Reader reviews and comments on Timeline, plus links to write your own review.

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Timeline

by Michael Crichton

Timeline by Michael Crichton
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  • First Published:
    Nov 1999, 449 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2000, 512 pages

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There are currently 33 reader reviews for Timeline
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Susan

Did he get permission to release this information?
Wow! This is probably the best book I have ever read! I believe he is telling us what the government already knows while keeping it in a fictional setting. He uses real scientific theory and hypotheses, and applies it to real events in our history. This is the most non-fictional made up story I've ever seen, and it's beyond belief (almost)!
tony seok

this book is excellent! fantastic story!
Michelle

Like all of Crichton's novels, Timeline was full of random information and had fully developed and well-thought out plot. I never cease to be impressed with Crichton's vast stores of knowledge. Doing research for fiction has definitely paid off to give the stories firm and believeable foundations (however fictional). Also, Crichton's character developement is excellent. Definitely a must-read.
brittany

really good book. as said on cover "more screams per page... than Jurassic Park and The Lost World combined." i'd recommend it to anyone.
drew

Incredibly imaginative and action packed; pretty gruesome actually but it makes it much more believable and realistic. Overall an awesome read, one of Crichton's best.
jason willoughby

great book
jam

this book just plain rocked
Bobtheripper

Timeline is a well-written, highly suspenseful, action-oriented science thriller. The plot is well thought out and tightly woven, and the scientific premise is fascinating and extremely well-researched. The presentation of detail, both scientific and historical is expertly done. The technological innovation of the time travel (alternative universes through quantum foam) is unique and convincing.

What makes it work for me is the grand scale of it all. Crichton sets up big stakes. The person travelling is vaporized by lasers, then "faxed" through tiny wormholes into another potential universe of which there are an infinite number. The author shows us a big underground complex, fabulous cyclotron-scale machinery and a compelling demonstration of the technology. This is big science involving huge risks; it is grand in scope and the details seem right. We want to suspend disbelief for time travel because time travel has reached a mythological status in our society. Who wouldn't want to travel back in time? It's a secret fantasy for many of us.

Note: this was also true for Jurassic Park. We wanted to believe that it was possible to bring dinosaurs back to life, out of extinction. Dinosaurs are grand and fantastical; anyone would want to see one. Our desire to have it be true is part of why we go along with the leaps of technology in Jurassic Park. The same is true in Timeline.

In addition to the science being appropriate, Crichton's historical context feels real. The Medieval characters speak and act in a way which while not expected, feels right on the mark. I am not an expert in the French Middle Ages, but sense authenticity in this book.

Also, I couldn't put this book down. The chapter breaks were predominately cliff-hangers and the pacing was fast and furious. Crichton sets up a "ticking clock" time table and puts it out front where all can see, and where we can worry about it. It's a tried and true tactic and it works very well here.

And lastly, the thematic elements are strong, convincing and arise neatly out of the story without being dictated to the reader. I draw attention to this here because the successful handling of theme is something which cannot be accomplished without adequate handling of plot and character. And even so, it is not an easy thing to do well. It is done well here.

Nevertheless, with all that said, I believe that Timeline could be improved. First of all, there are too many characters. While Crichton does a fair job of keeping track of them all, with so many major characters, the reader doesn't have time to become emotionally involved in any of them.

The major protagonists are Marek, Chris, and Kate. Professor Johnstone and Stern are minor protagonists. The major antagonist is Doniger (in the present), but there are a series of characters in the past who provide the main threat (Sir Guy Malegant, De Kere, Oliver).

The book would benefit from trimming one or two of the protagonists, or pushing one of them into the role of a minor character. The most memorable protagonist is Marek. He is unique, likeable, and he always acts up to his potential (which is considerable). Marek has all the ingredients of a perfect thriller protagonist.

I would suggest making him the primary protagonist and diminishing the role of Chris or Kate. Chris was my least favorite character, mainly because he is so ordinary. Therefore, I wouldn't mind seeing his role lessened. Kate was nicely drawn and would make a good alternative main protagonist. These suggestions, as always, are merely that; the role of a good book doctor is to analyze and suggest, then let the writer do whatever he or she feels is right for the book.

I believe that focusing on Marek would of necessity expand his character. It would put him "on stage" more, and we would get a better insight into him. We would get more emotionally involved in his dilemma. We could see more character growth this way, and there would be a defined character arc which is lacking in the book (with the exception of Chris's character). More on character arc below.

Another problem I had with this book was the intense action all the way through. Intense action is great, and here it is handled well. However, the pace never lessens. There is no sense of rhythm, no time to catch your breath. The action scenes lose their power when put between two equally intense scenes because we have grown insensitive by overexposure.

Also, many of the scenes are rushed. The setting details are often brushed over so that the pacing isn't slowed. I found much of the detail which Crichton did include fascinating; it enriched the story for me. Including more setting in certain, carefully-chosen scenes would serve to slow the pacing a bit too. This would enhance the experience of the story.

I would suggest the author examine the scenes one by one to look at pacing. Character development and setting are two things which slow the pace, and this novel could use a bit more of both.

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