Strange as it may sound, one of the best antidotes to the angry atheism of such disaffected Britons as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins is the recent science-fiction novel Eifelheim by Michael Flynn.  The book, dedicated to Jean Buridan—the Paris scholastic who described inertia, a scientific concept unknown to the ancients, in the 14th century—focuses on the disappearance from the historical record of the village of Eifelheim, a disappearance that turns out to be related to an encounter between grotesque extraterrestrial visitors known as the Krenken and German villagers in 1348, on the eve of the Black Death.  Flynn’s novel touches on many important events in late-medieval history, including the dispute between the pope and the emperor, the conflict between Spiritual and Conventual Franciscans, and the Hundred Years’ War and presents medieval Christendom with sympathy and insight as a society in which the “cool, scholastic rationalism of Paris” arose from and happily coexisted with a deep Christian faith that permeated everything.  In the process, Flynn sounds themes that will appeal to many readers of Chronicles and tells an engaging story that captivates the reader and keeps the pages turning.

The central character (and hero) of Flynn’s novel is Father Dietrich, the pastor of the village visited by the Krenken.  Despite his humble...

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