Michael Crichton,
Timeline
(Ballantine, 1999)

It's very rarely that a book attempts to combine both elements of science fiction and medievalism, and one would be predisposed to think the idea somewhat foolish. However, Michael Crichton has done just that in his latest novel, Timeline, and his results are none too shabby.

Crichton is a master of catching a reader's attention. If this wasn't made obvious in some of his prior notable stories (Jurassic Park, Eaters Of The Dead, Sphere), then it should definitely be obvious after this book. From the very onset of the story I found myself enthralled in the events and characters, eager to see what would happen next.

Of course, I did find a small portion of the story to be a bit slow-paced. There are easily more than a 100 pages before any real swords-and-guts action begins for the group that obviously becomes the protagonists. This is not necessarily a bad thing because even during this lull of straight-forward action there is a great deal going on and the story never becomes boring.

Crichton has the ability to explain complex theory in a way that is interesting and thought-provoking. I would have never tried to grasp the fundamentals of quantum theory on my own, but Timeline manages to present it all in a fairly easy (or at least as easy as quantum physics gets) manner. I found the theories expressed to be highly intriguing and went so far as to do my own research after finishing the novel. I've never come across such an ingenious concept for time travel. Crichton even managed to eliminate the problem of paradox normally associated with stories such as these.

This story primarily revolves around a small group of scientists who are all specialists in various areas of 14th-century history. They are trying to rebuild two ancient castles at an archeological site in France. The company funding the research suddenly decides it wants more immediate results in the restoration, and the lead man on the restoration site vanishes during an attempt to find out why the research and rebuilding are suddenly being pushed along. His colleagues, worried at his lengthy absence, soon find themselves on a much grander adventure than they ever anticipated.

The whole story is wonderful, though somewhat predictable in places. Most people will have figured out the ending long before they reach it, but that takes nothing away from the way the story is told. Crichton has a magical way with weaving tales, a way of putting the images directly into your mind and making you really live them, and Timeline is one of his best examples of that to date. You will always feel wrapped up in what the characters are feeling and doing.

Timeline manages to be a story for just about everyone. Of course, it will take a slightly more mature reader to fully comprehend the slimmed down quantum physics explanation, but you don't need to really understand how they time travel to understand the plot. This story has everything from futuristic supercomputers to medieval jousting, and it does this all without coming off as ridiculous. Fans of Crichton will adore this book, and even those who have never picked up a Crichton story before won't be able to avoid liking it. Timeline is definitely a piece of highly recommended reading.

[ by Heath Talowin Pfaff ]



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