the ferris wheel. It completely worked for me. Although I understand why people might not like it.

    Thank you for your very nice comments about the show ... we don't get a lot of people taking the time to drop in and we LOVE the ones who do ... like you! :-)

  6. Hi Moe,

    That is an excellent point. I still don't see the modern portion as being of vital importance to the book, but I completely agree that Flynn did a good job NOT being self-referential in the medieval parts.

    Thrilled to meet you, and thanks for the kind comments.

  7. Hi Julie. I'm an acquaintance of Scott's, having done a bit of reviewing over at SFF Audio.

    I'm really enjoying this podcast, having subscribed just a week ago.

    I'd also like to second what Jeff said, and put in a plug for The Mote In God's Eye as a future podcast topic. I really love that book, because it's one of the few descriptions of a futuristic world where institutional Christianity plays the dominant cultural role. The failure on the part of most SF authors to take seriously the staying power of Christianity is a major blind spot, methinks.

    One nit I must pick: my interpretation of the Church in TMIGE is that it is closer to Orthodoxy than Catholicism. I offer two pieces of evidence: Bishops are everywhere, but no pope is ever mentioned. It seems to me that the Church is organized in a fairly decentralized way, with each planet's bishop (or bishops; I can't remember) having a lot of autonomy. Second, the book presumes a blending of US and Russian (post-Soviet) cultures, much like as in Poul Anderson's Tau Zero--as if the Cold War was fought to a stand-still, and/or space exploration somehow resolved or ameliorated East-West differences. (Compare that to the more modern assumptions of Serenity/Firefly where people converse in English and cuss in Chinese; we now see Russia as a spent cultural force. In 2050, Yemen will have more people than Russia will!) In any case, Russian spiritually has a strong presence in that book, as I remember it: all those icons; that super-devout Russian admiral.

    I write this from the perspective of a Protestant who started out fundamentalist but who has been marinated to one degree or another in evangelicalism, pentacostalism, and Lutheranism through the years--and who has felt a tug from the Big Mother all my adult life.

  8. Hi fredosphere! Nice to "meet" you! :-)

    Interesting point. I don't know that it ever occurred to me, and I did read the book way before I was ever Catholic (depending on when it came out, it may have been before I was Christian). Definitely the Admiral is super-Russian and that would include Orthodoxy. I was just trying to remember if the priest (can't remember his name now) celebrated a Mass that the Russians attended.

    You could very well be right. It is just that because the priest talked about "the Church" and his superiors sending him off as if there were a central organization I always interpreted it as being Catholic. Again, from a point of "nothing" faithwise originally but that was the impression I had and so never changed it.

    I look forward to rereading it anyway, but now especially will do so with your comments in mind looking for clues... should be interesting! :-)

    This reminds me of a lengthy comments box conversation that was had on my Happy Catholic blog about whether the nuns in In This House of Brede were Catholic or Anglican. Thanks to the chronicling of a new pope being elected, we had evidence to settle the conversation. Ultimately, of course, it mattered less what "flavor" they were and more what the overall point of their faith was when they lived it.

    I think in this case, ultimately the "flavor" will matter less than the point that you make already about that institutional Christianity is a dominant factor in the culture. So nice to see SFF where the token Christian isn't just a whipping boy for religious faith. :-)