Recommended Reading

I have been “reading” (listening on audiobook) Michael Crichton‘s excellent book Timeline. Read a bit more to see why I say go and read it now.

Crichton has always written I enjoy. I’ve read most of the ones listed on his homepage, and they have never dissapointed. He’s got a good mix of geek, techie, hard science, and good adventure, all the way from Congo to The Great Train Robbery.

Caution: Some spoilers in lighter text below (sorry those of you without HTML rendering aggregators) – Some plot but nothing you can’t get from the movie trailer, and some details of the story that the reader might prefer to leave as a surprise. Read on if you want.

Timeline is basically a time travel story. A group of archeologists finds a message from their boss that dates back 600 years not long after he goes to talk to the company that is sponsering their dig, ITC. They are brought to ITC and told that they can time travel and their boss was shown this, and got lost and they are needed to help bring him back.

Actually this isn’t entirely accurate. The tech that is involved has a lot to do with quantum physics and other nifty stuff that sounds really good but I of course have no idea how much BS it is, how how far the stretch is. Some does ring true from what I remember from my high school physics classes. A lot of it (especially how they do the actual time travel (which isn’t actual time travel, that’s impossible) is very cool.

So as you can guess it the group is sent back to the age of knights and castles and go figure, something goes wrong. I’m only about a third into it so I can’t tell you if they make it out ok, or what happens in there, but I know it’s good 🙂

One of the things that this book does is “feeling” more accurate in it’s depiction of the past. Two things stood out for me.

  • In the 1300s people didn’t speak english as we know it today. Pretty much every book or movie I’ve ever seen either has them speak a slightly different way (without contractions), but they all speak english. In the 1300s people spoke old english, and as Darren will attest, old english is nothing like english today. In the area the book takes place they actually speak old english, old french, and latin, sometimes all mixed together. This issue is nicely addressed and dealt with. This is something that I’ve always thought that if I ever travelled back in time, the thing I’d make sure I don’t do is open my mouth, simply because there’s no chance they’d understand me.
  • The second thing is to challenge assumptions. One thing that we’ve had drilled into us and simply take for granted, is that castles were guarded. They have moats and drawbridges, so people and movies and books have always figured that their entrances would be guarded. In the mind of the Mr. Crichton anyway, this is a false assumption, and his characters are quite surprised to find that a castle is a bit like a modern office building. It has guards, but during the day they are there for information, and it is only guarded at night.

There are other things that make this feel more authentic than other books and movies dealing with this area (that I’ve read or saw anyway), but I’ll leave those to you to find out 🙂

There is a movie of Timeline coming out soon as well, which I’m looking forward to seeing. The trailer already shows me they have messed with the plot, but some of that is inevitable in any paper to film translation. I just hope they don’t screw up some of the other big and interesting plot points. We’ll see on November 26th I guess though huh?

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