Posts Tagged ‘Crichton’

Review: Timeline

My sister recommended this book to me as a must read so despite my qualms about science fiction, I decided to give it a shot.  I hated Jurassic Park (sorry for any fans) and felt like this would be a difficult read for me.

Date finished: August 2009

But if you think about it, the past has always been more important than the present.  The present is like a coral island that sticks above the water, but is built upon millions of dead corals under the surface, that no one sees.  In the same way, our everyday world is built upon millions and millions of events and decisions that occurred in the past.  And what we add in the present is trivial. (359)

I was immediately proven wrong.  This book is nothing like Jurassic Park.  In fact, it’s not really like anything I’ve ever read before.  It takes the present and throws it into the past in what feels like an eerily real experience.  In this book, I feel like Crichton leaves the world of “science fiction” and enters what Atwood describes as “speculative fiction.”  In other words, he describes some of people’s worst fears when it comes to emerging technology.  It definitely leaves readers with some disturbing images of the future of technology, but it reminds us that not all advances are necessarily good.  Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Like usual, you can tell that Crichton did immense research to ensure both scientific plausibility and historical accuracy.  Although a book of fiction, there are FACTS that make the speculative nature of the book believable.  The facts also make the world of the past into something real for readers.  Crichton is amazing at taking readers away from the comforts of their homes and throwing them into the dangerous if not amazingly fantastical worlds that he creates (or in this case, recreates) on paper.

In other centuries, human beings wanted to be saved, or improved, or freed, or educated.  But in our century, they want to be entertained.  The great fear is not of disease or death, but of boredom.  A sense of time on our hands, a sense of nothing to do.  A sense that we are not amused. (443)

I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a history “buff,” but I love learning about history and frequently imagine what it might be like to live in the past.  Crichton does a wonderful job of completing my picture of the past and filling it with things I never really expected.  He presents his fantastical fourteenth century world through three different pairs of eyes so that readers really get to see as much as possible.  Kate, Marek, and Chris change as they are forced to learn quickly how to survive in a world that seems so much like our own, but still manages at times to be horrifyingly different.  The characters offer fresh perspectives about history, while still maintaining an overall respect and awe for the past that I believe more people should have.  I find most of Crichton’s characters to be incredibly flat because his books are so plot driven, but these characters emerge brilliantly through the intense plot.

The purpose of history is to explain the present—to say why the world around us is the way it is.  History tells us what is important in our world, and how it came to be.  It tells us why the things we value are the things we should value.  And it tells us what is to be ignored, or discarded.  That is true power—profound power.  The power to define a whole society. ( 480)

Overall, I found this book to be incredibly enjoyable.  There were the perfect amounts of character development, suspense, facts mixed with fiction, and even some complicated ideas for readers to much on after they finish the book.  While I was reading it, I was writing an essay on how Obama can learn from Lincoln and it all made me remember how the present and the future will always have a very close relationship with the past.  There is a reason why we are constantly encouraged to study our history books – they teach us valuable lessons that should never be forgotten.  The past, especially the fourteenth century, isn’t quite as primitive as we might have imagined.  Just different.

Rating: B+


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