Can man travel through time? As cool as that sounds, I doubt it could be possible. I doubt it from a philosophical point of view: if I could travel in time, why couldn’t I change history? Crichton argues that no significant changes can be introduced, but his explanation falls a bit flat. Science teaches us that the introduction of new elements will always change the environment (ergo, by adding a new person in the past, we change history). So, could you go back and evangelize someone who has already died? So, no, I don’t think time travel could work even though it would be really cool.
In this book, Crichton bases his time travel on concept of the multiverse. This theory is based on quantum physics and Crichton does a good job of explaining it. (It’s a little disconcerting to have journalists treat this theory as tested fact….) Still, instead of actually traveling back in time, they travel via a worm hole back into an alternate universe at an earlier point in time via quantum mechanics. One of the biggest flaws with the logic is here: how can I modify something in a parallel universe and have it affect my current universe? Anyway, that’s nit picking. 🙂
If Crichton does one thing well, it’s that he manages to explain science in an understandable manner. Whether it’s a discussion of compression algorithms or quantum mechanics, he does the science justice.
Now, for the negatives: profanity, some descriptive Middle Ages violence, and an honest portrayal of the sins of the past. Not that he goes graphic in these sins, but they are stated and treated as common and unremarkable for that time. These things tend to be glossed over in modern histories, but Crichton doesn’t do that. He makes every attempt to ensure reality in this book.
In fact, this leads us to the benefit of the book: his historical accuracy. This book could be a treatise for the Middle Ages. Repeatedly, the characters lecture each other and passing people about an erroneous term: Dark Ages. In fact, the characters repeatedly tell us that western civilization owes the Middle Ages for modern financial, political, and industrial systems. All three areas were founded in the Middle Ages. In many ways, the time travel and the adventures of the time traveling team are merely artifices used to bring the past to life.
Any book that can cause my wife and I to stop and carry on scientific, political, sociological, or historical discussions is worth reading.
Oh wait, you wanted an idea of the plot? Novel idea for a book review…. This archaeologist is stuck in the past. His assistants/students go back to save him. Now go read the book and revel in the discussion and descriptions of an early period of life.