DTI: Watching the Clock by C. L. Bennett Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by Thrawn, Apr 18, 2011.

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Rate DTI: Watching The Clock

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  1. Admiral_Young

    Admiral_Young Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    Any chance of an uptime Federation Temporal Agency book Christopher? I think it would be a neat "loose" trilogy (I know you don't intend these to be part of a series) with Forgotten History depicting the DTI's origins in the past, Watching the Clock dealing with the present, and my suggestion dealing with the future. A long shot and I guess the answer is no but I still would like to see a book. Jena Noi is a new favorite Trek Lit character of mine now. I really loved the ambitious hard science take on time travel and the classifications that you assigned in the book. I've read the book three times now...
     
  2. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    I don't know... it's an interesting thought, and I'd certainly have fun revisiting Jena Noi, but it would have to be pretty far removed from the familiar characters and settings of the onscreen shows, and thus would be a tougher sell.

    At this point, I prefer not to speculate about what I might write for Trek in the future. There's no telling what could come next.
     
  3. DorkBoy [TM]

    DorkBoy [TM] Captain Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    DTI was a great read! Had the same sort of feel of "X-Files" (obviously) or "Men in Black" only with time travel instead of aliens.

    I loved the fact that you made sense of all of the different forms of (and interpretations of) time travel we've seen in Star Trek. Especially the idea that you can have little inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies within essentially the same timeline, without automatically creating a completely new branch. That's sort of how I feel about Trek and all of the inconsistencies (particularly in the novels). Yet it all feels like part of the same "whole," inconsistency-be-damned.

    I loved finally getting a resolution to the "Temporal Cold War." What you depicted here made far more sense than Enterprise. I liked some of the ideas they put forth in Enterprise, but I hated that they pretty much just left everything unfinished. They really didn't seem to have any idea where they were going with it. It was just weird for the sake of weird. This book not only made sense of the conflict, but even gave us a resolution.

    I've always been a sucker for time travel stories. Both in Trek and in general science fiction. But after reading this book though I have a new appreciation for it. Things that seemed silly to me before (like the "Back to the Future" ideas about time travel) seem less silly to me now. I just finished the BttF episodes 1-5 video game, shortly before reading this book.

    Also I liked the explanation for what happened to Captain Christopher, when he was "beamed into himself." I always thought that was one of the oddest and most ridiculous endings to what was otherwise a really interesting time travel episode. After reading your interpretation, even that makes sense to me. :)

    And I couldn't get over how funny this book was. Not Peter David laugh riot funny, but a very cerebral sort of funny. I laughed out loud when Theresa said "Future Guy" and then realized how dumb that sounded - man that was great.

    By the way, my brain's natural "casting" process selected the actress who played Rain Robinson on Voyager as Theresa. She seemed to have a similar personality, and I can see her becoming something like a DTI agent. (Greg Cox actually had Rain Robinson recruited by the Ageis in his Khan books, which seemed fitting...)

    Anyhow good stuff. Looking forward to the next DTI book.
     
  4. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    Actually I did my level best to avoid any X-Files references. Not only am I not particularly fond of that show, but Lucsly and Dulmur really have nothing in common with Mulder and Scully aside from the letters of their names, and they couldn't stand as lead characters if they were nothing more than an extended in-joke. I was going more for a law-enforcement procedural feel.


    Well, that's rooted in real quantum theory, though I fudged it a bit to allow for discrepancies lasting for minutes or hours or longer instead of picoseconds or whatever. The idea is that what we see as a coherent reality is an illusion; that stuff is happening in multiple simultaneous ways all the time (at least on the subatomic level) but the "singular" reality we observe is just the part that lasts longest, the part that all observers can agree on.

    Which, yeah, I guess could be seen as a metaphor for the attempt of Trek fans to construct the conceit of a uniform reality out of the many different, not entirely compatible interpretations seen in various series, episodes, movies, books, etc.


    That's pretty much true. The creators of ENT had no desire to do anything but a straight prequel, but the network was uneasy with that so they forced the producers to include time travellers from the future. But since it wasn't something the creators wanted to do in the first place, they didn't really have a clear vision of what to do with it, and they brushed it aside as soon as they could get away with doing so.


    Sarah Silverman is sort of in the ballpark, but I based Teresa on Natalie Morales of The Middleman.
     
  5. Julio Angel Ortiz

    Julio Angel Ortiz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    So, I stumbled across a tidbit on Memory Beta that the Titan makes an appearance in this novel? Is this true, how much of a cameo is it and when does it fit chronologically? I'm very curious. This book was already on my to-read list (I love time travel stories). Thanks.
     
  6. captcalhoun

    captcalhoun Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    yes it does appear. i forgot that, but i've just checked. the ship and crew are part of one of the plots. the book is mostly set in 2381 and '82, taking place both before and after Destiny in its 'present' timeframe.
     
  7. DorkBoy [TM]

    DorkBoy [TM] Captain Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    On the G&T show the other day, when they were talking about your book, they mentioned how originally they wanted the X-files actors to do a cameo as Dulmur and Lucsly. But Fox wouldn't let them.

    I couldn't help thinking how much better the book is that they DIDN'T do that. It would really be hard to create new characters without channeling the X-files if they were just a cheap cameo.

    And you're right, they're not the same characters at all. I just meant the general concept of how they're investigating these things that are for the most part beyond their power to control, and have to keep it all secret. Actually I was reminded more of "Men in Black." :)
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    Titan is featured in Chapters V, VIII, and IX of Watching the Clock, taking place in September-October 2381. It's the Titan's next mission immediately after Synthesis.



    I heard them claim that on the radio show, but I'm wondering what their source for that is, because I can't recall ever having heard it before and I can't find any corroboration for it.
     
  9. Julio Angel Ortiz

    Julio Angel Ortiz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    First off, thanks to you and captcalhoun for the detailed responses. Second, awesome. Third, I'm curious, when you originally planned this novel, did you intend to have Titan appear? How did that development come about?
     
  10. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    A book revolving entirely around new or barely-glimpsed guest characters would have limited audience appeal, so I figured I should throw in guest appearances by major series characters, so yes, I did outline it with the Titan appearance included, as well as some appearances by other major characters like Picard and Janeway. Additionally, I like writing Titan, so this was an opportunity to revisit some members of that crew.
     
  11. Julio Angel Ortiz

    Julio Angel Ortiz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    ^ Awesome, thanks again.
     
  12. Julio Angel Ortiz

    Julio Angel Ortiz Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    110 pages into it and I'm loving it.
     
  13. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    Hey!

    I just finished "Watching the Clock" and had some thoughts.

    I actually liked the bit about homosexuality because there's a double-meaning there which I found amusing. It may or may not have been intentional but I really liked it anyway. Basically, it's not so much that they no longer find it problematic that a man marries a man (which is wonderful in the Federation and I hope it'll happen in the next ten years of our world - progress goes in leaps and bounds after all) but that they also are shocked she's NOT troubled by her descendant marrying an alien.

    For me, that was a nice warning that people who do make themselves more open minded should also be aware that they aren't missing other flaws in their personality. I know plenty of people who are very proud of their open-minded in some areas but utterly racist, sexist, or homophobic in other areas. It also nicely undercuts the "we're evolved" mentality of Star Trek - humanity has always had the potential Star Trek displays.

    Because, if it didn't, how did they become the Federation?
    There's also another bit I enjoyed where you showed a flaw in the heroes' view. Lucsly desperately wants to believe that time is linear and there's a "one true timeline." This is a religion, though, not actually factually true. His timeline is built on time-travel and as the Axis of Time proves, the many cultures in the past were built on time-travel. Without Kirk stealing whales from the 20th century, humanity would have died. Without Janeway, etc. ect.

    Basically, time is an ocean and it's a constantly shifting one. Still, that doesn't make Dulmer and Lucsly's efforts fruitless. There's a lot of bad people out there and misguidedly good intentioned ones who do want to make time-travel their personal slave. The book showed a nice contrast between the various types ranging from the would-be nutcases to the horrifically wronged.
     
  14. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    A very enjoyable read. Thanks, Christopher!:)

    My only quibbles are minor: I didn't like the way the Guardian was written out (especially since it was working just fine in the "earlier" version of the future seen in Imzadi) and that Future Guy's reveal (which really should have been saved for an Enterprise novel) fell flat.
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    ^I chose to avoid the Guardian because I didn't want to risk running afoul of the legal issues that were raised in response to Crucible (although now I understand that the concern was apparently more about quoting specific dialogue from "City on the Edge," and there is more of the Guardian in Forgotten History out of necessity).

    But also, there's the fact that the Guardian has been Done. To. Death. If you want to read about the Guardian, there's no shortage of books and stories where you can. It's become a cliche by this point. I didn't want to go back to that well.

    As for Future Guy, I admit the reveal was a bit awkward, but the nature of the story precluded him from being a previously established character, so I couldn't really make it a straight, fair-play mystery. I had to make the mystery more about the why than the who.

    But I don't agree that the reveal needed to be in an ENT novel. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make about the Temporal Cold War is treating it solely as a function of the ENT era. By definition, the TCW spans many eras, and the 22nd century was merely a single front of the conflict. So it's logical that there could be, indeed must be, Temporal Cold War stories to tell in other centuries.

    In fact, as I reviewed Future Guy's actions in ENT, it became clear to me that his focus was very much not on Jonathan Archer and NX-01. Archer was just someone who happened to stumble into an ongoing conflict, someone Future Guy generally tried to avoid interfering with except when he started to become an impediment, someone FG even saved or helped on a couple of occasions. And FG's Suliban had been attacking the Tandarans for nearly a decade before NX-01 even launched. So whatever Future Guy's agenda was, Archer wasn't at the heart of it. It wasn't about preventing the birth of the Federation. It was more about the Tandarans and the Klingons and the others that the Suliban Cabal clashed with. And since FG's actions in the 22nd century didn't seem to have a single clear, unifying purpose to them, maybe his ultimate goal wasn't about the 22nd century at all. Maybe the only story that could explain the mess that was ENT's Temporal Cold War "arc" was one set in a different era, one that was able to examine the TCW more globally. You couldn't do a story like that in the ENT era, because there are limits on how much you could reveal to Archer and his crew about the future of the Trek universe.
     
  16. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    Incidently, I loved the bit where Gardia casually refers to you-know-who as "Future Guy," then catches herself . . ..
     
  17. elaithin

    elaithin Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    Hell, yes. That was awesome.
     
  18. Charles Phipps

    Charles Phipps Captain Captain

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  19. GHS

    GHS Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    Christopher, just wanted to say I loved the Watching the Clock annotations up on your website, and think they'd have been welcomed in the book itself.

    Although I enjoyed the way the Temporal Cold War mystery played out, it seemed to me that Lucsly and Dulmer were kind of doomed to just wait for uptime agents to bless them with information to make any headway. As far as what those two actually worked out for themselves, the main thing I recall is several aspects of how the Borg fit in. What do you think their biggest detecting accomplishment in the book was? I would say the deducing you did in piecing the whole plot together far outstripped what your main characters achieved (up until the last chapter, anyway).

    I also felt like the ultimate goal of the villain was still not all that convincing, given the tremendous effort he had to go through, particularly since it seemed like that result would just one more step towards his realizing his REAL goal (the prize in the book didn't by itself make him wealthy or all-powerful) and that once the hitch the Borg threw in his plans was spelled out, there's no limit to what he could have been pursuing. So I think a little more embellishing on his ultimate ambitions would have helped.

    If you were to approach the story solely from perspective of solving unanswered Temporal Cold War questions (instead of planning to focus on DTI), do you think Daniels would be a better pick as a character who was in a position to play an active role in tracking down The Sponsor?

    Also, was there any one biggest hurdle you encountered in assembling an explanation that held together for the TCW?
     
  20. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: Star Trek: DTI: Watching The Clock Review Thread

    Heck, it's already 500 pages without them... :D Thanks a lot, though.


    Well, that's kind of the nature of the story I was going for. My inspiration was the cop-show trope of the feds coming in and cutting out the local cops from a "need-to-know" investigation. And the fact that the DTI is out of its depth and struggling to cope with dangers that it's often incapable of doing much about is a crucial part of the feel I was going for, the plight the characters are in psychologically. And ultimately that became an advantage -- only Lucsly and Dulmur were able to play the role they did in the climax, precisely because they were the "little guys" that the various future factions underestimated.

    Basically I wasn't trying to elevate the DTI characters into master detectives or galactic heroes, but to embrace their canonical portrayal as drab, unimaginative bureaucrats -- and show how that could be of value. Their investigation was methodical and ploddingly effective rather than involving flamboyant feats of deduction, but it got them where they needed to go.


    Well, I had to build on what Enterprise gave me, which wasn't much. And the structure of the story didn't really let me reveal much about Future Guy until the end, and by that point it was already a really long book and needed to start wrapping up.

    And who said the goal featured here was his ultimate goal? The Temporal Cold War is, by its very nature, an open-ended and multifaceted struggle. The goal he pursued here was a major one that required a lot of complicated machinations to pull off, but ultimately it was just one phase in an ongoing process.

    Besides, I think he enjoyed the complexity of those machinations, the satisfaction of assembling this elaborate puzzle of cause and effect, building this whole Rube Goldberg chain of causality and watching the pieces fall into place as he predicted. After all, what his movement was all about was engineering things, whether genes or societies or history itself, into carefully designed and calculated new forms.


    I don't know, since I wouldn't have told the story that way. The reason I chose a DTI focus is that I was bored with conventional time-travel stories and wanted to deal with time travel in a way that wouldn't involve the main characters actually traveling through time.

    Also, I just don't find Daniels an interesting enough character to want to spend a whole book in his company.


    Just in the general sense that ENT's creators never wanted it in their show (the future elements were imposed by the network) and never had any real plan in mind, so it was all pretty random and unfocused. The whole thing was a hurdle.