Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread
- this is another outstanding one.
Just as with Buried Age and its take on galactic history, and Orion's Hounds and its take on space-going fauna, this book exemplifies a particular type of writing that takes a bunch of (seeming?) contradictions, confusions, or just minor tidbits from all around a huge universe and forms a coherent backstory and narrative out of it... it's a strange sort of plotting, one that perhaps would occur in particularly weird historical fiction, but mostly seems to be the exclusive province of tie-ins. Either way, you're clearly the best I've seen; this had to have been the hardest challenge of that variety you've taken on so far, and you nailed it.
I have to admit, there were aspects I didn't like. I enjoyed where Garcia and Ranjea ended up (enough to really hope for a follow up DTI novel!), but a few moments in their story - especially when she tried to seduce him the first time - were real forehead-slappers. I love your characters, but really, not your finest moment in dialogue scripting. And I still feel like, despite a genuinely heroic effort to make all the time travelling make sense, there were still some things that I couldn't quite wrap my head around.
Like for instance: the Suliban agent is erased from time. But that action is initiated in the FUTURE, and it erases her from ALL of time. So why did the alarm go off at THAT particular moment? Why was there not a moment earlier in that timeline where the protected data went *bing* and noticed a discrepancy? Did the altered timeline without her not exist until that moment? How could that have been when all those things happened in it? ...It's almost hard to even know how to describe it. A man in the future overwrote, instantaneously, a part of the quantum wavefunction of the dominant universe gestalt at a time in the past, effecting parts further in the past, but only becoming noticeable at its endpoint...BLARGH.
Some parts I loved though. I loved the idea of all the people in the TCW being from different futures, fighting to align multiple discordant past timelines with each other to try and make a sort of weight of quantum numbers to get their preferred timeline winning out in the end. And some of the retconning/adding depth was JUST BRILLIANT. The explanation of the Time Squared vortexes and the use of Destiny to justify Janeway not being punished for her shocking carelessness were two of my favorites. That last especially; it expands upon one of my favorite moral ambiguities from Destiny - Janeway's action pissed off the Borg, killing billions, but saving all the Borg's future victims. So was it a heroic action or not? Now we know that it created a future for the Federation, but it violated the deepest principles of the DTI to do it. Another few wrinkles. Vast consequences often hinge on risky, morally ambiguous actions with unclear results; it's nice to see that maturely explored in Trek, which so often opts for the "THIS IS JUST WRONG IT'S JUST WRONG" sort of moralizing.
On a more personal note, I was also somewhat touched by the sympathetic portrayal of DTI as a group of professionals doing a very difficult job. I teach math in an outstanding inner-city school in LA, with a group of people with a very similar mindset. (Students come to us in the 9th grade usually around a 3rd grade level, but we sent 85% of our graduates to college last year.) We joke often, in somewhat black humor, of how many relationships (even two engagements) our school has broken up, from the sense of duty that we can't quite escape. But it's worth it, because it matters. This was a kind and accurate recreation of that emotional state, and I appreciated seeing the particular echo of my own feelings there. If I might ask, was that portrayal based on people you've known, or just on the situation you'd created & the characters in the episode?
All in all, not a flawless work; partially inevitably, as time travel is just a major bitch to make sense of, but also partially as a result of emphasis on the Deltans that never quite landed for me, especially through Garcia's eyes. But it's definitely my favorite book since The Sorrows Of Empire almost a year and a half ago.
Sometimes it's neat to see writers confronted with unexpected challenges, working outside their comfort zone. From what you wrote in the acknowledgments, it sounds like this one might have kicked your ass a little, but it definitely stands proud among the rest of your published works, and the very best of Trek literature. Again, congrats.