I understand that Michael Crichton based his book, "The Eaters of the Dead", on Ibn Fadlan's account of his journey to Russia--and the movie "The 13th Warrior" was based on Crichton's book. I've not read Crichton's book, but, being a huge fan of Medieval Norse myth and culture, I have seen the movie. (It was something of a disappointment, but that's Hollywood for you...)
It may surprise some people to discover that Ibn Fadlan was a real person, who was indeed sent on a journey to Russia, and who indeed meet the Rus (who were probably in large part Swedish Vikings), among many other peoples besides. I can't say anything about Crichton's book, but the only part of the movie with any basis whatsoever in reality was the beginning. (Yes, Ibn Fadlan even records the Russ washing and blowing their noses in a communal bowl--although Ibn never mentions this water being drunk afterward, as I believe happens in the movie.) Everything having to do with Ibn Fadlan as a "13th warrior" is pure fiction, and based, as I understand it, on the English poem Beowulf. (Perhaps that basis is largely lost in the movie, because, although I'm no scholar, I don't see much resemblance between the two.)
The reason I bought and read this book had nothing to do with Crichton or the movie; rather Ibn Fadlan's section on the Russ is very often quoted and/or referred to in other works about Viking culture, and I wanted to read the entire account for myself.
Ibn Fadlan's most vivid account of the Russ is that of the funeral of one of their cheiftans, which Ibn happened to witness. This is touched upon in the beginning of the movie, when the slave-girl is being hoisted repeatedly over the door-frame-like structure and reports seeing her master in the other world. I believe the movie leaves out the fact that this slave-girl volunteered to be sacrificed and accompany her master to the other world; the scene in which she appears directly precedes her being ritualistically killed by the "Angel of Death", who is I think also mentioned in the movie, albeit in a different context.
An often-quoted scene in this account is as follows:
"A man of the Rusiya was standing besides me [Ibn Fadlan] and I heard him talking to the interpreter, and I asked what the Rus had said to him. The interpreter answered that he said: 'They, the Arab communities, are stupid.' So I asked: 'Why?' He said: 'You go and cast into the earth the people whom you both love and honor most among men. Then the earth, creeping things, and worms devour them. We, however, let them burn for an instant, and accordingly he enters paradise at once in that very hour,' and he burst into immoderate laughter.
"He said: 'His Lord sent the wind for love of him, so that he may be snatched away in the course of an hour.' In fact an hour had not passed when boat, wood, maiden, and lord had turned to ashes and dust of ashes..."
But Ibn Fadlan encountered many peoples other than the Rus, and he writes about them all, including his interactions and (mis)adventures with them. His chapter on the Rus constitutes just a small section of his work, and this translation, by Richard Frye, contains at least as much introduction and commentary as it does actual text by Ibn Fadlan. There's a wealth of information regarding the world and circumstances in which Ibn Fadlan set out on his journey, and it sheds much light on the original text.
Many people would probably consider this a dry read--but if you're not interested in the time, places and peoples that Ibn Fadlan describes, you probably have no reason to be reading the book in the first place. If, on the other hand, you ARE interested in such things, it's an entertaining and enlightening read.