4.3 767
by Michael Crichton

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In an Arizona desert a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within twenty-four hours he is dead, his body swiftly cremated by his known associates. Halfway around the world archaeologists make a shocking discovery at a medieval site. Suddenly they are swept off to the headquarters of a secretive multinational corporation that has developed

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In an Arizona desert a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within twenty-four hours he is dead, his body swiftly cremated by his known associates. Halfway around the world archaeologists make a shocking discovery at a medieval site. Suddenly they are swept off to the headquarters of a secretive multinational corporation that has developed an astounding technology. Now this group is about to get a chance not to study the past but to enter it. And with history opened to the present, the dead awakened to the living, these men and women will soon find themselves fighting for their very survival - six hundred years ago…

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
With the exception of The Lost World, his disappointing sequel to Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton has never stepped into the same river twice. In the 30 years since his first bestseller, The Andromeda Strain, was published, he has written with authority and passion on subjects as varied as airline safety, Norse mythology, alien contact, Victorian train robbers, Japanese business practices, and sexual politics in corporate America. It should come as no surprise, then, that his latest novel, Timeline, is a radical departure from all that has gone before it, and is "typical" only in its characteristic commingling of high-powered narrative and technical expertise.

The technological starting point for Timeline is the emerging science of quantum mechanics, a field of study so abstruse, so "nonintuitive" that, in Richard Feynman’s words, "nobody understands [it]." Crichton, of course, has never been one to allow complex technologies intimidate him, and quantum theory provides him with the speculative basis for Timeline's central conceit: That we live, not in a finite universe, but in a "multiverse" composed of an infinite, constantly expanding series of parallel universes in which all past moments continue to exist. Crichton then posits an imaginary technology that uses quantum computers that are literally capable of "faxing" human beings to selected target areas of the multiverse. The result is a kind of de facto time travel, a phenomenon around which Crichton constructs an exciting -- and ingenious -- story.

In the opening pages, Crichton introduces us to two of Timeline’s primary players. One is Edward Johnston, historian, Yale professor, and leader of a team that is exploring a medieval ruin known as Castelgard, a French fortress town that was burned to the ground during the Hundred Years War between England and France. The other player is Robert Doniger, petulant genius and CEO of a high-tech research firm called ITC. ITC is the silent, unacknowledged leader in the field of quantum mechanics. For hidden reasons of its own, it also provides the funding for a number of historical research efforts, one of which is the Castelgard project.

Trouble begins when Johnston becomes privy to Robert Doniger's most closely held secret: the quantum transmitter. At Doniger's invitation, Johnson makes use of the transmitter, which allows him to travel to 14th-century France, and to experience the world of medieval Europe firsthand. When Johnston, for unknown reasons, fails to return, Doniger persuades three of his graduate assistants -- an architect, a medievalist, and a scientific historian -- to travel back in time, locate the professor, and bring him safely home. Nothing, of course, comes off according to plan.

Within minutes of their arrival at Castelgard, the students -- who are accompanied by "professional" field guides -- are attacked, separated, and very nearly killed. Their dramatic arrival marks the opening movement of an energetic, furiously paced melodrama. Having rigorously established the novel's technological premises, Crichton the scientist now gives way to Crichton the storyteller, and he subjects his characters to a relentless series of battles, betrayals, cliff-hanger conclusions, and hairbreadth escapes. Faced with a mission that must be completed within 37 hours (after which their escape route back to the present is effectively closed), the three time travelers struggle to survive within the harsh realities of a culture that is both familiar and strange, while crises accumulate at both ends of the timeline, and the quantum clock ticks steadily down to zero.

It's all hugely enjoyable and should have Crichton's many readers beating a path to their local bookstores. As is usually the case with Crichton’s fiction, half the fun comes from the sheer range of the author's knowledge, and from the ease with which that knowledge is integrated into the story. During the course of Timeline, we are treated to quick, authoritative discussions on a host of subjects, including: the history and theory of quantum mechanics, the politics of the Hundred Years War, the science of graphology, the economics of the feudal system, the evolution of gunpowder, the proper techniques for riding, climbing, and jousting, and the medieval origins of tennis. Education should always be this painless.

All in all, Timeline strikes me as Crichton’s most effective novel since Rising Sun. Despite the complexity of its scientific underpinnings, it is essentially a story of action and adventure, and it wears its learning lightly. Like the best of Crichton’s earlier fiction, Timeline is intelligent, informative, and a great deal of fun. It is also, if you'll pardon the expression, a quantum leap above most bestselling fiction, and is one of the more substantial entertainments you are likely to encounter in these waning weeks of the millennium.

—Bill Sheehan

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.19(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.11(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

They had arranged to have dinner in the old town square of Domme, a village on top of a cliff a few miles from their site. By nightfall, Chris, grumpy all day, had recovered from his bad mood and was looking forward to dinner. He wondered if Marek had heard from the Professor, and if not, what they were going to do about it. He had a sense of expectancy.

His good mood vanished when he arrived to find the stockbroker couples again, sitting at their table. Apparently they'd been invited for a second night. Chris was about to turn around and leave, but Kate got up and quickly put her arm around his waist, and steered him toward the table.

"I'd rather not," he said in a low voice. "I can't stand these people." But then she gave him a little hug, and eased him into a chair. He saw that the stockbrokers must be buying the wine tonight -- Château Lafite-Rothschild '95, easily two thousand francs a bottle.

And he thought, What the hell.

"Well, this is a charming town," one of the women was saying. "We went and saw the walls around the outside. They go on for quite a distance. High, too. And that very pretty gate coming into town, you know, with the two round towers on either side."

Kate nodded. "It's sort of ironic," she said, "that a lot of the villages that we find so charming now were actually the shopping malls of the fourteenth century."

"Shopping malls? How do you mean?" the woman asked.

At that moment, Marek's radio, clipped to his belt, crackled with static.

"André? Are you there?"

It was Elsie. She never came to dinner with the others,but worked late on her cataloging. Marek held up the radio. "Yes, Elsie."

"I just found something very weird, here."

"Yes. . . ."

"Would you ask David to come over? I need his help testing. But I'm telling you guys -- if this is a joke, I don't appreciate it."

With a click, the radio went dead.


No answer.

Marek looked around the table. "Anybody play a joke on her?"

They all shook their heads no.

Chris Hughes said, "Maybe she's cracking up. It wouldn't surprise me, all those hours staring at parchment."

"I'll see what she wants," David Stern said, getting up from the table. He headed off into the darkness.

Chris thought of going with him, but Kate looked at him quickly, and gave him a smile. So he eased back in his seat and reached for his wine.

"You were saying -- these towns were like shopping malls?"

"A lot of them were, yes," Kate Erickson said. "These towns were speculative ventures to make money for land developers. Just like shopping malls today. And like malls, they were all built on a similar pattern."

She turned in her chair and pointed to the Domme town square behind them. "See the covered wooden market in the center of the town square? You'll find similar covered markets in lots of towns around here. It means the town is a bastide, a new, fortified village. Nearly a thousand bastide towns were built in France during the fourteenth century. Some of them were built to hold territory. But many of them were built simply to make money."

That got the attention of the stock pickers.

One of the men looked up sharply and said, "Wait a minute. How does building a village make anybody money?"

Kate smiled. "Fourteenth-century economics," she said. "It worked like this. Let's say you're a nobleman who owns a lot of land. Fourteenth-century France is mostly forest, which means that your land is mostly forest, inhabited by wolves. Maybe you have a few farmers here and there who pay you some measly rents. But that's no way to get rich. And because you're a nobleman, you're always desperately in need of money, to fight wars and to entertain in the lavish style that's expected of you.

"So what can you do to increase the income from your lands? You build a new town. You attract people to live in your new town by offering them special tax breaks, special liberties spelled out in the town charter. Basically, you free the townspeople from feudal obligations."

"Why do you give them these breaks?" one of the men said.

"Because pretty soon you'll have merchants and markets in the town, and the taxes and fees generate much more money for you. You charge for everything. For the use of the road to come to the town. For the right to enter the town walls. For the right to set up a stall in the market. For the cost of soldiers to keep order. For providing moneylenders to the market."

"Not bad," one of the men said.

"Not bad at all. And in addition, you take a percentage of everything that's sold in the market."

"Really? What percentage?"

"It depended on the place, and the particular merchandise. In general, one to five percent. So the market is really the reason for the town. You can see it clearly, in the way the town is laid out. Look at the church over there," she said, pointing off to the side. "In earlier centuries, the church was the center of the town. People went to Mass at least once a day. All life revolved around the church. But here in Domme, the church is off to one side. The market is now the center of town."

"So all the money comes from the market?"

"Not entirely, because the fortified town offers protection for the area, which means farmers will clear the nearby land and start new farms. So you increase your farming rents, as well. All in all, a new town was a reliable investment. Which is why so many of these towns were built."

"Is that the only reason the towns were built?"

"No, many were built for military considerations as -- "

Marek's radio crackled. It was Elsie again. "André?"

"Yes," Marek said.

"You better get over here right away. Because I don't know how to handle this."

"Why? What is it?"

"Just come. Now."

The generator chugged loudly, and the farmhouse seemed brilliantly lit in the dark field, under a sky of stars.

They all crowded into the farmhouse. Elsie was sitting at her desk in the center, staring at them. Her eyes seemed distant.


"It's impossible," she said.

"What's impossible? What happened here?"

Marek looked over at David Stern, but he was still working at some analysis in the corner of the room.

Elsie sighed. "I don't know, I don't know. . . ."

"Well," Marek said, "start at the beginning."

"Okay," she said. "The beginning." She stood up and crossed the room, where she pointed to a stack of parchments resting on a piece of plastic tarp on the floor. "This is the beginning. The document bundle I designated M-031, dug up from the monastery earlier today. David asked me to do it as soon as possible."

Nobody said anything. They just watched her.

"Okay," she said. "I've been going through the bundle. This is how I do it. I take about ten parchments at a time and bring them over here to my desk." She brought ten over. "Now, I sit down at the desk, and I go through them, one by one. Then, after I've summarized the contents of one sheet, and entered the summary into the computer, I take the sheet to be photographed, over here." She went to the next table, slipped a parchment under the camera.

Marek said, "We're familiar with -- "

"No, you're not," she said sharply. "You're not familiar at all." Elsie went back to her table, took the next parchment off the stack. "Okay. So I go through them one by one. This particular stack consists of all kinds of documents: bills, copies of letters, replies to orders from the bishop, records of crop yields, lists of monastery assets. All dating from about the year 1357."

She took the parchments from the stack, one after the other.

"And then" -- she removed the last one -- "I see this."

They stared.

Nobody said anything.

The parchment was identical in size to the others in the stack, but instead of dense writing in Latin or Old French, this one had only two words, scrawled in plain English:



"In case you're wondering," she said, "that's the Professor's handwriting."

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Timeline 4.3 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 767 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Timeline by Michael Crichton is an extremely captivating book. The characters in the book are architects digging up a fourteenth century castle sponsored by the science lab. Little do they know the science lab has created a way to travel back in time, until one of the professors goes back in time, disobeying the scientists and doesn't come back to the present time. The scientists call upon a small group of the architects to go back in time and retrieve him, but they only have thirty seven hours. What they thought would be a quick and easy trip turns into a lot more than just that once they get there. They quickly become wanted dead by everyone, which is not a very good thing during a time of war and havoc where no one can be trusted. Follow them on their many near death experiences on their quest to find their friend and escape to a secluded place to go back home before time runs out. Will they all make it back alive? I found this book extremely difficult to put down, being that the characters run into one near death experience after another, escaping being captured. The author does a wonderful job of writing form each characters point of view, which gives you a very good insight on what is happening in the book. Timeline is a must read.
Dauphinais More than 1 year ago
If you have seen the movie "Timeline" and enjoyed it, then you will love this book. It is definetly one of the best books that I have ever read. I could not put this book down the whole time that I read it. The story is about a group of scientists that go back to the fourteenth century to save their professor. All you have to do is pick this book up and read the first page and you will be sucked in!
freedombill More than 1 year ago
If you can get past the first 50 pages then your off to a great adventure. A book you just can't put down. Loved the ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have recently read the book Timeline by Michael Crichton and I, personally, enjoyed this book very much. It was a perfect combination of science and action adventure; this book was an absolute delight that had me hanging on every chapter. Mr. Crichton really understands how to write a novel that both entertains and informs you on the complex subject of quantum physics though three very complex characters: Marek, Chris, and Kate. Every character that Michael Crichton puts into this book has a specific, personal meaning for the plotline that foreshadows the eventually future. It had a topic in the book that anyone can find an interest in and will have no problem reading this book after a long day. After reading this book I now have a better grasp on how our universe works and how 14th century Europe functions. I would rate this book 5 out of 5 on all categories and would recommend this book for anyone from a basic reader, to an advanced rocket scientist. Michael Crichton really reached out to all age groups in this novel and made a book that should soon become a classic for all to read. This book really stands out from all others with its complex plot’s twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing. I would recommend anyone to read this book, just flat out brilliant. (HPS, P.5)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Timeline, written by Michael Crichton, not only sends readers on an adventure that involves multiple time periods and settings, but also makes readers feel as if they are developing an understanding for the complicated, far-fetched science that is present throughout the novel. The story is an enjoyable escape from reality during the action scenes that keep readers on the edge of their seats and also requires a great deal of scientific reasoning. This combination of exhilaration and intellect kept me hooked from their first journey through time.
The shift between the 21st century at a technology corporation¿s headquarters and 15th century France forces the reader to be attentive at all times. I found myself in a constant mental dispute over which time period was being described. Though confusing at times, I enjoyed the slight uncertainty because the answers were portrayed through a large amount of dialogue rather than simply pages of boring narration or description. The different settings also provide a way to bring different elements of literature to life. While medieval France is extremely volatile and chaotic, the headquarters of International Technology Corporation stress a seriousness of purpose and a high level of intelligence. Using both of these time periods, Michael Crichton is able to tell a story simultaneously involving suspense, thrill, and deep thought.
The constant description of quantum mechanics and its propinquity to time travel is what interested me most about this novel. Crichton uses dialogue concerning this concept in a way that makes it sound legitimate and feasible. The man responsible for this innovation and many others at ITC, Robert Doniger, is the most intriguing character in the book. Crichton portrays this character as a genius, unethical, affluent jerk. His motivational speeches to employees and rebuttals to criticism show the magnitude of his intelligence and the flare of his character. His conversations about quantum mechanics, though covered with profanity and vulgarities, will have readers believing they are more intelligent than they actually are.
I would highly recommend experiencing all that comes with reading Timeline. It is one of the very few books that I have had a tough time putting down. For those who find difficulty in reading for the sheer beauty of literature, with whom I am able to sympathize, the novel is kept interesting through the use of profanity, occasional humor, and a particularly descriptive, sexually suggestive scene. If that is not enough and nothing else is gained from reading this novel, the reader will be able impress his or her friends by touching on quantum mechanics in a conversation and acting like they know what they are talking about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book 5 times. It is that good. I normally donate my books to the public library, but they will not be getting this one anytime soon. Also, Pirates Latitude is just as good and hard to put down as Timeline..I just can't believe MC is gone, seems all the good writers leave us. I got a NOOK for my Bday so I will be adding this one to my read list.
summer6195 More than 1 year ago
Timeline by Michael Crichton is an breath taking book. It is set in modern time period, but takes you on the journey to 14th century. The novel focuses on four archeologist who takes this journey back to 14th century. In the novel that say that time travel is not possible because the past isn't a location. But a company named ITC has developed a technology which is a form of a space travel. ITC uses Quantum technology to manipulate an orthogonal multiverse coordinate change. This technology works like a 3D fax machine which can literally fax a 3d object even human form one place to another, form one time to another. This technology give chance to this archeologist not only to study the past but enter it. The twist in story begins when the professor breaks the rules set by ITC company and gets lost in 14th century. Now it is up to his students to save him. But a little do they new the dangers of this time period. War is everywhere, women and children and beheaded and no one even cares. Due to miscommunication between the company back home and this four archeologist in 14th century things get worse. But by the end everyone is back home safe except one. The book is excellently paced and easily understood every the hardest concept of multiverse and space travel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Timeline by Michael Crichton, is an amazing book. Set in modern time, Michael links the past closely to the present. Though many novels have attempted to describe and present time travel in original way, none have done it like this. Timeline is centered on four historians working on a reconstruction of sites from the 14th century. The whole project is sponsored by ITC; the head of this corporation is Robert Doniger. Miscommunication arises between the two parties, and Professor Johnston, the main organizer of the project within the group of historians. He's there at ITC headquarters longer than expected and the historians start to worry. Continuing on the project they come across evidence of the Professor's presence there. Not long after they get a call from ITC to come over to headquarters. Curiosity overwhelms the three historians as the go to ITC. They learn that ITC has been keeping secrets from the public. That they had only thirty seven hours to save the professor and that there was a distinct possibility that they all could die. Through the book, the immense research and preparation that Crichton put into creating this novel is evident. He portrays the book through many characters point of views. This not only makes the characters more realistic, but it also gives more insight into the plot and how it relates to other events. Time after time the novel leaves readers breathless, hoping for the good to succeed, and secretly knowing that success is slim. They wish differently, but know that historical events won't change and that evil might prevail. Yet they can't help but hope differently, because of being able to connect to the characters. From beginning to end the book is an outstanding read and worth the time of the reader.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was an extremely fascinating read. Perfect for anyone who's interested in European history. Crichton makes everything seem so realistic, combining the present with the past. From the time machines to the Black Plague, Timeline is sure to have the reader turning the pages faster and faster after they really get into it.
freddy58 More than 1 year ago
Timeline is a book about a few scientists who get trapped back in the Middle Ages. The main characters are Marek, Chris, Kate, and the Professor. I liked the characters because they all had their own mood and role in the story. The author created an interesting and action filled story line that was able to make the characters real and believable in the plot. This book had the perfect amount of historic details and action elements. I especially liked it when the author went back from the Middle Ages to present time so I could understand what everyone else was doing to help the main characters get back to their homes. I also liked how the author adds suspense and mystery by placing an evil character from present time in the Middle Ages to try to stop the main characters from returning home. Michael Crichton did a great job in creating this exciting story and I would rate this book a nine out of ten.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had trouble putting the book down. When I did, I couldn't wait to pick it up again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Michael Crichton's book Timeline is very well developed and keeps you on your toes wanting to read more! He connects our modern world to the 14th Century in a way that makes sense. Timeline makes you feel like you're experiencing the culture in 14th Century France. It is a very exciting read and has a lot of good twists! I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted an exciting book to read or wanted to know more on the time period.. Crichton does a good job at making you not want to put the book down but also making sure you are gaing history knowledge. It's a great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
14 and i really love this book....its that good though it does have some tough parts to get through
Anonymous 9 months ago
Great, loved every minute
JThye 10 months ago
This was so good. I love the combo of historical based fiction, SCI fi, and fast paced thriller plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved it! couldn't put this one down
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Despite being fairly predictable this was a fun and exciting read. I appreciated the historical details.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AP World History Review: a description of my opinion of the book I thought this book was amazing. At first, i thought this assignment was going to be slow-going, but then  I saw this book and it was written like fiction. I started reading and immediately got hooked. The first part   was so mysterious that I had to read more to find out what came next. About halfway through the book, I   couldn't put it down and I actually got in trouble in class for reading and not paying attention. One thing   that I thought the author did very well was the suspense. EVen though the chapters were relatively short,  they were packed with mystery and action that kept me turning the pages. One of the other things that   allowed me to finish the book in less than four days was the characters. They were all really well developed  and not all of it was just telling. The author showed how the characters were. I would absolutely recommend this book to a friend. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction and sci-fi. It has a really interesting plot and the story is fast-paced and suspenseful. Going to a different time and the action of knights and explosions just captivated me and made me want to read more Michael Crichton books.                           
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Timeline by Michael Crichton is a very well written book that should be read by all history buffs- especially if you are interested in 14th century France. The book captivates you from the very beginning where you meet the character who essentially makes the whole book happen- and he doesn't even last more than 20 pages (that's an estimate). Crichton makes sure he has all his facts straight, and even though this is a sci-fi book you could easily describe it as an educational book where the history is concerned. The amount of time Crichton spent researching for this book is appreciated as it makes the book more captivating. The pages seem to turn themselves as you watch the dangerous events unfold in your mind. Prior knowledge about the time period and location this book is about would be tremendously helpful to anyone who picks this up. Also, the alternating POVs make the book much more interesting as you know what almost all the characters are thinking at almost all times. Calling all history buffs, this is your book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mumbojumbo BORING QUANTUM PHYSICS MUMBO JUMBO- COULD HAVE cut way down on pages (400+) and still gotten the point
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read. Loved it before and love it now. Movie was as well great but i like book more except for gerard butler. Love him!