Michael Crichton’s Timeline, and The Relativity of Time
February 22, 2015
From the author of Jurassic Park….
I’m currently rereading Timeline, published in 1999, by the late Michael Crichton, famous for writing Jurassic Park and the Lost World. (He didn’t write anything remotely resembling Jurassic World or Jurassic Park III, just the two books the first two movies are based on, I reserve judgement on the latest movie) It’s typical of this author, combining interesting scientific speculation and well-researched history, with a fast-paced plot and generally grey characters.
As with many of his other books, this was made into a movie Timeline (2003) starring the late Paul Walker, of The Fast and the Furious fame.
The story is about a group of student archeologists that are compelled by a billionaire high-tech mogul, to travel back in time to medieval France, to the site they were excavating, in order to rescue their professor, who breached safety protocol and became stranded there. An unexpected accident causes the rescue team to become marooned along with the professor as they all have to quickly adapt to a foreign place and time in order to stay alive. Many of the characters in the novel are strong female based, but in the movie, which I disagree with, they are played by men. Greed and friendship are also major themes in the book that I found helped with the reading.
It is similar in theme- staying alive in difficult if not dangerous situations, is a Crichton standard. I enjoy his way of writing a thriller without being a thriller in the sense of a John Grisham.
Crichton has a way of inserting lessons on quantum theory and multiverse dynamics, along with detailed descriptions of architecture, customs, and language of medieval France, to lend a sense of credibility to an obvious work of science-fiction- though in my own view it’s still very much a fiction novel. The character development is a little weak, but their strengths and weaknesses are frequently alluded to. It’s a book for those who really enjoy a quick read and for those who love Micheal Crichton. This is not an alt-history but it does have the feel of it, especially with the choices some of the characters make.
For anyone who loves reading more about time travel, then I would also highly recommend the author Connie Willis. A smart, witty writer whom I have enjoyed. To Say Nothing of the Dog, is my particular favourite.
She has written several page-turners incorporating either time travel or other deep scientific conundrums, wrapped in mysteries and usually with a good dose of humor to boot. The humour in many ways is what I feel is lacking in Timeline.
For those who love alternate universe historical novels, Harry Turtledove, whom several of the blog writers recommend is also a good choice- his own novel Joe Steele will be out soon, and it sounds interesting. Turtledove is more famous for his series on the American Civil War, but this is a good book to read.
Titles such as Doomsday Book, published in 1992, which takes place in a similar setting to Timeline and focuses on The Plague; To Say Nothing Of The Dog, by Connie Willies 1997; Bellwether, 1996; and Passage, 2001.