I read Eaters of the Dead once, in 7th grade during my Michael Crichton kick. It was probably my favorite of the 7 or so of his books I read that year. Largely because it was the only one that got to the point. That was a frequent complaint of mine with his books back then, that it took forever for things to start happening because he Crichton was so busy infodumping. I have to get to page 80 of Jurassic Park for Dr. Grant to see a live dinosaur? What the heck?!
Coming back to it this week, it was strange to see what parts had stuck with me. I remembered that an Arabic fellow ends up on a monster-slaying quest with some Norsemen, but I didn't recall the specifics of how he wound up with them. I definitely didn't remember that Ibn Fadlan was a real person who journeyed north as an ambassador to the King of the Bulgars and kept extensive records of his trip, leading Crichton to essentially draft him into Beowulf.
I remembered monsters attacking from the mist, smashing their way into a great hall, but I didn't remember anything about a "glowworm dragon". Which might be due to there not really being one. I didn't remember the frequent footnotes about how different scholars had interpreted and translated Fadlan's "text", and how this particular interpreter would sometimes sarcastically comment on how these told more about the person doing the interpreting than about the actual text. I probably wasn't interested in that back then, preferring to stick with the fighting and killing. That mockup of scholarly sniping was more appealing this time.
Strangely, the one detail that has resolutely stuck with me over the years is that of "pig windows", which Fadlan mentions looking out of right before the final battle. For some reason, the idea that people made windows out of animal membranes formed a particularly strong bond in my mind. Go figure.
I didn't remember some of the idiosyncrasies of Fadlan's writing style, the repetition of phrases such as "these things I have seen with my own eyes", or "and we stayed there two days before moving to ___, where we stayed for two days before moving on to . . .". I wouldn't be surprised if that had irritated me back then, but I kind of like it now. It's still tedious, though not overbearing, but it does illuminate certain aspects of the character, how he thinks, that he considers it important to be clear about things he actually observed, as opposed to things he was told of. Attention to detail, concern for accuracy, it fleshes the character out a bit without having to waste time with Fadlan speaking more extensively of himself.