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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old February 13 2009, 04:59 AM   #1
Julio Angel Ortiz
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Titan: Over a Torrent Sea (SPOILERS)

I pre-ordered this from a local bookstore and got a call tonight that it had arrived. Unfortunately, this was 30 minutes before the store closed and I was in no position to go get it. But luckily, I'm off tomorrow, so after breakfast with the wife, I know where we're headed.

Anyone else got their copy? Any impressions?
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Old February 13 2009, 05:44 AM   #2
Brendan Moody
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

UPS should deliver my copy tomorrow afternoon, so I'll be sharing my thoughts on it over the next few days as well.
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Old February 13 2009, 11:33 AM   #3
RikerLover
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

Julio Angel Ortiz wrote: View Post
I pre-ordered this from a local bookstore and got a call tonight that it had arrived. Unfortunately, this was 30 minutes before the store closed and I was in no position to go get it. But luckily, I'm off tomorrow, so after breakfast with the wife, I know where we're headed.

Anyone else got their copy? Any impressions?
Which bookstore did you pre-order from? I pre-ordered my copy from Barnes and Noble last week but haven't heard yet.

I noticed last evening that Google Books had a preview with quite a bit cut out but B&N had a preview (Prologue and Chapter 1) that appeared to be complete. Unfortunately, you need an account to preview it but you can always create one without ordering. Very interesting I might add.

Last edited by RikerLover; February 13 2009 at 12:14 PM. Reason: additional paragraph
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Old February 13 2009, 05:09 PM   #4
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

Interesting news! Looking forward to my copy...
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Old February 14 2009, 03:27 AM   #5
dispatcher812
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

I pre ordered from simonsays.com. Any Ideas when I will see my copy? Last time I checked it was still on preorder status.
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Old February 14 2009, 05:20 AM   #6
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

I called Barnes and Nobles today and I was told there are no copies in the warehouses yet. So I must wait patiently. *twiddles thumbs*

Kevin
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Old February 14 2009, 05:59 AM   #7
Julio Angel Ortiz
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

Finished through Chapter 4. Very, very good stuff. A change of pace- lots of "harder" science but given the usual Christopher touch, and a nice, relaxed pace with a few mysteries to solve. The concept behind Droplet is very cool and I like the aquatic species and "wildlife" we're exposed to. I also like the idea that Titan received upgrades during its stay at Utopia Planitia, as well as some of the crew changes (which makes sense after the Borg invasion, and in ship life overall).

If I weren't so tired, I'd keep reading. But I need to go to bed...
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Old February 14 2009, 07:49 AM   #8
Kopernikus
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

It's already coming out? Didn't we just have New Years Eve? I haven't read a single one of the 2009-books so far.... Man, either I'm turning old or time is just progressing too fast nowadays. Or maybe a combination of both....
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Old February 14 2009, 09:35 AM   #9
D Man
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

I can't wait til this book arrives at my local Barnes & Noble, since a Trek book by Christopher hasn't let me down yet. I'm hoping to pick it up this coming week, and if it tops Orion's Hounds and/or The Buried Age we're looking at a new record.
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Old February 14 2009, 12:54 PM   #10
Idoliside
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

Just ordered from TBD. Should be good readin'
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Old February 14 2009, 03:11 PM   #11
Brendan Moody
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

Just started Chapter Eleven, and am enjoying the book despite some flaws of construction. As ever, I especially appreciate the attention given to science and world-building. More thoughts later, when I've finished.
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Old February 14 2009, 05:09 PM   #12
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

Kopernikus wrote: View Post
It's already coming out? Didn't we just have New Years Eve? I haven't read a single one of the 2009-books so far.... Man, either I'm turning old or time is just progressing too fast nowadays. Or maybe a combination of both....
Don't worry. It won't be available in Germany until early March, anyway. So, so far, you're only two books behind.
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Old February 14 2009, 05:17 PM   #13
RikerLover
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

To the 2 people who are reading the book at the moment, I don't mind spoilers. I'm hoping to get my book sometime next week; although I'm going to be near a Borders tomorrow and may stop in and check on it after I work to promote greyhound adoption.
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Old February 14 2009, 05:47 PM   #14
Brendan Moody
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

And here am I. This review will contain UNCODED SPOILERS for Over a Torrent Sea because I don't feel like hiding paragraphs of text behind code or starting a whole new thread. So, again, beware UNCODED SPOILERS in the text below.

In many ways, Over a Torrent Sea is a book that I found enjoyable in spite of itself. Like some of Christopher L. Bennett's other recent work, it has plenty of good concepts, with excellent world-building and some potent character material, but the execution of these elements suffers from excessive directness and lack of meaningful drama. The strength of the book's ideas ultimately makes it a satisfying reading experience, yet its true potential is unrealized.

My biggest complaint about Trek fiction in recent years is that there isn't enough original world-building and science fiction work, with elaboration of existing species and situations getting most of the attention. I'm not looking to reignite that debate; I mention this only because it means that the alien civilization introduced in Over a Torrent Sea is just what I've been looking for. It's something new, not just in terms of being an unfamiliar name but as a kind of alien we haven't seen before. And the depth of world-building here is extraordinary; Christopher's command of science means that the ecology and resulting society of the aliens is detailed and entirely credible, and although there's a lot of terminology that may not be familiar to those of us who have forgotten most of what we learned in science class, the gist of what's going on is also clear. All this made the first few chapters of Over a Torrent Sea involving reading for me, since I find such material fascinating.

Fascinating up to a point, anyway. Much as I hate to criticize the book for something I've been clamoring for, I feel there's a balance to be struck between this world-building and other elements, and Over a Torrent Sea doesn't quite hit it. So much of the first third of the book is given over to straightforward infodumps about the planet that after a while the information becomes a bit tedious simply by its bulk. True, it's intercut with some mild character material setting up some of the issues that will emerge in later chapters, but that material is too mild, and ends up feeling incidental, inadequate to disguising the exposition. This is exacerbated by the fact that there's very little plot in the first hundred and twenty pages; apart from the two attacks on Lavena, which are over quickly and not presented very dramatically, all that happens is that characters talk about various things. There's no inherent problem with talky SF, but here it doesn't build up enough of a rhythm to sustain interest. Once the asteroid arrives on the scene, though, things pick up, and a better mix of science and story is achieved.

More pervasive and more problematic than the overdose of science is the book's directness and flatness of character drama. As I mentioned above, there's a lot of potential in the character material the book sets up, but the tendency to state and then solve character problems in unrealistically and uninterestingly straightforward terms undermines things. I may have mentioned before that I consider the presence of counselors as prominent characters in some recent fiction to be a mixed blessing. It's important to foreground issues of characters' mental health, but (in Trek fiction, anyway) counselors do so in a way that saps drama, by saying "I think your problem is x, dude." That just doesn't make for compelling fiction. Worse still, in Over a Torrent Sea, everyone talks like this. I can buy it to some extent with Vulcan characters like Tuvok and T'Pel, but there's no reason other species should be able to pinpoint and discuss their emotions with such exactness. That's not realistic, and even if it were it would be boring to read about. I hesitate to bring up the phrase "soap opera" in this context, since it's the facile criticism people use to complain about having any emotion in fiction, but one of the characteristics of soaps is the very on-the-nose dialogue style where everyone knows and says exactly what they're thinking, without the kind of nuance that makes for good psychological drama.

The larger issue is that not only do the characters talk about their problems with incredible ease, they talk them out most of the time. I know a good discussion can be therapeutic, but the principle has its limits, and such things don't often make for good drama. The resolution of the Tuvok/Troi/Ree standoff is the most egregious example of this I've seen in some time. I realize there's a suggestion that the talking isn't what actually what cools things down, but that's irrelevant; on dramatic terms things work out because Tuvok is just able to say the right words and fix not only his grief but Troi's anger and Ree's rage. There isn't enough sense of struggle and context for this to mean anything for me as a reader; it just feels like the "five minutes from the end" syndrome that afflicted too many Voyager episodes. The pain that these characters are suffering from isn't the kind of thing that can be dealt with like this. I appreciate that realistic treatments of grief in a format like that of Star Trek aren't easy to do, but the falseness of what's offered here just grates. Lavena's resolution is a little better: there's still too much inerrant self-analysis, but having her realize her regret over past decisions through having to care for Riker like he was a child adds a layer of metaphor that helps, even if the text does hammer home the purpose of that moment.

Since I did enjoy the book, I'll end on another positive note by mentioning one of its real virtues: the writing of the scenes in which Lavena and Cethente explore Droplet. Having non-humans visit a non-human environment allows an interplay of worlds and worldviews that's fascinating, and the prose here really captures the way these characters experience the universe. (So much so that I'm willing to forgive the painful pun near the beginning of the Cethente scene.) It's just great science fiction writing, of a sort Trek doesn't see enough of. Which underlines my general feeling about Over a Torrent Sea: strong science fiction, not so strong character fiction, but overall a worthwhile if idiosyncratic read.
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Last edited by Brendan Moody; February 14 2009 at 06:13 PM.
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Old February 14 2009, 07:51 PM   #15
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Re: Titan: Over a Torrent Sea

^^Thanks for the comments! I'm glad you liked the worldbuilding, and I'm sorry the character writing wasn't more to your liking. As someone who spent years in therapy and learned a lot about analyzing myself, it doesn't seem unnatural to me for characters to engage in that kind of introspection; maybe I'm too quick to project my own approach onto others (although I'd like to think that more people in the future get regular counseling and have that kind of introspective skill, since it should be a standard part of a basic health regimen). Or maybe I just like to see problems getting solved by thoughtful analysis, whether they're scientific or personal. Anyway, it's something I'll try to keep in mind in the future.

As for the lack of drama in the early chapters, that's kind of what I wanted, in a way. After all the big drama and turmoil of Destiny and the tense aftermath of the other followup books, I wanted this one to be a change of pace, a more relaxed and laid-back tale. I wanted the characters to have a chance to do their regular job, just go to an interesting new place and tackle its scientific mysteries for a while before anything really dangerous happened. That's probably not for everyone, I guess.
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