Timeline by Michael Crichton. Ballantine Books, 1999. Genre: Science-Fiction
Timeline is a novel that is first and foremost about ideas and science. The book focuses on ITC, a company in Arizona that is lead by Robert Doniger. Doniger a young, arrogant, but extremely intelligent individual. His company is funding the reconstruction of a monastery and castles in France, a project headed by Professor Edward Johnston. When a lawyer from ITC comes out to examine the project, they know information about the site the researchers do not. Johnston becomes suspicious and demands to go to ITC to speak with the head of the company. Johnston travels back in time and becomes stuck back in 1357 when he does not take the necessary device to return to the present. ITC convinces Johnston's three of Johnston's research team members to go back and save him. When they go back in time, they discover that the ancient world is a much more dangerous place then they thought, especially when their two guides are killed. They have the dilemma of having to save the professor and find a way to return back to present day.
"One of his best...[A] nonstop roller coaster of a novel." - Philadelphia Enquirer
I've read two other books by this author, Sphere and The Andromeda Strain, of these, Timeline is my least favorite. I don't know why, but Crichton seemed to not really have a good story. I never quite understood the motivations behind everyone's actions. The only character that was given a backstory was Doniger. Everyone else seemed kind of one-dimensional. One researcher, Marek, was extremely into the past. It was kind of strange until the end of the novel, where it was revealed that he actually chose to live in the past. Crichton's writing style is extremely brisk. He doesn't always bother to explain character motivation. The reader is not given a main character to focus on though, and that can be frustrating because all the characters end up feeling under-developed. If someone wants to read a book that has a lot of adventure (especially swordfighting) and is interested in science, I'd recommend they read this novel.
"Charging up the hill toward them were six horsemen in full armor: steel helmets, chain mail and cloth surcoats of maroon and gray. The horse were draped in black cloth studded wih silver. The effect was ominous. The lead rider, wearing a helmet with a black plume, pointed ahead and screamed, "Godin!" (195)
I would say that I am a fan of Crichton's writing, but sometimes it is hard to understand exactly what is going on in the story. I do think that Timeline is a thrilling book to read, but I wish the characters besides Doniger had been better developed. If I was going to recommend a Crichton book to someone, I'd still recommend The Andromeda Strain. That book had some better developed characters than Timeline. I wouldn't say I didn't like this novel, but it had some issues with plot development. Still, the book reviews showcased on the cover promise action and suspense and I would say Timeline definitely delivers on that promise.