Almost "verily," the amazing Michael Crichton has presented the manuscript (922 A.D.) of an Arab, Ibn Fadlan, emissary of a Caliph who recorded his three-years among the Northmen with the "tone of a tax auditor, not a bard, an anthropologist, not a dramatist." It is of course much livelier than that and accompanied with assorted annotations and scholarly paraphernalia (mostly for real) which thin the lines between truth and fabrication to mere wisps of conjecture rising from those dread black mists filled with the eaters of the dead. Now it would appear that Ibn Fadlan, having met some Northmen near the Volga, was chosen to make up the company of thirteen--one to be an outlander--which was to return home with its leader Buliwyf to defeat the hairy fiends who fed off humans. Ibn Fadlan's account, which ends in the cave where the legendary Buliwyf will meet his death while meting out the same to the mother of the creatures, is full of inventive incidentals--be it only the stomach-boggling description of their ablutions or their spectacular funerary practices. Minor Crichton but verily, verily a diverting send-up which you'll read faster than you can say qurtaq.