JoshuaGuttman wrote undoc.el, a package that will read MS Word files for you – actually it will read any gibberish file and extract ASCII substrings. Then it fills the paragraphs and displays the file. Graphics and complex tables will be lost, but often enough the simple stuff remains readable.

undoc will destroy all accented characters. You can set emacs-strings-pgb to 255 to keep them but you will also get keep some gibberish -JeanPhilippeTheberge

You can also use this to deal with application/msword MIME types in Gnus. See MimeTypesWithGnus for other similar tricks. Josh recommends something like this:

    (setq mm-inline-media-tests (cons
                                 (list "application/.*msword" 
                                        (lambda (handle) t))
          mm-inlined-types      (cons "application/.*msword" mm-inlined-types))
    (defun mm-display-msword-inline (handle) 
      (let (text)
          (mm-insert-part handle)
            (setq text (buffer-string))))
        (mm-insert-inline handle text)))

[NB: Some similar commandline utilies on GNU/Linux: AntiWord, catdoc, wv (previously called mswordview)]

See also: UnPdf.