Aaah. The feeling of satisfaction after finishing a good book. I, by nature, am much more of a reader than anything else, so I contintuously crave for good books. It’s a completely different issue, though, that books like that seem to evade me, which is why when I do happen across a book that
a) entertains me and
b) enlightens me about subjects that I heretofore knew nothing about,
I practically bow down to the author in gratefulness. This does not by any means mean that I am easy to please, because the condition of *a) entertaining me* is only fulfilled when a book
i) has interesting, well-drawn out characters that you cannot help but feel a part of.
ii) has an incredibly original or at least well-thought out and in no way predictable plot.
iii) is fast-paced, well-written and makes me oblivious to the passage of time while reading.
iv) has a satisfying ending that leaves me daydreaming about possible continuations to te story.(‘I wonder what happens next’…*goes and fantasizes*)
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
Michael Crichton is an author who, so far, has never failed to deliver in all the aforementioned points. Having read ‘Congo’ a few months back and now just having completed ‘Timeline’, I am solidified in my belief that He Is Awesome.
Both books are vastly different from one another, which makes me admire the depth of the research he must have gone through to write so knowledgeably in both books. They’re both different in setting, tone, plot, types of characters, yet both share the uncanny ability to capture the imagination and cause the mind to see the existing world through new eyes.
Congo is set in the 1980’s and follows a group of scientists and a female ‘talking’ ape into the heart of the Congo rain forest to discover an ancient lost city, rare diamonds and killer apes after the last expedition to be sent had failed mysteriously, leaving no survivors. It’s an immersing tale, patiently told, with a rich, rich background.
Timeline is a whole different cup of tea. Where Congo was and felt thoroughly like an intellectual book, Timeline felt like watching a movie. A damn good one, at that. The characters were less detached and as a result more relatable. There was action, suspense, romance (who wuda thought???) a good dose of gore(! 🙂 ), heroism, friendship, sacrifice, bad guys, more bad guys,revenge, etc. In other words, ALL THE GOOD STUFF. You will not be able to put it down. Once the chess pieces are set and the game has begun, you won’t be able to concentrate on anything else till you’ve safely reached the end. Holding your breath, not knowing what will happen next, feeling your heart race from the adrenaline, get used to it all. It’s the best kind of fun, not in the least because it’s so DIFFERENT from your regular action flicks. I think I’ve gushed as much as I can without actually disclosing what the book is about. He he.
Timeline is set in 1999 and is roughly based on the idea of parallel universes, and consequently, time travel. I love how they don’t just blatantly slap the theme, ‘time travel’ on your face and expect you to go with it. It is very convincingly justified, seamlessly tying in references to real life experiments and discoveries in quantum physics, laying down a believable pretense for wormholes and thus, time travel. It’s all deliciously believable. Too bad I could figure out exactly what was being made up and what wasn’t.
Basically, what happens is this: Professor Edward Johnston, assistant professor Andre Marek, and grad students Chris Hughes and Kate Erickson and David Stern are working on an excavation and restoration project of the ruins of Castlegard and the adjoining areas on the banks of the Dorgone River in France. Their project is heavily funded by a rich and somewhat sketchy tech company called ITC, which is secretly developing an advanced yet highly dangerous time-travelling technology. Things start going wrong at their end; missing scientists and mysterious deaths plus increased suspicion from the outside media. One thing leads to another and they are forced to call the Professor over from the site to the headquarters in a remote location in the States and tell him everything. The Professor demands to be taken back to his site during the 13th century, when it was at it’s peak, and fails to come back. Simultaneously, back at the site, they uncover an ancient bundle of documents, in which one parchment contains a cry for help from the professor, dated 1357 B.C. Baffled, the rest of our main characters are also summoned to HQ and sent on a mission to retrieve the professor.
This is easier said than done, because everything that can possibly go wrong does go wrong, including the EXPLOSION OF THE ENTIRE LAUNCHING PAD, making their return kind of IMPOSSIBLE. Damn. Also, the particular area and the particular time that they got sent back to was no less deadly than an active battlezone. It’s a dog-eats-dog world, perpetually on the verge of war, and probably the most historically accurate description of how life was like back then that I have ever come across. The slaying of women and children in the name of chivalry and patriotism particularly got to me. Lip-service only was given to loyalty, while in truth the only object was survival. Treachery, murder, deceit…aah, it’s good to live during the 21st century. What made us think that those times were all about pretty princesses and jolly kings?? Disney and Hollywood, you both are truly guilty of mind washing us. Where were the filthy masses, disease and injustice during your films? Pointless argument, really.
BACK TO THE TOPIC AT HAND. The book. Oh yes.
The thing that I most liked about the book were the characters. Here’s a little bit about each:
Professor Johnston: Probably the most important character, plot-wise. Wise, very knowledgeable, and above all kindhearted and universally admired. Knows practically all there is to know about the medieval times. At first I thought it was highly irresponsible for him to have gone and got himself stuck in the past, but we’re given a satisfactory explanation, plus none of the awesomeness would have happened if he hadn’t gone and done so, SO all in all, it was a good thing, otherwise everyone would have continued living their boring lives without any personal growth or change.
Andre Marek: Assistant professor, but (from the descriptions plus my over-fanciful imagination) VERY VERY HOT. He’s a hands-on historian (now, now. Don’t go all thinking in that direction. LOL) He practices archery, jousting, swords fighting…and he’s got a sexy accent. Faintly Dutch, if I remember correctly. Back in the present world, he was laughed at for ‘living in the past’, but he ends up living to the fullest and OWNING the 14th century soldiers. His bravery and selflessness know no bounds. He also knows how to speak old English, Latin, and Occitan, and is familiar with the customs back then, so he’s a total life saver for the team.
Chris Hughes: He’s the soft, good-looking type. The type that gets distracted at his own puuurty reflection. He’s smart, majoring in the history of science, but pretty dumb when it comes down to anything else that has to do with medieval customs. In the beginning, he gets the team into quite a few tough spots (this is a gross understatement) but ends up transforming, like a phoenix from the ashes, into a real man. This was what I truly loved about the book. Each character’s change arising from the hardships they faced. That and how they used the technical knowledge of the site in the area of their expertise to build an advantage against whoever was after them. This made the story-telling that much more compelling and believable.
Kate Erickson: Blonde, sporty, not pretty, but attractive nonetheless. Had to reject nearly all the men on site, including Chris and Andre. Smart, specializing in medieval architecture. She’s anything but a damsel in distress. Knows the layout of the area better than any other living person. Knowledge of all the hidden passages was useful, but the part when she uses her knowledge of how poorly made certain structures were to save herself was so damn impressive. I loved her.
David Stern: He’s a tech guy and a lesser character because he chose to stay back, sensing that the company wasn’t being completely honest about the technology. BUT his choosing to stay back wasn’t entirely useless, because it ended up playing a very important role.
Baddies. I forgot completely to expound on the baddies. SO MANY BADDIES, present-time baddies, past-time baddies, plus hidden baddies. The people who worked for ITC weren’t necessarily bad, but their CEO, a young super geek with the worst case of uber-superiority I’ve ever seen, WAS. He steers the company in his desired direction, not caring whom he has to tractor over to do so. The people in the past all seemed evil to me, even to ones fighting against the primary bad guys. Everyone was so incredibly conscious-less that if someone abstains from killing you, it’d make them seem saint-like. I did NOT like Lady Claire, and I did NOT like what happened to her. I’m risking a major spoiler here, but I just don’t think that she deserved him, that’s all. As for the ‘hidden baddie’, you gotta read it; you’ll end up biting your nails because of him/her.
All in all, this book is a fantastic read, and if it didn’t seem so from reading my review, all blame lies with me for not being able to bring it out properly.
Note: I am currently reading ‘Andromeda Strain’ and I don’t really like it so far. Its all gobbledegook and no passion. Its too much like ‘Dreamcatcher’ by Stephen King, without any of the good stuff. Thinking about dropping it.