Sunday, August 08, 2010

Book Review: Timeline, by Michael Crichton

Del Rey, Ballantine Books, New York, 1999, 496 pages.

For the moment, we'll dispense with the horrible film that most will be thinking of and just discuss the novel.

The late Mr. Crichton is known for his smashing-success-books-turned-Hollywood-films, especially Jurassic Park (something of a travesty in and of itself, particularly the film). While I often find the overarching ideas in Crichton's stories to be ridiculous (albeit judging with what little I've read of him), I can't deny that he has knack for convincing details, from computers and medical jargon, to science and corporate intrigue.

Timeline is no different...for the most part.

A quick plot summary: medieval archaeologists excavating in France are funded by the shady company ITC, led by genius Robert Doniger. Mysterious events lead to the team of researchers realizing that their Professor, Edward Johnston, has gone missing, and ITC apparently knows why and/or how. What they find is that ITC's Doniger has developed a method of "time travel" and the Professor is stuck back at their exact dig site in France, but in the year 1357. Egad! The team (with protagonists Chris, Kate, and Marek) goes back themselves to find their professor...and, of course, they become entwined in the turmoil of said time, and all readers may be assured, they will be lucky to escape with their lives.

The beginning of the book was great. I truly cannot speak about the historical accuracy of the book (archaeologically or historically), but just from the standpoint of the archaeology, the beginnings of the story, and the uber-manly Marek (Who is obsessed with all things medieval--he knows archery, jousting, and takes broadsword lessons. What more can you want?), I quite enjoyed this portion of the book. However....

The moment we get to the point where the gang climbs aboard the jet to take them to ITC headquarters (wherein they will be taken to 1357 France to, in theory, find Professor Johnston), the book falls apart.

After this, I can't describe the book very accurately unless I say it was something of a muddled mess. A long string of close calls, rapid and sometimes confusing scenes, and wooden characters who barely respond to the insanity of all that is presented before them. It really was a mess. We're over here, running from these soldiers, we can't upset this butcherous and possibly bipolar Lord, and--oh no!--now we're being chased by this crazy knight, and--oh, look out!--the roof ends here, we will fall off--oh no again, where is our comrade?...

[WARNING! SPOILERS!] And the science! Let's not even go there.... I may not be learned in physics, but there's something plain offensive about the idea of a "multiverse." Yes, it isn't true "time travel", but instead, we have the idea that an endless number of parallel universes exist (most so close that the differences are mostly imperceptible), and apparently there is one running currently that is also 1357 France.

You have got to be kidding me. Really? No.*

[WARNING! SEXUAL CONTENT DISCUSSED, ADULTS ONLY!] For our ethics, we have limited sex (mostly speech, although the main characters hear a squeaking bed in an adjacent room at one point, and find a Lady who had--ahem--been with a clergyman), and language that is fairly normal nowadays but still a bit profane.

So, what was the point of this book? You can read the beginning, for the fun of medieval archaeology and the epic character Marek (SPOILER--who, much later in the book, almost dies for a woman--he believed himself to be giving his life for her at the time). Not a bit beyond that!

I'm sorry, but this was silly. This was stupid.

I expected better from Michael Crichton.


P.S. Well, hey, it did have a bibliography at least!

*To be fair, though, this is a real "theory" in physics, although it basically goes against everything Christianity stands for.


olde.fashioned said...

LOL, someone told me the best part about the book was Marek, who was even better than Movie!Marek. ;-P Looks like they were right?

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