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

  1. Outstanding

    97 vote(s)
    59.5%
  2. Above Average

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  3. Average

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  4. Below Average

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  5. Poor

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  1. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    ^Thanks!
     
  2. EliyahuQeoni

    EliyahuQeoni Commodore Commodore

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

    I agree 100%. One of the common faults I find in "Hard SF" authors is that their writing style--especially when describing tech/science concepts--is dry and boring, like a bad text book (And this is coming from someone who likes to read text books). Christopher's Trek Lit is as close to Hard SF as Trek can get, IMO, but is never dry or boring.

    And I think, though I have made the mistake myself, it is insulting to call what Christopher does "techno-babble." Techno-Babble is meaningless verbiage that has a technical sound to it. By and large Christopher's technical-talk has a firm basis in real science & is one of the few author's I've seen that excel at taking techno-babble and making rational sense out of it.

    I loved DTI:WTC and cannot wait for the next DTI installment!
     
  3. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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

    I'm about 80 pages into the book, and so far I'm loving it. I will admit, I did find some of the stuff in the chapter with Garcia's training a little confusing, but everything else about the book has been great.
     
  4. dispatcher812

    dispatcher812 Commander Red Shirt

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

    I decided to give it one last try. However, I did not get past 2 pages and I had a headache and was lost due to the techno jargon. I have deleted it form my kindle.

    I am sorry Mr Bennett, I can't go any further with this one. I have enjoyed your previous books and hope to enjoy your future ones. (pun intended)


    Kevin
     
  5. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    I finished it but it wasn't my cup of tea. Tying yourself in knots tring to explain how time travel really works (hint:it really doesn't) kept pulling me out of the story. Star Trek is action/adventure with a moral usually tacked on somewhat haphazardly. It's not a science textbook. For that, I'll pick up Robert L. Forward. It sometimes feels like the series should be renamed Time Trek lately. Just look at the arguments that the last movie started with it's "time travel creates a new universe that you can't get out of". What about COTEOF or First Contact (the movie, not the episode)? Trying to say that this is how time travel works in this case but not in that one is silly. Time travel works in whatever way the story needs it to work.
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    Star Trek has never been just one thing; it accommodates a wide range of storytelling styles, and the literature even more so. Pocket's ST novel line has long been characterized by its diversity, offering something for all tastes. There's as much room in it for a hard SF approach as there is for anything else, though naturally no single approach will work for every reader.

    Gene Roddenberry always aspired to make ST as plausible as he could. He consulted extensively with scientists, engineers, and researchers in developing the show, something which very few television producers before or since have done. His successors may not have lived up to that aspiration very well, and indeed Roddenberry himself didn't always do so, but I've always felt that a commitment to plausibility was in keeping with the original intentions behind ST.


    Which is a question I actually do answer in the book.

    I don't think it's silly to try to reconcile different stories with one another; that impulse has driven many ST stories over the years, not just in the literature but in canon as well (see: virtually the entire fourth season of Enterprise). Stories can come from all kinds of different sources, and if someone looks at two conflicting things and has a clever idea for how they can be reconciled, that's as valid a way to create as any other.

    Besides, whereas I went into the project believing that there were all sorts of random, incompatible notions about time travel in Trek, as I studied the actual science I found that a lot of the ideas were more plausible than they seemed, and the whole thing fit together better than I expected. That was part of the fun of it, of looking beyond the surface expectations and discovering surprising connections. The silliest thing of all is not questioning your preconceptions.
     
  7. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    Roddenberry also didn't see the need to explain why things work any more than a character of a police drama would stop to explain how his service revolver works and what it can and cannot do.

    There's lots of Star Trek out there that caters to many tastes. This one didn't appeal to me. I'm not saying it's bad. I'm simply stating why it didn't work for me. Me, I've gotten tired of the books that feel that they have to refer to a bunch of previous stories, either in large or small doses. The vast majority or broadcast Trek didn't require any knowledge of previous episodes to spin a good yarn. Books have more freedom in the stories they tell but that doesn't mean they have to try to make a quilt out of the patchwork of previously told stories. Feel free to disagree. As I said, lots of room for all sorts. I'll be looking forward to your next stand alone (Titan! Titan! Titan!) book but will be passing on the seuqel to this one.
     
  8. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    Granted, but in a novel you have room to include explanations in narration when they're relevant.

    I'm aware there's a lot of exposition in Watching the Clock, and I'm actually a little uncomfortable with the quantity of it. But the story I constructed needed the exposition, because a number of plot points depended on the underlying theory of time travel that I formulated for the book. See, I can't just decide what I want to happen and then make up random rules to justify it; that's not the way my mind works. In order to write about something, I need to have some understanding of how it works. So to do a Trek time travel novel, I had to figure out how Trek time travel worked and then use that understanding to figure out what would happen in the story. I couldn't just have this stuff happen without playing fair with the audience and establishing how and why it happened. Maybe I could've found a defter way to do that than the infodumps, but I couldn't find one in the time I had.


    But you did say it was silly, and that implies that there's something intrinsically wrong with the attempt. So should we just chalk that up to a poor choice of words?
     
  9. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    How about "It strikes me as silly"?`

    Just because you have the room doesn`t mean that you have to include the explnations, relevent or not. Sometimes things just don`t need to be explained. You may have it all worked out in your own mind but if it slows or detracts from the story then it`s not necessary. It may be slightly more realistic technobabble but, to me, it still came out as technobabble, just like long explanations of how warp drive works. Neither of them are actually possible to the best of our current knowledge, at least in the way they`re portrayed in Trek and all other sci-fi shows. I`d much rather read an interesting story about interesting characters that just happens to have a futuristic-ish setting.
     
  10. Admiral_Young

    Admiral_Young Fleet Admiral Admiral

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

    The book did have an interesting story (very poignant story IMO) that focused on characters that happened to have a futuristic setting. It also had those characters be time agents and how tough it is to be part of something that no one really recognizes the work and effect the DTI do. That I thought was really the point of the novel. The explanation of time travel was secondary to me.
     
  11. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    Yes, but for me the chronobabble got in the way. Different stokes. Future guy and the whole temporal cold war bored me to tears on Enterprise so I've got that bias as well.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    Of course I'm aware of that. I've had plenty of practice in my career with trimming out unnecessary exposition, something I had to learn because of my early tendency to exposit too much. But sometimes exposition is necessary, and my judgment was that in this particular context, the exposition I gave served a valid story purpose.

    That's absolutely true, but here it didn't detract from the story; it was part of the story. It laid the groundwork for the events that happened later on. Also, it fit the characters, helping to establish the mentality of DTI agents, who are very meticulous, detail-oriented people by nature or by training, and whose profession requires them to wrap their minds around a lot of very complicated ideas.


    Actually they're both theoretically possible under General Relativity, although prohibitively impractical in the sense of requiring whole planetary masses' worth of energy. That's what's so interesting about them -- we actually do know the specifics of how a warp drive or a time machine would work, from a physical and mathematical standpoint. We know the basics of what it would require to create one, even if we haven't worked out the engineering details.

    And like I said, when I compare ST's science to real physics, it's often surprising how easy it is to reconcile them, at least in broad strokes.


    But that's only borderline science fiction at best. Ideally an SF story is one where the scientific concept is at the core of the story rather than just a background trapping on a story that could be done in the Old West or present-day Boston or whatever. And it doesn't even have to be explained in detail, it just has to be something that drives the story, like the way Frankenstein's creation of artificial life drives Mary Shelley's novel even though there's essentially no explanation of the mechanism behind it. Or VGR: "Tuvix," where there's only a cursory handwave explanation for how two people were combined into one, but the SF concept drives a story that literally could not be told without it, and it's a deeply emotional and character-driven story. There doesn't have to be a contradiction between telling science-driven stories and telling character-driven stories. I've based my whole career on that philosophy.
     
  13. Admiral_Young

    Admiral_Young Fleet Admiral Admiral

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

    @JamesRKirk I'm curious...why did you read the book in the first place if you had so many different problems with its premise? A Christopher book is going to contain the elements that you have pointed out that you didn't like. Aside from the time travel stuff, this was pretty much a status quo Christopher Bennett Trek novel.
     
  14. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    Sure it could be told in other ways. Wave a magic wand and let Harry Potter deal with the moral ramifications. A handwave doesn't make the science plausable, it only makes it sound plausable.

    Having an idea that something could work under general ralativity doesn't mean it's plausable until we try to actually do it. There may be more to it than we know. And really, how plausable are protomatter, the Genesis device and red matter? Or phasers that don't travel at the speed of light or water that makes you move so fast you can't be seen? (and how did they manage to comminicate with each other? They were moving much faster than sound. And how did they get from deck to deck?)

    A Private Little War could have been told in any number of genres, does that mean it's not a good Star Trek story?
     
  15. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    You've completely missed the point. I'm not talking about the level of explanation, as I clearly said already. I'm talking about telling a story that could not be told without the scientific concept in it. "Tuvix"'s powerful ethical and personal dilemma couldn't be told without the science-fiction conceit of a technology that can combine two people into one. Without the science, the story wouldn't even exist. That's the power of SF as a genre, its ability to explore the human ramifications of situations that have never occurred in reality, and thereby reveal things about human nature or philosophy that could not be explored in any other kind of story. That's why good SF is more than just routine romances or mysteries or chase stories or whatever that happen to take place in a high-tech setting.


    Science fiction is not about trying to predict the actual future. It's about telling stories about interesting hypothetical ideas. It's about making the audience think and explore new possibilities. What's plausible as a story is different from what's plausible as a real prediction of the future. In the former, plausibility is about the feel of the story, about making it feel genuine enough that the audience can easily suspend disbelief.


    I never said it was perfect. Again, enjoyment of fiction is about the willing suspension of disbelief. If you insist that every last detail be a perfect match to reality, you can't enjoy any fiction. Reading or watching fiction is about choosing to pretend it's real for the duration of the experience, playing along with the conceit. And plausibility is about facilitating your willing suspension of disbelief: the more there is in a story that feels believable or true, the more willing you'll be to pretend the more fanciful stuff is also true.

    And of course there are times when Star Trek falls farther short than others when it comes to plausibility, because it's a collection of hundreds of different stories by hundreds of different creators. But that doesn't mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater. To me, it means doing what I can to increase the level of plausibility so that the implausible stuff is easier to swallow.


    Again, ST stories can be many things. I was talking about the difference between a true science fiction story and a story that merely has the semantics of science fiction tacked onto a more ordinary syntax. ST includes both among its many, many different stories.
     
  16. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    I'd like to say that although I've been lurking on the boards for a while I've discovered that actually posting makes it an entirely different experience. For one thing, trying to respond to multiple messages in the same thread is hard enough. Managing different messages in different threads is even harder. As a newbie to TrekBBS I fear I may have bitten off more than I could chew. If I've come across as rude or abrupt I do apologize. I fear it'll take me a while to get my board legs.

    I hope I'm not missing it again but what I was trying to say was that the concept of merging two people into ones isn't necessarily a scientific one. Imagine a fantasy story where a spell goes wrong instead of a transporter accident. They manage to come up with a spell that CAN separate the tow people but the same question comes up, SHOULD they? That's the crux of the story of Tuvix. It doesn't matter how they're combined. What matters is what the Captain & crew do once they are. The science doesn't enter into it, at least from my perspective. And really, a plant causes the transporter to merge two people? It may work for some people and that's fine but I just accepted it as being the same class of storytelling shorthand as the magnetic ore from The Enemy Within. It's not important how it happened but what happens afterwards.
     
  17. JB2005

    JB2005 Commodore Commodore

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

    Which is exactly what Christopher was saying...
     
  18. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    What Christopher said is (bold added by me):

    I'm saying that the science isn't the important part. It can be told in other ways, magic, for example. Tuvix isn't a story about the technology to merge and separate individuals, it's about the moral and ethical actions that you do or do not take. How they got merged is irrelevant.
     
  19. JB2005

    JB2005 Commodore Commodore

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

    No but the fact that they got merged is relevant and in Sci-Fi they're going to be merged by Science. But since Sci-Fi is usually lumped together with Fantasy (ie Harry Potter) magic /science are basically the same thing, (Sufficiently Advanced Technology and All that)

    What I took from Christopher's post was that there needs to be a method of merging in order to tell the story, and in Sci-Fi it's going to be a scientific method. But it's not the science that's driving the story, the science - like the magic - doesn't really matter, it's the catalyst not the reagant (to stretch a metaphor beyond all recognition)
     
  20. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    Agreed however Trek science is sufficiently malleable that pretty much any explanation involving the transporter is going to cover it. That doesn't mean that it actually makes a whole lot of sense in the real world but I usually take the science in Trek with a rather large grain of salt. If I want real science I'll watch Nova. If I want sci-fi adventures with some sort of message I'll watch Trek.