In His Own Words

I hadn’t written an adventure story since Jurassic Park, and I thought it was time for another one.

So I began to think: suppose it was really possible to travel in time. What would it be like? Would it be frightening? (I think it would be.) Would it be more dangerous than space travel? (Much more dangerous.) What would make you go anyway?

In recent years, most time travel stories have been comedies, or allegories. Even the famous novel by H.G. Wells just uses time travel to make a point about the society at the time the novel was written. But in Timeline, I wanted to write a time travel story that took its premise seriously. And I wanted to write a story that dealt with the reality behind our cliched images of knights and courtly love. I wanted to talk about what knighthood was really like.

This required a tremendous amount of research, and it took me almost twice as long to write as any other book except Jurassic Park. But in the end, I had uncovered a world where you are may be killed if you pick up a glove from the floor; where you are in mortal danger if you say you are “gentle;” where pastry is made to look like animal intestines; where monasteries are used for tennis courts; where a woman who cuts her hair short risks death; where gunpowder explodes if it gets wet-in short, where nothing is as we’d expect it to be.

That’s the world of Timeline, I had fun writing it, and I hope readers enjoy it, too.

Michael Crichton


In an Arizona desert a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within twenty-four hours he is dead, his body swiftly cremated by his only known associates. Halfway around the world archaeologists make a shocking discovery at a medieval site. Suddenly they are swept off to the headquarters of a secretive multinational corporation that has developed an astounding technology. Now this group is about to get a chance not to study the past but to enter it. And with history opened to the present, the dead awakened to the living, these men and women will soon find themselves fighting for their very survival-six hundred years ago.

From the Archives

Timeline Sketch by Cathy Kanner

The book needed images to help modern readers visualize the medieval world. I worked with artist Cathy Kanner on a variety of styles. Eventually we settled on images that were first sketched using architectural drafting software, to provide a precise perspective. This gave us the feeling of reality we were after.

Publicity Photos

Michael Crichton (1999), Photo shoot for Timeline Publicity Photos Photo Credit: Elena Seibert
Michael Crichton (1999), Photo shoot for Timeline Publicity Photos Photo Credit: Elena Seibert
Timeline was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review on November 21, 1999.  The reviewer, Daniel Mendelsohn, got to the heart of what so many love about Timeline.

“Because of the way they’re constructed, Crichton’s books tend to be as absorbing as his variables are; this helps explain the gigantic success of Jurassic Park and Lost World and even Disclosure—nobody, after all, ever gets completely over the universal fascination with dinosaurs, and nothing in the postfeminist 1990’s was as delicious to argue about as sexual harassment — and the relatively lukewarm reception that, say, Airframe received. (All sensible people are terrified of flying; do you really need to know whether the problem is malfunctioning ailerons or leaky gas tanks?) As taught by Crichton, the Middle Ages are a lot more interesting than you remember from your 10th-grade history class. I’m not talking about standard-issue Sherwood Forest ”atmosphere” (although that, inevitably, is present, too: ”It is nigh on terce. Will your guests dine on our simple fare?”). With Crichton you get the really cool minutiae: the sartorial choices offered to knights getting dressed for tournaments (”Flex sabaton or firm?” ”Vambrace guard or side plate?”), or the more esoteric achievements of medieval chefs, who could whip up pastries to look like — well, anything. ”The testicles are particularly well made,” one character says admiringly of his dessert. Glorious Foods, look out.”

You can read the entire review at the New York Times Website.

Timeline – Cover of New York Time Book Review November 21, 1999

Timeline (Movie)

Release Date:November 26, 2003
Running Time:1 hr. 56 min.
Director:Richard Donner
Screenwriter:Jeff Magurie
Based on the Novel by:Michael Crichton
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Starring:Paul Walker, Frances O’Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, David Thewlis, Anna Friel, Neal McDonough, Matt Craven, Michael Sheen
Michael Crichton on the set of Timeline with director, Richard Donner in 2002. Photo credit: Paramount Pictures

Video Game

You are part of a team of archeologists excavating an historic region of modern day France. Your team leader, Professor Johnston, has mysteriously disappeared leaving behind an unexpected videotape addressed to you with an imperative request. Now you must travel back to fourteenth century France to rescue him. And the adventure begins!

With the assistance from your fellow adventurer, make your way through a challenging and perilous interactive world to rescue your professor. Characters come to life with innovative facial animations and full audio dialogue. Immerse yourself in diverse and realistic environments all modeled with historic accuracy to create an authentic experience. Timeline is uniquely designed to be easy to learn, but still fun and challenging to play.

Michael Crichton’s latest best-selling novel is brought to life! Experience the vivid realism, thrilling exploration, and unexpected suspense of his most dramatic adventure story since Jurassic Park.

Travel back in time to 14th Century feudal France to rescue your professor, and experience first-hand a perilous interactive world of knights, jousts, and castles.

Experience diverse and realistic environments, ranging from the dungeons and great halls of 14th Century French castles, to the excitement of jousting tournaments and the thrill of exploring underground rivers.

A high quality entertainment experience for first-time PC gamers and veteran gamers alike

Features an interactive 3D tour of the Timeline world narrated by Michael Crichton!

Book Covers