Tag Archive: Crichton Timeline


 

Review by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Most people know Daphne du Maurier as a suspense writer, creator of psychological and gothic thrillers like Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and My Cousin Rachel.  But what often gets overlooked is her great science fiction, exploring the boundaries between the known and familiar, and the disturbing edges of twentieth century scientific progress.  Her classic post-war story “The Birds” was transformed into a Hitchcock horror film that bears only superficial similarity to the isolation, drama, and sheer apocalyptic gloom of the original, in which residents of an English coastal village watch their doom coming ever closer, thanks to terrifying radio news updates, and is well worth a read (perhaps not now… or perhaps particularly now, depending on your predilections!).

Her 1969 novel The House on the Strand explores the psychological effects of time travel, through the lens of unlikeable characters doing uninteresting things.  The time machine in du Maurier’s novel is a drug (or “concoction,” as she calls it), or a series of drugs, whose differing effects are never fully (or even partially) explained.  Dick Young is an out-of-work publisher housesitting for an old college chum for the summer, in an old house on the Cornish coast (setting of so many of du Maurier’s stories).  The old college chum, Magnus, has been experimenting with a time-travel drug, and urges Dick to make his own “trips” into the past.

 

What follows is a dense tapestry of Cornish landscape and history, although the details and characters take some considerable time to sort out, and Dick never interacts with any of the figures he observes.  His instant attachment to the characters of the past is only slightly explained in contrast to his wife (whom he dislikes).  A midpoint plot twist introduces a potential murder plotline, and du Maurier definitely keeps the reader guessing (or perhaps hoping) what might happen next.  None of my expectations were ultimately borne out, to my disappointment, and the main character never grew any more sympathetic.  There is a comeuppance, of a sort, at the very end, satisfying in its own way.  It’s easy to read this as an inspiration or forebear for later time travel stories to come, especially Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book, set in the same time period, or Michael Crichton’s Timeline. 

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Assassins Creed Ankh Of Isis Trilogy

Whether you’ve played videogames or not, you likely know something about Assassin’s Creed, the game featuring modern time travelers that are able to tap into the minds of their ancestors to seek talismans, avenge the wronged, and put the future on the right track.  The Assassins appear to gameplayers in various historical contexts, wearing variations on that familiar, oft-cosplayed hooded costume, those nifty gauntlets, and an often blood-soaked sword.  The first English translation of the comic book tie-ins of the game are now available in a hardcover compilation from Titan Books and Ubisoft, called Assassin’s Creed: The Ankh of Isis Trilogy.

French writer Eric Corbeyran and artist Djilalli Defaux piece together an epic story broken into three parts, focusing on three characters mired in a world of violence and mistrust.  First, Desmond Miles, a descendant of the Assassins who uses a mind-based time travel method to improve his “genetic memory” by reaching back to his ancestors, similar to Avatar but more like the time travel technology of Connie Willis’s science fiction novelsand Michael Crichton’s Timeline.  Next, Aquilus is an ancestor of Desmond living in ancient Rome who is odds with the men that would become the Templars, and he seeks to avenge his father’s death.  The third part features Accipiter, a deadly Assassin and leader of Barbarians advancing on Lugdunum, as Aquilus seeks the lost talisman of the trilogy, the Ankh of Isis.*

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Hundreds of years of protective rites and honor are balanced between the Assassins and the forces throughout history that oppose them.  The significance and power of names, the interspersed real historical places and conflicts, and engaging characters, make this a better than average tie-in series.  This includes an intrepid scientist in the present day named Lucy Stillman who facilitates the mind-damaging time travel process but aims to protect Desmond from those who would dismiss his value.

To one extent, Assassin’s Creed: The Ankh of Isis Trilogy reads like a simple 1980s era PC role playing game—where you’d enter new rooms, battle a foe and find the hidden relic.  Whether you’re into the more high tech versions in modern gaming or not (and eight million copies of Assassin’s Creed demonstrates there is a real market for this series), any fan of the adventure genre will find this series accessible, with an audience for older teens and up (for language and violence).

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