A swashbuckling adventure that spans the ages
Review by Jim Argendeli
(CNN) -- Michael Crichton has always had the storyteller's ability not to repeat himself as he jumps from novel to novel, from an extraterrestrial microbe threatening human life ("The Andromeda Strain") to a dinosaur amusement park gone amuck ("Jurassic Park"); from a modern twist on the traditional sexual harassment case ("Disclosure") to an investigation into a near air disaster ("Airframe"). With his new adventure novel, titled "Timeline," Crichton keeps the twists and turns going.
If you have not heard by now, "Timeline" concerns, as one character puts it, "the use of quantum technology to manipulate an orthogonal multiverse coordinate change."
Lets just say: Time travel.
"Timeline" starts off with the classic Twilight Zone mystery of a couple driving through an Arizona desert and almost running down a man who appears out of nowhere. After getting the mysterious rhyme-speaking stranger to a hospital, we find out he is a physicist working for the ITC Corporation.
As the story unfold we learn that ITC has developed a method to cause the aforementioned coordinate change -- yes, time travel. But since this is a Michael Crichton novel, the technology is not quite a perfected science.
The mystery deepens as historians, working in modern-day France at an archaeological dig (financed by ITC) come across -- on parchment dated 600 years earlier in medieval France -- a written plea for help in their mentor's handwriting. The three young historians then set off on an adventure which literally spans the ages to rescue their stranded friend and, hopefully, return to the present. If I tell you any more, I should be boiled in oil and publicly flogged.
Crichton has been criticized in the past for creating high concept, non-character driven stories. While that may be a somewhat valid criticism ... so what? In "Timeline" the concept works wonderfully. This is an adventure novel with treacheries and alliances which may not be what they seem. The villains -- both medieval and modern -- spit out their dialogue like the fire from a dragon, and the heroes are quick to rescue a damsel in distress.
Obviously, Crichton has done his research in the science of quantum technology and he brings alive the world of medieval France, including jousting, secret passages and the siege of a castle. I finished the novel wishing I could go back in time to enjoy it all over again.
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