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. aelius

    aelius Commander Red Shirt

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

    Christopher, great book.
    I enjoyed the format with all of the different plots weaving together. It had some very cool ideas like the Axis.
    I also like the characterization of Dulmur and Lucsly. I could hear them talking all through the book. The original characters worked well too.
    I was especially impressed with the way you wove modern physics theories into Star Trek time travel to explain the often contradictory effects and results of time travel.
    On the whole I have to say - Well Done! :techman:
     
  2. Thrawn

    Thrawn Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Congrats, Christopher - 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.
     
  3. CaptainDonovin

    CaptainDonovin Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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

    I couldn't have said it better. Great read. Not finished yet & enjoying it. :bolian:
     
  4. Smiley

    Smiley Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Wow. Christopher L. Bennett, you hit it out of the park with Watching the Clock. As a continuity-loving fan, I was thrilled by all of the references, retcons, and explanations included in this book. The characters, concepts, and everything else meshed together to create a fascinating and gripping read. Watching the Clock is in some respects a celebration of all of the different series of Star Trek, and it is a shining representation of what a tie-in novel (and novel in general) can be.

    I've got lots of positive thoughts about the book, but I'm still processing the experience. I look forward to seeing the annotations.
     
  5. aaon80

    aaon80 Lieutenant Red Shirt

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

    I loved the book, made for some great reading! I do want to agree with others who said the ebook is poorly edited. This is very true. I purchased the kindle version, myself, which is lacking in italics. It makes the occasional "inner monologue" from a character seem more like a non sequitur in the middle of a paragraph, until you realize that you are reading the character's thoughts. Also, some of the bolded text at the beginning of the chapters runs together. Basically, the errors are primarily in formatting, and I am quite disappointed by this, since it doesn't do justice to such a well-written book!
     
  6. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    Thank you!

    Well, at least where Garcia's dialogue is concerned, I think the awkwardness was intentional.


    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.

    There was no "alarm." DTI researchers routinely study the shielded records for evidence of discrepancies.

    The altered timeline did exist, of course. If there are two alternate versions of a single moment of events, then by definition they exist at the same time. Every alternate version of, say, May 3, 2011 that could ever exist, regardless of how far in the future the time travel that creates it might be, already exists right now, alongside us. We just don't know about it yet. As T'Viss said, if you want to understand causality in time, you have to step outside of time, ignore ideas of "before" and "after" -- just look at the whole branching timestream as a single unchanging whole and track the flow of cause and effect from one point on the tree to another.

    According to my theory, yes, if there's an alternate version of the past, it already existed from the moment of the original timeline divergence onward. But then, once the moment of the original time travel is reached, the two entangled timelines come into sync and are merged together into one. At that point, the quantum data of the original history is overwritten by the data of the altered history, so effectively the original timeline has ceased to exist and the only timeline anyone remembers is the altered one that it merged with. (See, Future Guy didn't take his action in the future; he used his agents in the present to carry out his orders. The idea is that the pivotal time-travel event that created the altered timeline, presumably the moment when his Augmented agents time-travelled back to begin the work of effacing Shelan from history, occurred at the moment Shelan sent the transmission, either by chance or by design. So that's the moment when the timelines converged.)

    So our point-of-view characters existed in timeline A, the one where Shelan lived. Timeline B, where she didn't live, already existed alongside them, but they had no knowledge of its existence, no access to it. But once timelines A and B merged and B overwrote A, everyone's memory was only of timeline B. But the shielded records, which were created in timeline A, preserved information from timeline A.

    Okay, so there would've been shielded records created in timeline B too, so I never quite worked out why the ones in A take precedence. But that's the pre-existing story conceit established in "Gods, Fate, and Fractals," so I was following Bill Leisner's lead there. Maybe the records' phase discriminators are able to, well, discriminate between the normal phase of an untampered timeline and the slightly hybridized phase of a timeline created by temporal intervention, and select for the former.


    Credit to Dave Mack for that one. I, err, borrowed a concept he used in The 4400: Promises Broken and talked about at last year's Shore Leave (I think it was last year).

    And I'm not sure if the various TCW factions really are from different timelines or just different centuries. As I said in the book, they've tampered with time so much by now that they probably don't know for sure themselves. Maybe some of them started out in the same timeline and others in different ones, but with all that mucking about in history and causality, those who started out in the same history may have diverged while those who started out in separate histories may have blurred the lines.


    Well, the DTI -- and particularly Lucsly --tends to take a more conservative view of temporal causality than Starfleet does. As Picard said in "Justice," "There can be no justice so long as laws are absolute." Sometimes you need to bend the rules to find the best solution. But bureaucrats like Lucsly don't tend to see things that way. At times that can be an asset, but sometimes the right answer is one that Lucsly and his bosses might not be happy with.


    Wow, that's gratifying. I just extrapolated from the logic of the situation -- that the job of monitoring the timeline had to be extraordinarily difficult and frustrating in a universe where time can be easily altered, time travel is widely available, and the agency you work for doesn't even engage in time travel. I don't know, I probably just drew on my own lifelong experience with frustration and feelings of futility, but mainly I just went where the story logic took me. I'm glad you think it worked so well.
     
  7. shanejayell

    shanejayell Captain Captain

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

    Okay, finished. I liked it, it was interesting and kept me engaged through the whole book. I waved between 'above average' and 'outstanding' and finally voted the later. :)
     
  8. Ood Sigma

    Ood Sigma Commander Red Shirt

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

    I just finished it as well... I generally enjoyed it, although I think after an interesting start, the middle started to get a little boring. But it ended with a bang and I really liked it.

    I definitely preferred the Lucsly/Dulmur plot to the Garcia/Ranjea one. The Axis of Time was, quite frankly, confusing. There was a whole chapter in there that I was completely confused about.

    The impression I had about the Axis was that there were several "eras" that you could travel between, but that each era progressed at the same rate of time. So you could go back 10,000 years, but if you spent 5 months there, and then went back to your era, 5 months would have passed there. Is that correct?

    I also greatly enjoyed the character of Jena Noi. Hope to see her again. I sort of got a River Song vibe from her. I kept waiting for her to say "Spoilers!" I wonder if that was intentional or just my spin on things, since I just watched "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon".
     
  9. William Leisner

    William Leisner Scribbler Rear Admiral

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

    The way it works in my story is that when there's timey-wimey stuff, the phase discriminator goes "ding".

    And that's why I was not hired to write this book.
     
  10. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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

    That sounds like a great line from a Trek children's book. :D
     
  11. Smiley

    Smiley Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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

    Is there a reason that the name is spelled Dulmur and not Dulmer in this book? Is it just to distance the character from the X-Files joke?
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    Glad it worked out for you on the whole.

    No, it isn't. The relative rates of time passage between the Axis and each era are not uniform. I specifically said that in the interface zones, Axis time travels in the same direction as external time, but not at the same rate.


    Not my intent at all. Actually my mental model for the character was Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Gargoyles, Eureka).

    Because that's the actual correct spelling. That's the way it's spelled in the "Trials and Tribble-ations" script, the novelization thereof, and the entries for the character on Memory Alpha and StarTrek.com. The various books that spell it "Dulmer" have done so mistakenly, though it's an understandable mistake given the X-Files nod. Nobody knows why it's spelled "Dulmur" in the script instead of "Dulmer," but it is.

    But yes, avoiding the X-Files comparisons was part of it too.
     
  13. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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

    I love that bit where Lucsly goes through his morning routine and leaves for work. The 'narration' of the scene is absolutely hilarious. Especially the bit where Lucsly is pissed because the transport takes like 4 seconds longer than usual. :lol:
     
  14. cal888

    cal888 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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

    I was on the fence about getting this book after disliking Bennett's Places of Exile from Myriad Universes. Instead of buying this one off Amazon, I decided to wait until it showed up in a local bookshop, get an impression of it in the first few chapters, and then pick it up or not. After getting a chance to give the book a shot, I ultimately decided to pass on it (I read most of the first two chapters, then skimmed parts of 2-4 more chapters seeing if the book managed to catch my interest).

    I didn't like the beginning of the book basically trying to retcon almost all of the time travel we've seen in different movies and episodes to fit the book's concepts of the time continuum (plus the Guardian of Forever comments etc came across more like a negative episode review). The book just didn't "feel" like Star Trek to me either (I realize this is hard to quantify and I probably should substantiate my argument, but I'd have to say it came across more as a hard SF novel with some Star Trek elements thrown in instead of the converse). The book also ramped up the amount of techno-babble. When reading the Star Trek companion books, the producers frequently mention having to clear potential character names with legal to make sure no one of that name exists in the United States. Unfortunately whenever the Teresa Garcia character appeared, I got knocked out of portion of the book I was reading. In real life, there is a Teresa Garcia who was a (not very good) weather presenter in the Santa Barbara area and is now a news reporter in San Francisco. I kept thinking "ABC7's Teresa Garcia reporting from the South Bay" during that character's scenes.

    And finally the scene that made me put the book back on the shelf.

    Clare Raymond thinks back on having to adjust to life in the 24th century (pages 56-57, looked it up on Amazon.com) she remembers her decedents being embarrassed when she would inadvertently express a politically incorrect attitude, and thinks that while she always considered herself a tolerant person, she realized how "parochial, shallow, and prejudiced" she was, including being troubled with her great-how many-grandson Jonathan marrying another man and then feeling guilty for feeling that. This reminded me way too much of the way some liberals sneer at their opponents in the present (which didn't exactly help Gore or Kerry). I consider myself to be liberal about 80% of the time on issues, and a couple years ago voted in favor of gay marriage in California (unfortunately the side I voted for lost, but that's democracy, and we can always have another vote on it). Whenever I would talk with friends or relatives who were thinking of voting against gay marriage, I would try and engage with them to perhaps reconsider their vote without attacking their personal beliefs (this normally wouldn't be an issue when stating a political position, but since I am making a specific argument affected by my personal bias or lack thereof I should mention I am straight and thus not directly impacted by gay marriage either way). Many other people would just attack the other side without respecting that they had the right to their own ideas, but obviously not the right to discriminate against others, or trying to get them to reconsider, which of course just made them extra sure they would vote against allowing gay marriage. All this does is alienate and radicalize the other side without furthering your cause. In a democracy, you can't win on an issue unless you build majority support (well minus court intervention or that of political/financial elites). I really wish if authors want to address contemporary social issues, they nuance their argument and not just bludgeon people with a specific point of view. Shouldn't Clare's relatives try to be as equally tolerant with Clare, respecting that she has just as much a right to her beliefs as they do to their own, let alone that a lot would changed over almost 400 years? This says far more about the tolerance of others than Clare. Instead it came across very one sided, like Clare being sent to a symbolic political indoctrination camp.

    Well all Star Trek books aren't supposed to appeal to all people, so I thought I would post a dissenting view. This BBS wouldn't be interesting if everyone liked everything that came out. I feel I gave the book a fair shot to sell me on it, but after about 5 negatives I put it back on the shelf. Since I didn't buy the book, my opinion is reserved towards the parts of the beginning I did read, so I cannot offer an informed opinion of the book as a whole.
     
  15. JoeZhang

    JoeZhang Vice Admiral Admiral

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

    After swearing off Star Trek books, I broke and got this on a whim and for some reason it reminded me of this:

    http://www.theonion.com/video/trekkies-bash-new-star-trek-film-as-fun-watchable,14333/

    ("A special edition for trek fans which has three hours of extra footage where the characters stand around debating how to save the andorian ambassador until you wish everybody was dead").

    I got four chapters in and couldn't take any more - It's clear from the reviews here there is an audience for this but I'm not it, it was just page after page of people exchanging techno-babble, maybe it picks up later but really it needed a good edit to cut out a lot of the waffle.
     
  16. Tirius

    Tirius Captain Captain

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

    Just a quick message from me - I'm too tired for an in-depth review at the moment.

    I finished reading at 2 in the morning (yes, irony with that title). Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this one! Christopher has yet to fail me, even if nothing will ever top Orion's Hounds in my book. :bolian: There was a nice bit of tapestry being created here, pulling bits and pieces from all over established canon and weaving it all together into a seamless piece, without it feeling forced. I always admired KRAD for pulling this of too, and it's one of the things that make me so enjoy reading good Trek stories.

    Character-wise, I really enjoyed Dulmur and Lucsley here. They make a perfect pair, partners yet also opposites in many ways. I felt somewhat less connected to Garcia and Ranjea, but their journey into the Axis more than made up for that. Here and there I did struggle with the scientific theory, but I do appreciate the Science of science fiction as Christopher writes it. It's presented as genuine theory rather than the odd bit of technobabble with every other thing being subspace this or quantum that. It's what made me connect so much to Orion's Hounds being an earth scientist myself and Clock is no different in its attempts to pursue genuine theory.

    ... and I'm writing more than I thought I would here. Oh well. ;) I'll end with some random favorites: the scene with the two presidents, the heading for the climax chapter and the scene with Lucsley's crisis of faith (and the reason behind it).

    I really needed this after my somewhat lukewarm response to Typhon Pact miniseries - a deserved Outstanding for Watching the Clock from me. :techman:
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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

    I had no such intent. Don't assume the attitudes of fictional characters represent those of the author. Of course "City on the Edge" is the best episode of TOS ever, but if you think about it, it is kind of odd that something called a "Guardian" would invite people to rummage around in the thing it was supposed to be guarding, and I thought it would be amusing for someone in the DTI to comment on that. It was more about expressing the Department's frustration with the things that can jeopardize history and make their jobs harder than about me intruding my opinions into the story.

    Well, I'd say that Star Trek can be, and has been, many things. Its sheer range is one of its strengths. For decades, Trek literature has accommodated a wide range of storytelling styles and authorial voices. If you don't care for one, you may find others to your liking.

    I knew going in that this book wouldn't be to everyone's tastes. It's admittedly an offbeat and experimental story. That makes it worth attempting, but also means it's likely to appeal to a narrower audience.

    For what it's worth, although my next novel, Forgotten History, is something of a prequel to this one, it will probably be more accessible, lighter on the physics discussions.


    It's not true that you have to ensure nobody in the country has that name -- after all, the TNG/DS9 character of Miles O'Brien shared his name with a CNN reporter. And looking through my city's phone book, I find a Reverend John Archer, a Thomas Paris, and a Charles Tucker. As I understand it, you just have to make sure that it isn't a unique name or that it doesn't belong to someone in the same profession or role as the fictional character. And it's more a rule for film and television than for prose fiction, which has a much smaller audience.



    Glad you liked it! I know it's not for everybody, but I'm glad the majority of responses so far have been positive.
     
  18. cal888

    cal888 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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

     
  19. CaptainDonovin

    CaptainDonovin Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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

    One of the things I'm loving about this that the book reminds me of KRAD's Articles of the Federation which I also loved. Its Trek but different since we're not only exploring (in this case timelines) but also a bit of the inner workings of a different branch of the UFP.
     
  20. Tirius

    Tirius Captain Captain

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

    I had the same feeling, although I didn't stop to notice it until Bacco turned up. It also shares some of Articles' narrative format, in that Clock also isn't a continuous story but a bit episodic, following the storyline over a longer period with short gaps in between and touching on various events happening in the Federation as it goes along. It's a good format if you don't have a lot of time and want to read it in parts - even though I failed miserably at that. :p

    Take it from me, these things happen. My own name isn't that common over here, but it was still picked for a character in a local soap opera. I can't even find myself on Google anymore. And I detest soaps of every kind.