Contemporary/historical alien-contact tale, from the author of the magnificent The Wreck of the River of Stars (2003).
Theoretical physicist Sharon Nagy ponders a new, non-isotropic, 12-dimensional space-time structure, while her live-in significant other, historical-mathematician Tom Schwoerin, studies medieval German settlement patterns. Tom wonders why the Black Forest village Eifelheim wasn’t resettled following a deadly outbreak of the Black Death in 1349; according to all his computer simulations, it should have been. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we learn what actually occurred in Eifelheim in the months before the “pest” arrived: An alien vessel crash-landed in the forest. The vessel’s occupants, the giant-grasshopper-like Krenken, were traveling via interdimensional wormhole rather than space when disaster struck. They soon learn to communicate with the villagers via their “talking head” and eventually swear fealty to the village’s lord, Herr Manfred. Led by the example of pastor Dietrich, a philosopher and scholar, the majority of the villagers come to accept the Krenken as God’s fellow-creatures rather than demons, which they resemble. However, despite all efforts, the village gains a reputation as the haunt of devils. As the Black Death spreads through France and western Germany, Krenken children begin to die, Earth food lacking an amino acid essential to their diet. Tom learns that once Eifelheim was abandoned, its reputation for evil intensified to the point where entire armies avoided the place. As Dietrich confronts the Black Death, Tom puzzles over 14th-century stained-glass windows that depict giant grasshoppers, and Sharon studies a page from an illuminated manuscript that reminds her of—a circuit diagram?
Another meticulously researched, intense, mesmerizing novel (based in some part on a 1986 short story) for readers seeking thoughtful science fiction of the highest order.