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A book by Michael Crichton

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Decent Time Travel Tale

  • Mar 5, 2009
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This book had a lot of potential and is indeed rich in history.  What hurt this book a lot was that Crichton decided to emphasize and amount of time available for the characters to complete their mission and return.  Without completing the book you could easily guess that it would go down to the last second (at least in the movie "Goldfinger" the clock wound down to 007).


Quantum physics is the focus of the book and its many possibilities.  These include parallel universes, time travel and subatomic computers.  Crichton indicates that several companies are already involved in a great deal of R&D in these fields.


The story focuses on a group of archeologists being sent back in time to rescue a colleague in 14th century England.  He had gone back there to the same site at which he was digging at in the present and not returned.  He had then left a message in a bunch of parchments that he knew his colleagues would find in the present. 


The group of rescuers includes Professor Mare, who always thought himself to be a knight.   Mare seems quite at home in the past and one can easily predict what his fate will be.  There is Chris, who is a wimpy professor who becomes a "man" but going back and being forced to live in a cruel and menacing era.  Kate is the mandatory lady that needs rescuing in this tale though at various points she seems to hold her own.  Two "security" types get bumped off rapidly (a la Star Trek) round out the cast.


Back in the lab in the present is Stern the scientist who comes up with the idea a "band-aid" approach to repair the technology that failed in the nick of time.  Donniger the head of the project who is similar to some of the project heads in other Crichton books (Jurassic Park).


The book did have its suspenseful moments (the inept Chris having to face a knight in a jousting match) but as one reads you can many times guess the outcome.  The cruelty and complete disregard for human life took all the glamour out of what we expect knight tales to be. 


This book is definitely not a page-turner but there is enough history and science to make it worth a read.


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April 20, 2009
Hi Michael. You've actually picked one of my favorite books to review. I do agree re some being able to guess it will go down to the last second, but then that seems to be the norm these days! I think where I differ from you is when you say: "The cruelty and complete disregard for human life took all the glamour out of what we expect knight tales to be. " You are absolutely right that most books fluffy this up and we get images of knights in shining white armor on powerful steeds galloping in to save the day. I guess as a lover of history, I really appreciate the fact that this book shows some of the get down and dirty side of life that most definitely existed then. I also find it interesting to think about the character Marek and his decision to stay in that time despite the harshness of that reality. Are some of us born before or after our intended times?
April 21, 2009
Thank you for adding me as a friend and for your very inciteful comments on my review. I agree that many of us may be born to exist for another time. I liked the book but did not rate it higher because I have read several time travel books and at least 10 of them are better than this tale. I think the predictability of this story is what hurt it the most.
More Timeline (book) reviews
Quick Tip by . October 08, 2010
I enjoyed the book and the movie. An extremely creative look at time travel -- and the paradoxes involved.
Quick Tip by . October 08, 2010
I enjoyed the book and the movie. An extremely creative look at time travel -- and the paradoxes involved.
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
Don't watch the movie ahh!
About the reviewer

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I first got on this blog to discuss my first passion which is books. Since I have gotten on I find that books are only a piece of this blog and I can discuss just about anything that comes to mind. It … more
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About this book


Timeline is a science fiction novel by Michael Crichton that was published in November 1999. It tells the story of historians who travel to the Middle Ages to save a friend of theirs who already traveled back in time before them. The book follows in Crichton's long history of combining technical details and action in his books, addressing quantum physics and time travel.

The novel spawned Timeline Computer Entertainment, a computer game developer that created the Timeline PC game published by Eidos Interactive in 2000. A movie called Timeline based on the book was released in 2003.

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