By Michael Crichton
Iíve never been terribly impressed with
Michael Crichton. He writes excellent action and adventure scenes, but his
characters always seem flat and one-dimensional, never doing much more
than dodging raging dinosaurs or white gorillas. Not surprisingly, what I
feel is his best novel to date, Disclosure, lacks the
heart-pounding action and delves more into conflicts between characters,
which I found much more compelling.
Alfred A. Knopf, 444 pp, 1999
I had high hopes for Timeline, a
weighty book that had drawn good reviews from the few publications I take
book reviews seriously. Unfortunately, it lacks the depth of character of Disclosure
but still packs a good punch.
International Technology Corporation,
ITC, headed by the brilliant but abrasive Robert Doniger, has invented a
new method of time travel based on quantum technology. Like in most of
Crichtonís books, the company merely wishes to profit from this and will
do anything, even break the law, to do so. Why is it that, in Crichtonís
world, only greedy, unethical companies headed by greedy, unethical white
men like Doniger come up with the best stuff?
Anyway, ITC has a problem: Edward
Johnston, Regius Professor of History at Yale, is trapped in 1357 France.
Doniger needs to bring him back, but only to avoid a public relations
nightmare. ITC invites four of Johnstonís graduate students to travel
back in time to get him.
That about sums up the plot. Crichton
sprinkles it with his usual scientific jargon and high-tech toys, though
to his credit he does make it understandable to the non-scientific reader.
The bookís action doesnít really get going until the four students
show up in 1357 France, and itís fairly relentless until the end,
although I was beginning to wonder how many times the students can fall
off a ledge or slide down a mountain into a river. Toward the end, the
book actually grew somewhat tedious.
Crichton fans will no doubt enjoy Timeline,
and even though I have criticized it, I enjoyed it myself. Itís fairly
simple and transparent, but should make a good movie, which more and more
seems like Crichtonís true goal.