This one took me a bit longer to finish than Prey or Sphere, but that was mostly because of other things getting in the way. Busy getting Siege of Praetar ready for sale, traveling during the holidays, all that fun stuff. Finally getting on a plane for a four-hour ride was what I needed to really bury myself in the book.
The opening to the book is wonderfully cryptic.
Timeline is one of Crichton's later works; written in 1999, just a few years before his death. It shares similarities with other Crichton works: a secretive mega-corporation, an eccentric billionaire, A HELICOPTER, a team of experts on a mission to fix a problem. In Timeline a team of archaeologists is sent back in time to rescue their professor, who was also sent back to fix a problem.
The archaeologists visit 14th century France, where the 100 years war is raging. Upon arrival they're immediately attacked, and their transportation device destroyed. From that point on the remainder of the book is a ticking clock: they have 30-some hours to return, and each chapter shows this time. It creates a wonderful atmosphere for the reader, who really feels like time is passing with every turned page. It adds a fervency to the characters' actions.
Crichton's writing style is slightly different in this book compared to his others. He bounces around viewpoints often; most "mini chapters" are only one or two pages. There is no main character: you are in each character's head, simultaneously. This style fits well with the theme of the book, and the idea of jumping through time. It was surely intentional, and works.
Like most of his novels, the ending is both satisfying and leaves the reader with a few more questions. Interestingly enough, this novel differs in one way that most do not. In nearly every Crichton work, he includes a lengthy report at the end of the book explaining how the ideas behind the book are factual: in Jurassic Park he ensures the reader that genetic modification is possible, in Prey he confirms the feasibility of nanotechnology, in Next he explains the dangers of animal hybridization. But at the end of Timeline he reminds the reader that although quantum technology (the underlying core of the book's time travel) is possible, time travel is a fantasy and thus the book is a complete work of fiction. Obviously that's true, but it was jarring to hear (see?) it confirmed by Crichton nonetheless.
Great book, probably my favorite of his not named Jurassic Park. And speaking of that... my wonderful sister-in-law gifted it to me for Christmas. Yes, the Michael Crichton hype train continues.