So keeping on with the science fiction books, I decided to re-enter the imagination of Michael Crichton. But no Dinosaurs or super-viruses this time, in Timeline Crichton tackles the idea of time travel. But as much as you would expect fireworks from a mixture of time travel and the creator of Jurassic Park, they just aren’t there.
The basic remise of the book is that a company run by a brilliant physicist has discovered a way to travel back in time and is planning to use the technology to rebuild ancient sites as some kind of tourist venture – apparently despite being a physicist, the guy isn’t a criminal mastermind. The company has funded archaeologists to unearth and learn about sites around the world, and when the head archaeologist at a dig in France is accidentally transported back to 1357, his pupils must rescue him. Of course being a Crichton book there has to be science in there somewhere, so all of this is possible courtesy of Quantum Mechanics and the Multiverse theory.
I am just going to be up front and say this book stinks, especially considering Crichton’s other works. The storyline is incredibly predictable – it is possible to predict the events and ending right from the moment the characters (and their special talents) are introduced. The book also features an over the top example of Crichton’s trademark lecturing tone – it isn’t enough to just explain the scientific theories behind the plot, it is done in the exasperated tone of a bored schoolteacher. The story is incredibly slow – almost the entire first third of the book is just buildup, and the action just meanders its way through the final two thirds. There are several unconvincing speeches dotted through, and even some that completely contradict the events of the story – immediately after one of the characters changes history, one of the other characters goes on a long tirade about how it is impossible to change history. Add to this the somewhat forced nature of the “ye olde” languages, and the costume descriptions that would describe pretty much any ghastly renaissance fair, and you have quite a catastrophe.
All in all I was thoroughly disappointed by this book (I hope that was obvious from the preceding paragraph). I normally accept Crichton’s preaching because I learn something. I also generally like his brand of science mixed with action. But this just didn’t work. A lot of it feels forced and not entirely thought through. It also could have been a bit more adventurous – if you are going to go back in time, why not go see something spectacular rather than an obscure siege in the middle of France? Better yet, Crichton should have done away with the time travel crap altogether and just written a medieval escapade. I recommend this book only if you truly are out of ideas for something else to read. Even then, go read the phonebook instead. This book well and truly earned my first 1/5 rating.
Author: Michael Crichton
Pages: 512 (Paperback)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Josh’s Rating: 1/5
Amazon Link: Timeline