Timeline (novel)

Last updated
MichaelCrighton Timeline.jpg
First edition cover
Author Michael Crichton
Cover artist Chip Kidd
CountryUnited States
Genre Science fiction, historical fiction, time travel
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf
Publication date
November 1999
Media typePrint (hardcover)
ISBN 0679444815
OCLC 39348527
883/.88 21
LC Class PS3553.R68 T56 1999
Preceded by Airframe  
Followed by Prey  

Timeline is a science fiction novel by American writer Michael Crichton, his twelfth under his own name and twenty-second overall, published in November 1999. It tells the story of a group of history students who travel to 14th-century France to rescue their professor. The book follows in Crichton's long history of combining science, technical details, and action in his books, this time addressing quantum and multiverse theory.


The novel spawned Timeline Computer Entertainment, a computer game developer that created the Timeline PC game published by Eidos Interactive in 2000. Additionally, an eponymous film based on the book was released in 2003.


In northern Arizona near Corazón Canyon, a married couple driving through the desert encounter an elderly man. They take him to a hospital in Gallup, New Mexico. Hospital staff learn that he works for the company ITC. After he suddenly dies, an MRI reveals that he had unexplainable abnormalities in his blood vessels.

In the Dordogne region of southwest France, Professor Edward Johnston leads a group of archaeologists and historians as they study a site that includes the fourteenth-century towns of Castelgard and La Roque. Suspicious of the detailed knowledge of the site shown by their funds provider ITC, Johnston travels to New Mexico to investigate. During his absence, the researchers make disturbing discoveries in the ruins, including the lens to Johnston's eyeglasses, and a written message from him that is determined to be over 600 years old. Four of the researchers—graduate students Chris Hughes and Kate Erickson, assistant professor André Marek, and technology specialist David Stern—are flown to ITC's research headquarters in Black Rock, New Mexico.

During the flight, ITC vice president John Gordon informs them that Johnston traveled to the year 1357 using their undisclosed quantum technology. After touring the facility and meeting with ITC president Robert Doniger, the historians decide to venture into the past to rescue the professor. Stern chooses to stay behind because the time period is extremely dangerous.

A team consisting of Chris, Kate, Marek and two ITC guards travels to 1357. Soon after they arrive, they are attacked by knights chasing a boy. The ITC guards are killed, and one activates a grenade before he is fatally wounded and initiates his return, causing the present-day transit pad to be severely damaged by the explosion. Stern and the ITC employees struggle to repair it so the team can return home.

Kate and Marek find Johnston at a monastery, but he is soon taken captive by the soldiers of Lord Oliver de Vannes, an English knight and resident lord of Castelgard, who is convinced Johnston knows the secret passageway to the otherwise impregnable castle of La Roque, which Oliver controls. Oliver's enemy, French commander Arnaut de Cervole, plans to attack Oliver's domain, and Oliver wants the secret to defend it.

Separated from the others, Chris follows the boy and inadvertently identifies himself as a nobleman. The "boy" leads Chris to the castle of Castelgard, and is revealed to be Lady Claire d'Eltham in disguise. She is being pressured to marry Sir Guy de Malegant. Chris and Marek (who has since found Chris) are challenged to a joust by Guy: Chris's apparent nobility and him accompanying Lady Claire have turned him into the enemy of Guy. The two survive the challenge thanks to Marek's knowledge of medieval combat.

Oliver orders the historians' imprisonment. They escape Castelgard and are pursued by Sir Robert de Kere, Oliver's advisor. Meanwhile, Oliver relocates to La Roque, taking Johnston with him. In order to rescue Johnston, the historians search for clues to the location of the secret passage to La Roque. After gathering information at the monastery, they find a clue in a water mill, but get captured and interrogated by Arnaut. After escaping Arnaut's forces, Chris and Kate find the entrance to the passage at a decrepit chapel while Marek gains entry into La Roque by posing as Johnston's assistant. Marek learns that the professor is helping Oliver build an incendiary weapon to use against Arnaut's forces, believing that Oliver will lose the siege anyway as he historically does.

The historians have learned that another person from the present is helping Oliver's forces. The person is revealed to be de Kere, who is really Rob Deckard, an ITC employee driven insane from errors in the process of teleporting to another time that built up in his body over multiple trips, much like the elderly man the couple in Arizona found. Deckard plans to prevent the historians' return to the present and kill them.

Chris and Kate use the passage to enter La Roque. Arnaut begins the siege of La Roque, and later enters the castle by apparently using the passage. During the battle, Kate is chased by Guy and sends him falling to his death. Marek and Chris free Johnston from a dungeon. Arnaut duels with Oliver, resulting in Oliver being trapped in a pit of putrid water. As the historians flee, Chris is attacked by Deckard, but kills him by setting him on fire with Johnston's incendiary weapon.

Stern and the ITC employees repair the transit pad just in time for the historians' return. Marek, who has always wanted to live in the Middle Ages, decides to stay behind, while Chris, Kate, and Johnston return to the present.

The historians and Gordon confront Doniger, who had little concern for the travelers' safety and intends to exploit the quantum technology for corporate gain. Gordon renders him unconscious and sends him to 1348 Europe, during the Black Death.

In an epilogue, Chris and Kate are implied to be a couple, and Kate is pregnant. While examining a site in England, the researchers find the graves of Marek and Lady Claire, whom he married. They have bittersweet feelings knowing that Marek had a happy life, but also miss him.


Point of view

The novel is written in the third-person-omniscient point of view.


Andre Marek

Andre Marek is a Dutch researcher who works with Professor Johnston in Dordogne. Marek has always had a fascination with medieval times that is so intense that he has taught himself to joust, to fight with a sword, and to shoot a longbow. He also learned to speak and understand medieval languages such as Occitan and Middle English. Therefore, when Marek gets the chance to go to that era, via ITC's invention, he jumps at it.

Marek proves himself very brave in the medieval world. He fights multiple soldiers, not hesitating to take their lives; bravely stands up to medieval warlords and Archpriests; and is very convincing in the role of a knight. No one - not even knights who oppose him - have a doubt about his being one, fully entitled to be called "Sir Andre". Ultimately, Marek realizes that he was meant to live in this period. For this reason, he chooses to remain behind. When Professor Johnston, Kate, and Chris return to their own world, they find Marek's grave and discover that he lived a happy life in that alternate universe.

Kate Erickson

Kate Erickson began her college career as an architecture student but found it boring and switched her major to history. Kate now works the Dordogne site from the perspective of architecture, examining the ruins to see how they were built and to make recommendations for restoration.

Kate is part of Marek's team that travels to the 14th century to save Professor Johnston. Kate repeatedly demonstrates her bravery and uses her climbing skills to outwit the soldiers of the period. Kate is also something of a romantic and falls in love with Chris during the adventure.

Chris Hughes

Chris Hughes is a student of Professor Johnston's. Chris’ specialty at the archeological site at Dordogne is the mill; he is trying to determine whether or not the mill was fortified, a feature that was fairly new at the time. When Johnston disappears and Marek asks Chris to be part of the team that rescues him, Chris jumps at the chance.

Chris is something of a weakling who often finds himself getting in difficult situations, usually over women. When he goes to the past, he finds himself lying to a pretty girl to impress her, and his lie causes him to end up having to joust with her potential husband. As time passes, however, Chris proves himself to be much braver than he appears. In fact, he single-handedly kills de Kere, the one man crazy enough to kill Chris' entire team.

Professor Edward Johnston

Professor Edward Johnston is a college professor who is in charge of the archeological site at Dordogne, in France. Johnston is an inspiration to and supportive of his students, and they admire him. When Johnston goes missing after traveling to New Mexico to confront ITC's CEO, his team rallies to find a way to save him.

Johnston has traveled to the past through a separate universe. He has been found by the local people and for this reason has created a new persona for himself, as a Magister who has come to help the local monastery's abbot look for important information in their archives. In this capacity, Johnston quickly becomes something of a local legend. This causes Sir Oliver to request his help in defeating Arnaut. Johnston plays along until the moment comes when he can return home.

David Stern

David Stern is a physicist who takes a job with the Dordogne River Valley archeological site just to be close to where his girlfriend is attending school. When Doniger calls Marek and asks him to pick his three best people to return to New Mexico, Marek chooses Stern to be part of the team. When the science behind the ability to transmit people to other universes is discussed, Stern probably understands it better than anyone else and, therefore, is also the only one who recognizes that it is dangerous and chooses not to go. However, by not going, Stern becomes a key part of the team by assuring their survival via his innovations to rebuild the water walls that provide buffer for the re-building team. Stern saves their lives.


Cahners Business Information says the book will "grab teens' attention from the very first page", [1] [ failed verification ] and Entertainment Weekly calls Timeline "exhilarating entertainment." [2] The novel has also grasped the attention of scholars of medievalism, since Crichton praises Norman Cantor's Inventing the Middle Ages (1989) as a central influence on his characterization of academic research on the medieval past. Crichton's narrative seems to support Cantor's notion that the work of academic medievalists amounts to little more than subjective reinventions of the medieval era. [3]

Film adaptation

Paramount Pictures produced a feature film adaptation, with a budget of $80 million, released on November 26, 2003. The adaptation was written by Jeff Maguire and George Nolfi, and directed by Richard Donner, and stars Paul Walker as Chris, Gerard Butler as Marek, Billy Connolly as Professor Johnston, and Frances O'Connor as Kate. The film was poorly received by critics and audiences.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Michael Crichton</span> American writer, screenwriter, and film director (1942–2008)

John Michael Crichton was an American writer and filmmaker. His books have sold over 200 million copies worldwide, and over a dozen have been adapted into films. His literary works heavily feature technology and are usually within the science fiction, techno-thriller, and medical fiction genres. Crichton’s novels often explore human technological advancement and attempted dominance over nature, both with frequently catastrophic results; many of his works are cautionary tales, especially regarding themes of biotechnology. Several of his stories center specifically around themes of genetic modification, hybridization, paleontology and/or zoology. Many feature medical or scientific underpinnings, reflective of his own medical training and scientific background.

<i>Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?</i> 1968 science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a dystopian science fiction novel by American writer Philip K. Dick, first published in 1968. The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic San Francisco, where Earth's life has been greatly damaged by a nuclear global war, leaving most animal species endangered or extinct. The main plot follows Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter who has to "retire" six escaped Nexus-6 model androids, while a secondary plot follows John Isidore, a man of sub-par IQ who aids the fugitive androids.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jousting</span> Martial game between two horsemen wielding lances with blunted tips

Jousting is a medieval and renaissance martial game or hastilude between two combatants either on horse or on foot. The joust became an iconic characteristic of the knight in Romantic medievalism.

<i>A Kid in King Arthurs Court</i> 1995 film by Michael Gottlieb

A Kid in King Arthur's Court is a 1995 adventure comedy fantasy film directed by Michael Gottlieb. It is loosely based on the Mark Twain 1889 novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, previously filmed by Disney as Unidentified Flying Oddball in 1978. The film stars Thomas Ian Nicholas, Joss Ackland and Art Malik, and is notable for being one the first film roles of Daniel Craig and Kate Winslet.

<i>Westworld</i> (film) 1973 science fiction film directed by Michael Crichton

Westworld is a 1973 American science fiction Western film written and directed by Michael Crichton. The film follows adult guests visiting an interactive amusement park containing lifelike androids that unexpectedly begin to malfunction. The film stars Yul Brynner as an android in the amusement park, with Richard Benjamin and James Brolin as guests of the park.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sarlat-la-Canéda</span> Subprefecture and commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Sarlat-la-Canéda, commonly known as Sarlat, is a commune in the southwestern French department of Dordogne, a part of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. Sarlat and La Canéda were distinct towns until merged into one commune in 1965.

<i>Timeline</i> (2003 film) 2003 film

Timeline is a 2003 science fiction adventure film directed by Richard Donner and starring Paul Walker, Frances O'Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, David Thewlis, and Anna Friel. Based on Michael Crichton's 1999 novel of the same name, the screenplay concerns a team of present-day archaeology and history students who are sent back in time to medieval France to rescue their professor from the middle of a battle.

<i>Downtime</i> (<i>Doctor Who</i>) 1994 Doctor Who spinoff film

Downtime is a direct-to-video spin-off of the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was produced by the independent production company Reeltime Pictures. It is a sequel to the Second Doctor serials The Abominable Snowmen (1967) and The Web of Fear (1968).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geoffroy IV de la Tour Landry</span>

Geoffrey IV de la Tour Landry was a nobleman of Anjou who fought in the Hundred Years War.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Carbisdale</span> Scottish civil war battle (1650)

The Battle of Carbisdale took place close to the village of Culrain, Sutherland, Scotland on 27 April 1650 and was part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It was fought by the Royalist leader James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, against the Scottish Government of the time, dominated by Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll and a grouping of radical Covenanters, known as the Kirk Party. The Covenanters decisively defeated the Royalists. The battlefield has been inventoried and protected by Historic Scotland under the Scottish Historical Environment Policy of 2009. Although Carbisdale is the name of the nearest farm to the site of the battle, Culrain is the nearest village.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lou Carpenter</span> Fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours

Lou Carpenter is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, played by Tom Oliver. He made his first screen appearance on 30 March 1988. Oliver appeared for a brief time, having been initially contracted for six months, before leaving and returning in January 1992 as a regular cast member. In 1996, Lou was written out of Neighbours, a move that shocked Oliver as his character had become popular with fans. Neighbours viewers created petitions calling for his return and the strength of their reaction caused the producers to reconsider their decision and reinstate Oliver. Lou became one of the longest-serving continuous characters in the serial's history, having played the role for 24 years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Clan Crichton</span> Lowland Scottish clan

Clan Crichton is a Lowland Scottish clan that historically ruled Dumfries.

Arnaud de Cervole, also de Cervolles, de Cervolle, Arnaut de Cervole or Arnold of Cervoles, known as l'Archiprêtre, was a French mercenary soldier and Brigand of the Hundred Years War in the 14th century.

Arnaut Guilhemde Marsan was a Landais nobleman and troubadour. He was descended from a cadet branch of the viscounts of Marsan and was himself lord of Roquefort and Montgaillard and co-lord of Marsan.

<i>Law and Disorder</i> (1958 film) 1958 British film

Law and Disorder is a 1958 British crime comedy film directed by Charles Crichton and starring Michael Redgrave, Robert Morley, Joan Hickson, and Lionel Jeffries. It was based on the 1954 novel Smugglers' Circuit by Denys Roberts. The film was started by director Henry Cornelius, who died whilst making the film. He was replaced by Charles Crichton.

<i>Retired Boxer</i> 1984 album by Daniel Johnston

Retired Boxer is the seventh self-released music cassette album by singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston, recorded in 1984. The album's nine songs are performed in Johnston's usual confessional piano ballad style. This album, like those before it, was recorded with a consumer grade tape player. Evidence of this is found in the warbling tape hiss and distortion.

<i>Bee and PuppyCat</i> American animated web series

Bee and PuppyCat is an American adult animated streaming television series created and written by Natasha Allegri. The series revolves around Bee, an unemployed woman in her early twenties, who encounters a mysterious creature named PuppyCat. She adopts this apparent cat-dog hybrid, and together they go on a series of temporary jobs to pay off her monthly rent. These bizarre jobs take the duo across strange worlds out in space. The original series was produced by Frederator Studios with the animation initially outsourced to South Korean studio Dong Woo Animation.

<i>Timeline</i> (video game) 2000 video game

Timeline is a 2000 adventure/puzzle video game published by Eidos Interactive for the Microsoft Windows. The game was developed by author Michael Crichton's Timeline Computer Entertainment, and is based on Crichton's 1999 novel of the same name. Crichton was directly involved in the game's creation.

<i>The Andromeda Evolution</i> 2019 science fiction novel by Daniel H. Wilson

The Andromeda Evolution is a 2019 novel written by Daniel H. Wilson. It is a sequel to Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain, published 50 years prior in 1969. It is the nineteenth and final novel under Crichton's name, and the fourth and final novel published after Crichton's death.


  1. Crichton, Michael (1999). Timeline. ISBN   9780679444817.
  2. "Book Review of Timeline". Entertainment Weekly. 1999-11-26. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
  3. Utz, Richard. (2017). Medievalism: A Manifesto. UK: Bradford; Kalamazoo, MI: ARC Humanities Press. Pages 31-32.