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Four moon gifKnopf (Hardcover), ISBN 0679444815
Pack your plague pills, grab your broadsword and suspend your disbelief. Sure, the characters are shallow; sure, it's faux science; sure, it's another theme park. But it's also irresistible. Think Monty Python meets, not the Holy Grail, but quantum physics. 

Book: Michael Crichton, TimelineTravel back to 14th century southern France with medievalist André Marek, and archeology graduate students Katherine Erickson and Christopher Stewart Hughes on a mission to rescue their leader, professor Edward Johnston. The date -- April 7, 1357. The place -- the towns of Castelgard and La Roque, under the rule of Englishman Sir Oliver de Vannes. The circumstances -- the attack of Frenchman Arnaut de Cervole and troops. This quest to save Johnston interrupts the team's modern-day excavation of the area and remains of the period. 

High-tech International Technology Corporation (ITC) funds the French project. Bill Gates-ian billionaire entrepreneur and physics genius Robert Doniger created and runs this company devoted to quantum teleportation experiments. ITC's research opens a portal to the past via archeological research and more direct involvement. 

Forget H.G. Wells' time machine tradition. Our time continuum doesn't "save" the past. These moments disappear forever. A journey, however, needs a destination. The destination of the past, our past, exists in parallel universes outside our own. "Quantum foam" provides the passageway to the parallel universe. This irregular and foamy medium, a configuration of space/time at the subatomic level, enables "time" travelers to slip from universe to universe. 

So, set a ceramic disk for a certain place and date, enter a transport cage and off you go, shrinking, shrinking, shrinking until you disappear from our world. Then you grow, grow, grow and reappear life-sized in the parallel universe. Professor Johnston embarked on a trip following a visit to ITC in New Mexico, but he never came back -- hence the need for his students' search. 

The students land in 1357, twenty years into the Hundred Years' War between England and France over the former's claim to the French crown. Think Poitiers, Shakespeare's Henry V at Agincourt, Joan of Arc, and a lot of arrows, broadswords, catapults and boiling oil. This state of war provoked Frenchmen, like Arnaut, to attack English-held towns and castles. 

Of course, the student's "simple" mission immediately turns into an adventure. Anything that can go wrong does, with devastating consequences -- both in the present and the past. Our intrepid travelers engage in a "Keystone Kops" routine with the medieval personages. Get caught, escape, get caught, escape, etc. Increasing the tension, our merry band as well as the folks at ITC must contend with -- guess what? -- a time limit! If you don't beat the clock, you don't go home! 

Crichton spins a good yarn, although he throws in unnecessary characters and scenes. The dig section drags. As usual, characters lecture the reader on scientific and historical issues. Crichton, however, follows the "Prime Directive." ITC prohibits taking modern devices, including weapons, back in time. 

So, sit back and enjoy the romp. Envision the members of Monty Python playing the main medieval characters. (It works!) Scientific and historical accuracy? Hey, Crichton writes fiction! Just go with the flow of cutting edge science meets cutting edge broadswords. And don't forget -- theme park

Lynn I. Miller

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Readers Respond:

I have just finished the Michael Crichton book Timeline, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I spent most of the time reading it in the bath so I am very clean now. I bought the book for my mother, and she gave me it after she had finished it, and we both loved it. How about a follow up, with Marek's life after everyone left?

Ewan

What I found best about Timeline was the way Crichton made me want to know more about both quantum physics and the Middle Ages. From the very beginning, he engages the reader in a quest for knowledge. Though we know he is taking us down a fictional path, another part of the brain is screaming to know more about science behind the concept. He explains things, much like he did in Jurassic Park, in a manner that allows us to suspend what we know, and go along for the ride without screaming, "Not!" That being said -- the reference to site mitigation in terms of "a precise square, twenty feet on a side, going down to a depth of ten feet," bothered the archaeologist in me who knows all sites are dug using the metric system.

The little annoyances such as: not enough of professor Johnson, the spare cast of characters, the final scene with Doniger, and metrics were not enough for me to give this book any less a rating than excellent. It was fast-paced and compelling, the main characters were quite well developed, and the descriptions were superlative. I loved the way modern commercialism was brought in and the portrayal of the youthful billionaire without a soul -- though that might be getting cliché. Still, I hope they complete the gate-ish aspect of the character by casting a spectacled Anthony Michael Hall as Doniger.

Roxanna

I did think the beginning was dragging; and the introduction of so many characters (most of which were useless) was sort of turning me off. I got to say though, that as soon as our hero's went back in time I was hooked! I could not put the book down after that. I fell in love with Marek.

The book did have the feel of a movie script. T he beginning, especially, seemed to me like the beginning of an Indiana Jones movie. I could imagine reading the opening credits as I read the story. All in all, it was a fun ride and I read the beginning again as soon as I finished the book.

Diana

This book rocks!

I liked Marek since he is, as I am, interested in the Middle Ages. The author is amazing for I never read his books.

Anna Jutes

Michael Crichton's book Timeline was extraordinary and compelling. The way he incorporated historical authenticity into the book was far more than I have ever seen or read before. This interesting portrayal of medieval times was one that I had not really ever thought of. It inspires me to want to read more of the past and the future that lies ahead of us.

Greg Fries