(Knopf, First Edition, Hardcover, 1999, read: June 00)
"Michael Crichton's new novel opens on the threshold of the twenty-first century. It is a world of exploding advances on the frontiers of technology. Information moves instantly between two points, without wires or networks. Computers are built from single molecules. Any moment of the past can be actualized - and a group of historians can enter, literally, life in fourteenth-century feudal France.
Imagine the risks of such a journey.
Not since Jurassic Park has Michael Crichton given us such a magnificent adventure. Here, he combines a science of the future - the emerging field of quantum technology - with the complex realities of the medieval past. In a heart-stopping narrative, Timeline carries us into a realm of unexpected suspense and danger, overturning our most basic ideas of what is possible."
A group of archeology students finds a note from their professor who is gone missing for a few days. But the note can be dated back almost exactly to the 14th century. How did the professor get there? And how can he get back? The adventure of their life starts for three students when they travel back to the year 1357 with the help of quantum technology to rescue their professor and to get back to our century. And it wouldn't be a novel by Michael Crichton if it wasn't very close and had some unforseen events in the end.
The story is based on a technology which isn't available (yet ... but who knows what is in development in some dark laboratory right now somewhere in the world). Crichton has taken the status of this technology as it is known today as a basis and taken it one step further. Then it's only a small step until you reach time-travel. And especially the traveling into the late middle-ages as a time which we know not much about makes it exciting and new. A fascinating race against time which one can't lay down easily. Especially not on the last 50 pages.
As far as I'm concerned it's a pity that the concept of the time paradox (what happens if you go back in time, kill your own grandfather and consequently wouldn't be born) isn't elaborated further, even if the story would have provided enough opportunities. But maybe Crichton saves this for another novel.
[Dorothée Büttgen, Juni 00]
"That Michael Crichton doesn't elaborate on the time paradox is because of the fact that this is no time-travel but the journey into another universe (Multiverse Theory), but maybe he will one day publish a book on that topic." [Translation]
[The_Donkey@gmx.de, December 00]
(Harper Collins, First Edition, Hardcover, 2002, read: December 02)
"In the Nevada desert, an experiment has gone horribly wrong. A cloud of nanoparticles - microrobots - has escaped from the laboratory. This cloud is self-sustaining and self-reproducing. It is intelligent and learns from experience. For all practical purposes, it is alive.
It has been programmed as a predator. It is evolving swiftly, becoming more deadly with each passing hour. Every attempt to destroy it has failed. And we are the prey."
A man looses his job due to internal intrigues and stays at home to look after the kids. Instead of him his wife makes a career. That can't be successful. The career woman looses control over the ambitious nanotechnoloty-project and in a minute the hero leaves his kids with his sister and goes on to get the project back under control and save humanity.
Regarding the scientific background and the tension in this Crichton-thriller all wishes come true. A page-turner in the truest sense you can't lay down. A lot of techno-babble you don't have to understand completely but which sounds quite good and which is verified by numerous references. The threat due to microrobots who evolve into a self-aware intelligence sounds plausible (as seen in "Star Trek - The Next Generation" some years ago) and is absolutely thrilling.
What annoyed me the most in this story were the human relations. The scheme "Woman - career - bad" and "Husband - house husband - good" might be plausible for half of the population but I definitely don't belong to that group. The arguments are too cheap and the fact that the glorious hero has another woman at his side to fight the bad guys doesn't save the day. It only makes things a tiny little bit less nerv-wracking.
Sum-up: A solid science-fiction thriller which plays successfully with our fears of technology but regarding human relations it's from the stone-age.
[Dorothée Büttgen, January 03]