Timeline

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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 ...

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Overview

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…

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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

Forbes Magazine
Timeline is a wonderful combination of fast-paced entertainment and information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"And the Oscar for Best Special Effects goes to: Timeline!" Figure maybe three years before those words are spoken, for Crichton's new novel--despite media reports about trouble in selling film rights, which finally went to Paramount--is as cinematic as they come, a shiny science-fantasy adventure powered by a superior high concept: a group of young scientists travel back from our time to medieval southern France to rescue their mentor, who's trapped there. The novel, in fact, may improve as a movie; its complex action, as the scientists are swept into the intrigue of the Hundred Years War, can be confusing on the page (though a supplied map, one of several graphics, helps), and most of its characters wear hats (or armor) of pure white or black. Crichton remains a master of narrative drive and cleverness. From the startling opening, where an old man with garbled speech and body parts materializes in the Arizona desert, through the revelation that a venal industrialist has developed a risky method of time-travel (based on movement between parallel universes; as in Crichton's other work, good, hard science abounds), there's not a dull moment. When elderly Yale history prof Edward Johnston travels back to his beloved 15th century and gets stuck, and his assistants follow to the rescue, excitement runs high, and higher still as Crichton invests his story with terrific period detail and as castles, sword-play, jousts, sudden death and enough bold knights-in-armor and seductive ladies-in-waiting to fill any toystore's action-figure shelves appear. There's strong suspense, too, as Crichton cuts between past and present, where the time-travel machinery has broken: Will the heroes survive and make it back? The novel has a calculated feel but, even so, it engages as no Crichton tale has done since Jurassic Park, as it brings the past back to vigorous, entertaining life. (Nov. 16) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
With Timeline, Crichton has written his best book since Jurassic Park. Sometime in the future, a group of students is studying an archaeological site in France when the professor in charge disappears. While uncovering 600-year-old documents from the remains of a monastery, they discover a note dated April 7, 1357, and written in the professor's hand that says "Help me." Three people then embark on a journey back in time to rescue the professor. The first third of the book sets up the plot and discusses quantum technology. The rest of the story is a heart-pounding adventure in 14th-century France. Crichton is a master at explaining complex concepts in simple terms. As in most of his novels, the characters are forgettable and overshadowed by ideas, but who reads Crichton for his characters? His plot is intriguing, and his well-researched history and science are certain to prompt discussions. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/99.]--Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Iain Pears
Timeline combines all the ingredients that make Crichton's books compulsive reading: a fast-paced story, a hefty dollop of scientific speculation and an almost cinematic structure...A well-researched and brilliantly imagined story...Crichton has so perfected the fusion of thriller with science fiction that his novels define the genre.
Los Angeles Times
Daniel Mendelsohn
Crichton's books [are] hugely entertaining, lending thrilling documentary realness to the proceedings . . . His novels are diverting—they're manically entertaining. (I gobbled up Timeline in a single sitting.)
New York Times Book Review
USA Today
Timeline, Crichton's swashbuckling novel, could be another otherworldly blockbuster like Jurassic Park...A classic adventure...The author has an uncanny knack for coupling suspense with scientific concepts that captivate the public's imagination.
Tom DeHaven
...Exhilarating entertainment...this is an unapologetic novel of high adventure, and a very good one at that.

Entertainment Weekly

Gary K. Wolfe
As an historical novel in an SF frame, Timeline pales in comparison to, say, Connie Willis's Doomsday Book, but it works well enough as an action tale which often seems to be written with the movie script in mind. Overlaying the entire time-travel project however, is another of Chrichton's cynical conspiracies of capitalist greed: what is intially presented as the first great advance in physics that will benefit historians turns out instead to be a multibillion-dollar scheme to control tourism to the past by franchising various hotels and restaurants near famous historical events. The novel's one nod at humor is the CEO's fury at learning that Lincoln's voice at the Gettysburg address sounds like Betty Boop and that Washington huddled near the back of the boat during the crossing of the Delaware; one technician even suggests removing Lincoln's wrinkles using Photoshop. (Even this sort of comedy is done better and more consistently, though in John Kessel's Corrupting Dr. Nice) So in the end, the capitalists who decry the artificiality of Disney and argue that what people really lust for is authenticity turn out to be the same ones who plan to Disnify the whole timestream for profit. Crichton wants us to feel righteous outrage at this, just as we're finishing a novel that did exactly the same thing. It's worth noting, speaking of authenticity, that despite the lengthy bibliography of physics and history that he appends to the novel, the quotation that appears as the book's epigraph is from M.D. Backes's The Hundred Years War in France—a totally fictional book invented by Crichton for the sole purpose of setting up his ersatz version of history.
Locus
From the Publisher
“COMPULSIVE READING . . . BRILLIANTLY IMAGINED.”
–Los Angeles Times


“THE PRESENT AND THE LONG-AGO PAST COLLIDE. . . . [as] three young historians whisk themselves back to fourteenth-century feudal France to rescue a friend–and engulf themselves in all manner of mind-blowing intrigue.”
Chicago Sun-Times

“[A] BIG ROLLICKING BOOK.”
–The Wall Street Journal

“EXCITING . . . CLASSIC ADVENTURE . . . [A] SWASHBUCKLING NOVEL . . . CRICHTON DELIVERS.”
–USA Today

“EXCITING . . . CLASSIC ADVENTURE . . . [A] SWASHBUCKLING NOVEL . . . CRICHTON DELIVERS.”
–USA Today

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345445834
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/14/2000
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 512

Meet the Author

Michael Crichton was born in Chicago, in 1942. His novels include The Andromeda Strain, The Great Train Robbery, Congo, Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, Disclosure, The Lost World, and Airframe. He is also the creator of the television series ER.

Biography

Michael Crichton's oeuvre is so vivid and varied that it hard to believe everything sprang from the mind of a single writer. There's the dino-movie franchise and merchandising behemoth Jurassic Park; the long-running, top-rated TV series ER, which Crichton created; and sci-fi tales so cinematic a few were filmed more than once. He's even had a dinosaur named after him.

Ironically, for someone who is credited with selling over 150 million books, Crichton initially avoided writing because he didn't think he would make a living at it. So he turned to medical school instead, graduating with an M.D. from Harvard in 1969. The budding doctor had already written one award-winning novel pseudonymically (1968's A Case of Need) to help pay the bills through school; but when The Andromeda Strain came out in the same year of his med school graduation, Crichton's new career path became obvious.

The Andromeda Strain brilliantly and convincingly sets out an American scientific crisis in the form of a deadly epidemic. Its tone -- both critical of and sympathetic toward the scientific community -- set a precedent for Crichton works to come. A 1970 nonfiction work, Five Patients offers the same tone in a very different form, that being an inside look at a hospital.

Crichton's works were inspired by a remarkably curious mind. His plots often explored scientific issues -- but not always. Some of his most compelling thrillers were set against the backdrop of global trade relations (Rising Sun), corporate treachery (Disclosure) and good old-fashioned Victorian-era theft (The Great Train Robbery). The author never shied away from challenging topics, but it's obvious from his phenomenal sales that he never waxed pedantic. Writing about Prey, Crichton's cautionary tale of nanotech gone awry, The New York Times Book Review put it this way: "You're entertained on one level and you learn something on another."

On the page, Crichton's storytelling was eerily nonfictional in style. His journalistic, almost professorial, and usually third-person narration lent an air of credibility to his often disturbing tales -- in The Andromeda Strain, he went so far as to provide a fake bibliography. Along the way, he revelled in flouting basic, often subconscious assumptions: Dinosaurs are long-gone; women are workplace victims, not predators; computers are, by and large, predictable machines.

The dazzling diversity of Crichton's interests and talents became ever more evident as the years progressed. In addition to penning bestselling novels, he wrote screenplays and a travel memoir, directed several movies, created Academy Award-winning movie production software, and testified before Congress about the science of global warming -- this last as a result of his controversial 2004 eco-thriller State of Fear, a novel that reflected Crichton's own skepticism about the true nature of climate change. His views on the subject were severely criticized by leading environmentalists.

On November 4, 2008, Michael Crichton died, following a long battle against cancer. Beloved by millions of readers, his techno-thrillers and science-inflected cautionary tales remain perennial bestsellers and have spawned a literary genre all its own.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our 2005 interview with Crichton:

"I'm very interested in 20th-century American art."

"I have always been interested in movies and television as well as books. I see all these as media for storytelling, and I don't discriminate among them. At some periods of my life I preferred to work on movies, and at others I preferred books."

"In the early 1990s, interviewers began calling me ‘the father of the techno-thriller.' Nobody ever had before. Finally I began asking the interviewers, ‘Why do you call me that?' They said, ‘Because Tom Clancy says you are the father of the techno-thriller.' So I called Tom up and said, ‘Listen, thank you, but I'm not the father of the techno-thriller.' He said, ‘Yes you are.' I said, ‘No, I'm not, before me there were thrillers like Failsafe and Seven Days in May and The Manchurian Candidate that were techno-thrillers.' He said, ‘No, those are all political. You're the father of the techno-thriller.' And there it ended."

"My favorite recreation is to hike in the wilderness. I am fond of Hawaii."

"I used to scuba dive a lot, but haven't lately. For a time I liked to photograph sharks but like anything else, the thrill wears off. Earlier in my life I took serious risks, but I stopped when I became a parent."

"I taught myself to cook by following Indian and Szechuan recipes. They each have about 20 ingredients. I used to grind my own spices, I was really into it. Now I don't have much time to cook anymore. When I do, I cook Italian food."

"I read almost exclusively nonfiction. Most times I am researching some topic, which may or may not lead to a book. So my reading is pretty focused, although the focus can shift quickly."

"I have always been interested in whatever is missing or excluded from conventional thought. As a result I am drawn to writers who are out of fashion, bypassed, irritating, difficult, or excessive. I also like the disreputable works of famous writers. Thus I end up reading and liking Paul Feyerabend (Against Method), G. K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, What's Wrong with the World), John Stuart Mill, Hemingway (Garden of Eden), Nietzsche, Machiavelli, Alain Finkielkraut (Defeat of the Mind), Anton Ehrenzweig (Hidden Order of Art), Arthur Koestler (Midwife Toad, Beyond Reductionism), Ian McHarg (Design with Nature), Marguerite Duras, Jung, late James M. Cain (Serenade), Paul Campos.

"Because I get up so early to work, I tend to go to bed early, around 10 or 11. So I don't go out much. I suppose I am borderline reclusive. I don't care."

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Michael Crichton (full name), Jeffery Hudson, John Lange
    2. Hometown:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 23, 1942
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Death:
      November 4, 2008
    2. Place of Death:
      Los Angeles, California

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.

"Elsie?"

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.

"Elsie?"

"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:



HELP ME

471357

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

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

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.

"Elsie?"

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.

"Elsie?"

"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:

HELP ME 4/7/1357

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



Excerpted from Timeline by Michael Crichton. Copyright 1999 by Michael Crichton. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 921 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(497)

4 Star

(245)

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(112)

2 Star

(42)

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(25)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 921 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2009

    excellent book

    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.

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An Outstanding Book

    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!

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    Time travel at its best

    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.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2008

    Timeline Book Review

    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.<BR/> 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.<BR/> 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.<BR/> 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.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2012

    Timeline Review

    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)

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2010

    astounding book

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Ap World History Review

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 8, 2009

    Like watching a movie

    This is a quick read. It was exciting and like watching movie.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2009

    Timeline

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2009

    Timeline- an Adventure

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2008

    Top notch suspense

    I had trouble putting the book down. When I did, I couldn't wait to pick it up again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2003

    Going Against The Flow

    I hate to rain on Crichton's parade, but I really didn't like the book. If you were looking for straight action, it was all right, but the plot was terrible. A couple of examples: Crichton uses quantum physics to explain the time travel situation. However, he also states that 'time travel' is actually moving in between probabilities, but still in the present (of that plane). How does one know the exact conditions present in 13th century Europe? And how does altering one reality affect another unrelated to it? The conclusion would force one to believe that all the travellers had inexplicably wound up in a reality where everything that had come to pass in the 13th century reality transferred over to theirs. And how coincidental was it that the woman protagonist was an avid rock climber, and she just happened to need her climbing skills? Or that the professor remembered the chemical formula and recipe for an explosive compound? Everything was well-scripted, and practically without surprises by the end. The worst part is, Crichton tries to justify his amalgamation of truths and theories with a bibliography. He played mix and match, for cryin' out loud! P.S: I have read and enjoyed several other works of Crichton's to varying extents, and I don't write this a disappointed reader, but as any person would upon contemplating the book with any degree of depth.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2003

    Definetly Not His Best

    Michael Crighton is easily my favorite writer but this was by far his worst book.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2014

    Michael Crichton's book Timeline is very well developed and keep

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2013

    Timeline

    14 and i really love this book....its that good though it does have some tough parts to get through

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2012

    Shshshshshs

    Shsjjshdnqjdsnjdhcshxjdi

    1 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2011

    My fat!

    Faaaaaaaaaaaaat! Fat! Fat! FAT FAT FAT THIS IS SO AWESOME OH MYNFAT HEAD! Yeaha,

    1 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2011

    poop

    Tg

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2011

    Timeline

    This was a very good book explaining imaginitive theries and lots of action and suspence

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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