T is also for Tetchy which is how I’m feeling today so for this week’s Crime Fiction Alphabet contribution I’m going to break the meme rules a little. I had planned to write about one of the two books I’ve read called Taken (one by Chris Jordan and another by Kathleen George) but honestly neither of them filled me with much glee and I can barely separate their kidnap related plots in my head. Instead I’m going to write about Michael Crichton’s Timeline which is a thriller rather than crime fiction but with our meme host out of the country this week I’m feeling brave enough to flaunt the rules.
Timeline is the sort of thing you get when you mix decently-researched science and history with a quirky imagination. Fictiondom is full of time travel adventures but Timeline is cleverer and more tongue in cheek than most. It opens in 1999 where a fanatical genius discovers a way to “fax” three dimensional objects (people) back in time. A history professor and his most brilliant students are on an archaeological dig in France when the professor leaves to visit the corporate headquarters of the aforementioned fanatical genius. Soon the students uncover a document that appears to date from the 1300’s but also looks to be written in their professor’s handwriting! Soon the students are off to 1357 to rescue their professor (and do a bit of swashbuckling on the side).
The interplay between time periods is well done (there’s not a single mention of the dilemma that would ensue if one was to meet one’s own ancestor) and the action is non-stop. I’m reliably informed (by one of the world’s great fans of such things) that Crichton’s depictions of jousting are some of the most accurate to make it to fiction which doesn’t surprise me as Crichton always seemed to be able to bring the most life to the oddest of topics (in Airframe he makes airplane maintenance manuals seem utterly gripping). The characters, particularly the students, are well done and it really is a lot of fun watching a bunch of people who have loads of academic knowledge about a subject try to put that ‘knowledge’ into practice in the rough and tumble world of 1357.
For me Timeline is one of those fun, escapist books that I can get lost in. If you do plan on checking it out don’t under any circumstances choose the movie over the book. It’s awful.