What if the first contact between humanity and an intelligent alien species occurred in the Year of Our Lord 1348?Now The Wine Dark Sea and The Curt Jester add their approving voices to the chorus.
Some sf authors would have taken this concept and written a cautionary tale in which benighted priests declare the aliens to be demons and whip mobs of superstitious peasants into a killing frenzy. After all, was that not the Age of Faith, an era of theocracy, ignorance, and fear?
What Flynn has done instead is marvelously refreshing. Eifelheim is a carefully researched depiction of Rhineland in the 14th century, showing both the bright and dark aspects of medieval civilization and the small renaissance that was underway before the Black Plague. He illuminates some of the roots of the Scientific Revolution among natural philosophers like William of Ockham, Jean Buridan, and Nicholas Oresme.
Thus when grasshopper-like aliens, the Krenken, crash near the small Black Forest village of Oberhochwald, it is in fact their good fortune to encounter the local priest. Father Dietrich is a thoughtful and discerning man, who studied under Buridan at the University of Paris, and is adept at inquiring into the natural causes of things. His somewhat cool rationality is combined with deep Christian faith, which motivates him to display charity and hospitality to the stranded travelers.
I'm still waiting for the darned thing to get to the library near me.