TIMELINE by Michael Crichton was my last read by him. I’ve started this book several times and I have no idea why I never finished it.
TIMELINE starts out in the New Mexico desert. A wealthy couple is driving to a remote New Mexico town to purchase a Navajo weaving when an elderly man appears out of nowhere. There’s a thump and the wife thinks they hit the man even though the husband can see him still standing beside the road. They turn around to check on him and then take him to the nearest hospital where the old man, dressed in an odd robe over modern clothes dies.
Crichton then weaves in some back story on key players, including an ex-military man named Gordon, a carefully groomed corporate lawyer named Kramer and a scheming corporate owner named Doniger. There is also the obligatory group of dedicated, selfless scientists who are more interested in pursuing the truth than fame and glory.
Sound familiar? Yes, the characters bear some resemblance to Jurassic Park, Lost World and Congo.
What is amazing to me is that Crichton carved out a niche for himself writing techno-thrillers that may seem formulaic, but the reader completely forgets that when they get pulled into his world.
Having researched quite a bit about ancient, Celtic and Medieval history for both pleasure and as background for my own books, I was pleasantly surprised that Crichton was so fastidious in building his medieval world. When you look at the five pages of bibliography, it’s easy to see why his details, both scientific and historical are so well written. He put a tremendous amount of time and effort into this work.
For a lesser author, this could have turned into a bone-dry lecture instead of a rousing adventure. Crichton wrote the technical aspects of the story so well, I almost felt like he had been in a New Mexico laboratory taking notes.
The real adventure begins when ITC, Doniger’s company that is supporting interesting archeological digs around the world, pulls in a team from France to show them what they are actually doing…time travel.
The team goes back to 1357 to rescue their leader who was sent back in time to prove the technology and the means for enhanced research of history. Unfortunately, Professor Johnson is trapped in time and the team, or at least most of them, go back to rescue him.
The world-building is wonderful. I felt like taking notes because he made it so real. If I had one complaint, it would be that one of the members goes from being a klutzy computer nerd to an accomplished and self-confident fighter in a matter of days. That was a bit of a stretch, but not enough that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the story.
I highly recommend this book. The book is definitely better than the movie was.