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

    44 vote(s)
    27.0%
  3. Average

    13 vote(s)
    8.0%
  4. Below Average

    3 vote(s)
    1.8%
  5. Poor

    6 vote(s)
    3.7%
  1. JB2005

    JB2005 Commodore Commodore

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

    Some Trek Science is better than other Trek Science...it's dependent on how strong the story is on whether you'll start noticing the problems...for instance, Tuvix you'll let it slide, but Threshold will always be slammed and Parallax is borderline in my opinion.

    Watching the Clock on the other hand - as I realise I have been posting in this thread without commenting on the book - is one of the best Trek Novels. Honestly, leaving aside practically everything else, taking two characters who appear for all of about 2 minutes (I'm sure Christopher will have watched the episode enough times to be able to say exactly how long!) and turning them into compelling characters is a real achievement in my opinion! I have Forgotten History on Pre-Order and I can't wait!
     
  2. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    Tuvis was good because of the moral and ethical dilemma. Threshold was just bad on pretty much every level. You could have tightened up the science and it still would have been bad. But, how much can you actually fix the science of a ship travelling faster than light? There's highly theoretical ideas about how it might possibly work but we're nowhere near being able to run any sort of meaningful experiment to test even the smallest part of it. So, you make it fit with the Treknology that's come before and don't worry about it. Then you ignore the salamanders and read a good book.

    Watching the Clock wasn't my cup of tea. I bought it on the strength of Christopher's name and previous works that I've enjoyed. I won't be picking up the sequel but that's OK. Not everything has to appeal to everyone. Even now there's some episodes of all four series that I'll watch from time to time but there's also some that I don't bother with.

    That doesn't mean I won't check out another non time travel novel of Christopher's. I enjoy his writing, just not the subject of time travel.
     
  3. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    That's not the point! Again, it's not about whether something can really happen. That's irrelevant to what I'm talking about here. What I mean is that the story depends on the speculative element -- that it tells a story exploring themes of character and emotion and philosophy that could never be told without the speculative premise of two people being combined into one. Whether that premise is plausible or not is a separate issue, a matter of stylistic preference. Some science fiction is grounded in plausible science, some is based in far more fanciful science. But either way, the point is that if you take away the speculative element, the story can't be told at all.

    But my point is that it's thinking too narrowly to assume it has to be a choice between focusing on a speculative premise and focusing on a character story. My point is that the speculative premise is what makes the character story possible in the first place. That SF is not merely a distraction from exploring characters and ideas and philosophy and emotion, but can enhance the exploration of those things by creating new possibilities, opportunities to put characters in situations they could never face in a more conventional story and explore what those novel situations reveal about human nature, beliefs, emotions, etc. So it's a fallacy to treat it as some kind of zero-sum game where you have to avoid getting into deep, involved concepts in order to tell a story about people. What's interesting about the concepts in the first place is the way they let you tell new stories about people. That's how science fiction ideally works. It's not just about positing hypothetical advances or discoveries, it's about exploring their impact on human nature.

    It's true that in the past, hard SF has often been weak on character and more character-oriented SF has been weak on science, but it doesn't have to be that way. Over the past few decades there's been an increasing number of writers who serve both science and character equally, and I strive to be one of them.


    Well, that's kind of a contradictory statement, because if we're just talking about ideas, about exploring the concept in entirely conjectural stories, then experiment is irrelevant. Fiction is entirely about the ideas. What's cool about it is that you don't have to be limited by having to make things happen for real, so you can freely explore any possibility. SF stories are literary thought experiments, positing a "what if" question and extrapolating a possible answer.

    On a purely conceptual level, which is the only level that makes sense to talk about concerning fiction, the science of FTL travel has been worked out in considerable detail by physicists, particularly since 1994 when Dr. Miguel Alcubierre published his famous "warp drive" metric. This is real theoretical physics research -- that was directly inspired by Star Trek. You may dismiss ST's science as irrelevant because it isn't exactly true, but plenty of actual working physicists disagree. Because exactness doesn't matter; what matters is inspiration, directing minds toward new possibilities.

    The goal in hard SF is not to limit yourself to what's provably real -- hell, it's not SF at all without some conjecture beyond current experimental knowledge. The goal is to minimize the number of impossibilities -- like I said before, to make suspension of disbelief as easy as possible by minimizing the number of things that provoke disbelief. And the research of Alcubierre and others does a lot to reduce the number of things we have to suspend disbelief about in order to accept the premise of FTL travel as plausible.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2012
  4. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    I'm sorry Christopher but I'm not buying into the idea that merging two people has some sort of scientific basis. I don't care HOW they merge or how they solve the merging. The fact that it involves flowers interfering with the transporter doesn't make it somehow more plausible. I see the transporter as a plot device, a way to get people into and out of interesting situations. Sometimes the interesting place is on a planet and other times it's in the mind of a captain who faces a moral dilemma.

    I dont care what people call it. Call it science fiction or sci-fi or action/adventure. What it comes down to for me is am I entertained and does it give me something to think about? I'll watch sci-fi or fantasy or an English bedroom farce as long as it keeps my attention. The genre isn't that important to me. As long as it's fairly self consistent and I can suspend my disbelief the setting really doesn't matter. I like the characters and what they do and how they interact.

    Let me use the Eugencs Wars by Greg Cox as an example. They were a fun romp and it was cute to try and catch the various cameos he slipped in. However, I didn't feel it was necessary to try and make it fit into our world. We didn't have orbital nuclear platforms for example. But I just went along for the ride and had a good time. In the same way I can watch UFO or Space:1999, to me it's about the story and the characters. The science element is secondary at best. When I got Franz Joseph's blueprints I wasn't trying to figure out how things worked. I wondered more how the unseen parts of the ship would have looked on screen and being disappointed that they didn't exactly match up with the sets.

    You've got a science background and love trying to tie things together and making them seem more plausible. For me, it's part of the setting and as long as the broad strokes are fairly consistent I'm willing to let a lot of things go. If you go outside the ship, you'd better wear a space suit or cover it with a line like "There's an oxygen gravity envelope forming outside the Enterprise". I don't care where the gravity is coming from or what's keeping the oxygen in place. The acknowledged that there wasn't any air during the mind meld scene and now there is. Good enough for me. I'd much prefer watching Spock shed a tear.
     
  5. Yevetha

    Yevetha Commodore

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

    Christopher are any of your books aviable as audiobooks?
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    For the umpteenth time, THAT IS NOT THE POINT!!!!! I'm not talking about scientific accuracy where "Tuvix" is concerned. I never have and never would hold up "Tuvix" as an example of scientific accuracy. Indeed, it's one of the most ridiculous, nonsensical sci-fi premises in ST history. So that was NEVER my point, not even remotely. My point is not about science, it's about character. My point is that the sci-fi concept enabled a character story that could never have been told without it. My point is that you're wrong to treat character and speculative content as mutually exclusive, conflicting goals. I've told you that over and over again and you're just not listening.

    You've shown a willingness to learn how to communicate better, but you haven't yet learned that the most important part of communication is listening -- stopping to think about what the other person is actually saying, and setting aside your own preconceptions long enough to hear it. Too many people on the Internet -- and in life in general -- never learn that basic skill. If you're not able to listen to anything I have to say, then I have no reason to want to talk to you at all, because I'd just be wasting my words.
     
  7. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    Perhaps the term speculative is better than science or scientific as you'd used here:

    It's the speculative concept, the "what if" two people are merged that's important. I was confusing the "science" as it exists within the reality of the show and the "science" as it exists in the real world, which is an entirely different thing. I thought you were saying that the only way this story could be told is by using a "scientific" explanation when you were actually sating it was a speculative explanation, although one that had a "scientific" basis within the show. Am I getting warmer?
     
  8. EliyahuQeoni

    EliyahuQeoni Commodore Commodore

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

    Indeed, because the "Chronobabble" was my favorite part of the book. The characters and their stories were great, don't get me wrong, but it was Christopher's Unified Star Trek Time Travel Theory (tm) that had excited me the most the minute I heard he was writing this book and was the element that I loved the most while reading it.

    Which is funnyt, because I had the same reaction to FG in ENT, but loved this book anyway.
     
  9. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    For me, time travel is just a maguffin, a shorthand that allows you to tell a particular story that you couldn't tell any other way. It doesn't have to be explained past "slingshot around the sun" or "the Orb of Time" or "red matter" for that matter. :)

    It's like Mike Okuda's response when he was asked how the Heisenberg Compensators worked. "Very well, thank you" was all that was needed. Even the compensators themselves are an explanation or at least an acknowledgement of the uncertainty principle but they weren't a necessary part of any story they appeared in and could have just as easily been called the Fontana Compensators or the Jeffries Transporter Thing-a-ma-bobs and the story itself would have turned out the same. Don't let the details get in the way of the stories and characters.
     
  10. Admiral_Young

    Admiral_Young Fleet Admiral Admiral

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

    Of course time travel is a plot device, but that still doesn't mean that it can't be explored in more depth, and explained. That's kind of what the novels are for.
     
  11. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    It's one thing the novels can be used for. That doesn't mean that you have to use pages to explain something that, in my opinion, doesn't need to be explained any more than they explain things in the shows.

    It's not a big deal to me. I'll just pick up some other series and give the DTI ones a pass in the future <ha!>. Unless you're a completist there's no reason you HAVE to pick up every book of every series. It would be like someone who doesn't like Klingon stories feeling that they have to pick up the IKS Gorkon series.
     
  12. Admiral_Young

    Admiral_Young Fleet Admiral Admiral

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

    If it's not a big deal to you, why have you essentially made it your point of contention about the novel and been debating about it? LOL. Also Christopher has stated already a few times that DTI is not a series. They're both self contained novels. Also again, I have to ask you since you didn't address it prior, why did you decide to read the book when you already had a problem with the premise? That doesn't make sense to me. I just ignore stuff I'm not interested in. As I said before aside from the focus on the time travel stuff, Watching the Clock was a pretty typical Chris Bennett novel.
     
  13. JamesRKirk

    JamesRKirk Lieutenant

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

    I'm willing to give pretty much anything a chance to prove me wrong. Christopher had said that it wasn't a typical time travel novel. It wasn't but not in a way that I particularly enjoyed.

    And since I read the novel I felt that I was entitled to discuss the novel, pro or con. I've enjoyed his previous work and felt that while the quality of the writing was up to his usual standard the subject matter and the way it was handled didn't catch me like his other books did.
     
  14. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    You keep assuming that's the only possibility, that it's always going to be a zero-sum game. What I've been trying to get across to you is that that's not true, that in the best science fiction, the scientific or speculative concepts promote and enhance the storytelling and characterization. If you think I failed to achieve that in DTI:WTC, that's one thing, and I accept that criticism as an incentive to try harder in the future. But it's totally false to talk as though it always has to be a choice of one or the other. Saying that the science can never do anything except get in the way of the character stories is misunderstanding the genre of science fiction on a fundamental level. The goal of the genre is to postulate hypothetical scientific advances or discoveries and explore their impact on human beings. The human consequences -- personal, societal, ethical, philosophical, emotional -- of the speculative situations are the whole point of telling the story; but it's the speculative situations that make it possible to explore human nature in ways you couldn't do otherwise. It's not supposed to be a choice between one or the other. It's supposed to be both working in harmony.

    But as LeVar Burton used to say, you don't have to take my word for it. The best way to get proof of this is to read a lot more science fiction and see how the best authors pull off that balance.
     
  15. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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

    I've actually been pretty impressed with how well Christopher is able to keep the science detailed and believable, but not let it interfere with the character stories. I'm not done with the book so far, but the thing I've enjoyed about it the most is the character stories. Dulmur and Garcia's stories have both kept me very interested.
     
  16. EliyahuQeoni

    EliyahuQeoni Commodore Commodore

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

    I agree 100%. And not just with DTI:WTC, but with all of his Trek Lit that I've read. He balances it very well, better I would say than a lot of mainstream Hard SF writers out there.

    In many ways his style reminds me of A.C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter and Jules Verne, all of whom, in their best work, include a lot of scientific detail, but balance it well with the story and characters. Nobody is perfect, of course, and even Verne had a tendency to go off on scientific digressions now and then (Clarke does this too occasionally as well), but--like Christopher, the majority of the time there is a good balance.
     
  17. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Re: DTI: Watching the Clock Review Thread (Spoilers!)

    I just finished this last night, and I loved it. I really liked the way that Christopher was able to make sense of so many of the time travel stories from over the years, especially the TCW, which was always kind of vague. I loved the reveal at the end about who Future Guy was, and what his goals were. It really made sense given what we'd seen of him. The character work in the book was great, which is pretty much to be expected in a CLB book at this point. I can't wait to get more stories about the DTI characters featured in the book. I definitely agree with the people who liked Jena Noi, she was a great character. My Rating: 10/10.
     
  18. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Re: DTI: Watching the Clock Review Thread (Spoilers!)

    ^Thanks!
     
  19. Yevetha

    Yevetha Commodore

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    Re: DTI: Watching the Clock Review Thread (Spoilers!)

    Will Jenna Noi show up in the next book?
     
  20. JD

    JD Admiral Admiral

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    Re: DTI: Watching the Clock Review Thread (Spoilers!)

    What about Garcia and Ranjea?
     

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