Review: Timeline, by Michael Crichton.
The story is strong, but acts more like a survey of the past. The events are good enough. The characters are actually great; very realistic, and subtle.
I am not just an avid reader, I also have seven years of academic Literary Criticism experience under my belt, so believe me when I say some hate Crichton for no reason. Or worse, for really dumb nonsensical reasons. He wrote Jurassic Park, Sphere, and even the original Westworld.
Let’s get the negatives, and the criticism off the table right away and then move on to why I liked this so much as a young man and again as an educated man. His prose is a little plain, but highly effective. He was trained to be a doctor, (MD at Harvard Medical School) and his writing shows this experience though its clarity, purpose and overall effectiveness. My own personal major gripe is how one of the characters dies at the end. It seemed rushed. However, the well crafted, bittersweet epilogue more than makes up for it. Let’s continue.
People are used to loud and energetic protagonists, but they are simply not that. They are college students and academics. I found myself at home among the educated introverts. Some have complained that they escape too many close calls. Wrong again. They survive many dangerous, but easily survivable scenarios. It’s realistic. They aren’t on the knife’s edge all the time. Crichton was a doctor, he would know.
It’s a 4.6/5 when compared against mass-market fiction, so I’ll round it up to 5. but perhaps a point or two less when compared to Literary classics. However, like classics, it actually accurately illustrates the past for the reader. I’ve heard history buffs rave for it (and against the film), and there are pages of citations at the end; Crichton sourced his work of fiction, interestingly. There is much to learn factually, even if it has literary lackings.
Loved it as a teen, and I still like it as an English Literature student. Though now I can see its flaws, I can also see it’s deep merit and appreciate the many months of highly accurate research that must have gone into this. The bibliography at the end proves that there is clear academic intent in the book. You can learn from Crichton, and in this novel, he teaches you about the past.