Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Michael Crichton's Timeline Transformed into a One-on-One Dialogue
"So I've got this time machine, only it's not really a time machine because instead of travelling through time you're sent to another universe that looks a whole lot like the past, because in the Multiverse, anything is possible. Have you ever seen Sliders?"
"Yeah. Fun show. The Multiverse machine sounds cool, though. There won't be any butterfly effect paradoxes or anything like that if you're just travelling to another universe instead of another time. That's cool."
"Oh, no. Actually, you can change the past. Earlier in the book there was some dude who traveled to the Multiverse version of the 1300's and left a message for all his historian pals to dig up later in this universe."
"How'd he do that?"
"How should I know? I only built the thing. Maybe it really is a time machine. By the way, there's no such thing as a paradox. That's total bullshit. They don't exist."
"I'm a little lost. I thought you were selling me on the idea of a Multiverse machine."
"Shut up for a second. I'm trying to explain paradoxes, which don't actually exist because it's really, really hard to do something that would cause a paradox. Like, how could you possibly kill your grandfather? Wouldn't that affect you morally? Like, wouldn't you bitch out before you could pull the trigger? And what if he had armed guards? And even if you did, it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, so it doesn't really count as a paradox. That makes sense. By the way, I'm the smartest character in the novel. We established that very early in the book."
"Okay. How does it work? Do I stand right here?"
"Yeah. Perfect. Now we're going to scan your body with super-computers, collect your sub-atomic information in a bunch of JPEG files, and then we'll send your information through the Multiverse, just like a fax machine. Have you ever used a fax machine, before?"
"What year was this book written?"
"Recent enough to know better. Are you ready for the laser?"
"Wait. What laser?"
"The laser that's going to kill you, of course. Right down to the atom."
"How does that help me travel through time? Multiverse. Whatever."
"The laser is going to kill you because the Multiverse has these weird equivalent exchange rules that I'm never going to bother explaining. If we kill you here then the Multiverse will make a duplicate version of you in the universe we're contacting."
"I don't get it. What's with all the JPEG scanning? Aren't you going to send that data through the Multiverse and replicate me somewhere else?"
"We're going to fax the data, and yes, that's the idea."
"So why kill me?"
"I just told you that I wasn't going to explain how the Multiverse works. Now do you want to time travel or not?"
"But I wouldn't even be the one time travelling. It'd just be some JPEG version of myself, which I'm still confused about."
"Hey. Don't be a bitch. The fax doppelganger version of yourself will think he's you in every conceivable way. To any outside observer, you're exactly the same person."
"But I'm not an outside observer."
"No shit. Why do you think I only send other people into the time machine?"
"Okay. Hold on. Even if I did agree for you to kill me and fax me in JPEGs to another universe, how would my doppelganger even get back? Is there a laser on the other side that's going to kill him, too?"
"Don't be stupid. He'll have this little wafer that he can click and instantly return back here, unharmed, whenever he feels like it. Okay, hold still and try not to piss your pants. Your doppelganger is going to be wearing those in a few minutes."
The only praise I can give Timeline is that the book was more entertaining than the movie; although to be fair, lots of things are more entertaining than the Timeline movie.
Also, Crichton had this fun habit of throwing the people-from-the-past-are-stupider-than-people-from-the-present trope in your face. Whenever you thought that one of the heroes outsmarted some 1300's knight, the knight would turn it around and totally one-up the heroes.
But then you found out that the knight was secretly another dude from the future, so fuck that.
Let me come clean on something: I might be giving this book a hard time. Harder than it deserves.
I sort of have a small grudge with Crichton.
Back in the sixth grade I was given a few months to read ten 100-page books, or the equivalent with fatter novels; just so long as I hit 1,000 pages.
Almost everyone in class read Goosebumps. With the huge font, extreme line spacing, and simple stories that barely ever had a descriptive paragraph, you can finish most of those in less than an hour.
But I wanted to try something a little more interesting, so I picked up Jurassic Park. Big mistake on my part.
The book was over 600 pages, with really tiny font, and from the first page to the last it was a flat, meaningless adventure that did absolutely nothing for my imagination.
You know how people say that the book is always better than the movie? Not this time.
So after I finished the disappointing crap-fest, already despising Crichton for forcing me into a situation where I couldn't just throw the goddamned book away when I was halfway through because I really needed those book points to get a good grade, I presented the novel to my teacher, who decided that Jurassic Park would count as three 100-page books, instead of six.
Why she fucked me, I have no idea. She was kind of an irrational woman. But you can bet that I never picked up any book that was more than a hundred pages long until after I graduated from the sixth grade.
And I didn't pick up another Michael Crichton novel until Timeline, which apparently, turned out to be a big mistake.