In my list of books I’ve read more than three times I mentioned Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. While I’ve read JP more than 3 times, I’ve read Timeline at least as much and I like it better. It should have been my representative Crichton book.
Why do I like Timeline? I’ve mentioned before that I have a thing for time travel, and this book is about time travel in all its glory. It is one of the first books that I read about time travel that highlighted the dangerous aspects of that activity. It captures really well the serious culture shock that someone going through a time-shift would encounter. There’s loads and loads of stuff we don’t know about the past. We’ve very little clue at all really about how most of the world lived most of the time.
In this book of Crichton’s the main characters go back to rescue other people who are stuck in the past. The characters who go back find themselves in a war zone where they don’t speak the language well and have some severe culture shock. They are familiar with the area and time, because they work as archeologists and go into the past of their current excavation. The usual time travel discussion about changing history (is it possible?) is in the book, but with a very different twist. I really like this book because of the strong sense of place — the time-travellers know the area and see it at two different times, so are always thinking about where they are and how what they see in the past relates to how they know the place in a different time. Because they’ve studied the past, they think they can survive, but these experts find themselves in the middle of a really big learning experience, and the learning curve is pretty steep.
In a way Jurassic Park does a similar thing. A bunch of scientists think they have control of a situation, but it goes completely out of control, and suddenly the experts are in danger and are busy learning about things they thought they had down. Jurassic Park also attempts to connect the world now with the past in a realistic way, only instead of us going to the past, the past comes to us.
In both books Crichton has a tendency to lecture through characters speeches. I think he does this a little more frequently in JP than in Timeline. I’m not sure his science or math is totally up to speed, but I’m not up to speed on that math or science either really, so cannot say any more than I find it a bit fuzzy. But these are good books. They do near-future science fiction rather well. Margaret Atwood would probably call these speculative fiction, but they are both about science and the future, so science fiction will do for me.