Book Review: Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock | TrekMovie.com
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Book Review: Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock June 24, 2011

by Robert Lyons , Filed under: Books,DS9,ENT,Review,TNG,TOS , trackback

It is time for TrekMovie to start catching up on some of the latest Star Trek novels. Today we start off with a time travel adventure with Christopher L. Bennett’s "Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching The Clock" which does its best to stitch together many of Star Trek’s temporal anomalies.

 

 

REVIEW: Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock

Christopher L. Bennett
Pocketbooks – April 2011
Mass-market Paperback – $7.99


Remember the rather measured two-some of Lucsly and Dulmur from Star Trek: DS9’s “Trials and Tribble-ations”? Well, in true Star Trek fashion, they are back and they form the backbone of Christopher L. Bennett’s new Star Trek novel which focuses on the activities of the Department of Temporal Investigations. “Watching the Clock” has an epic scope, seeking to bring a significant resolution to many of the time travel mysteries that have long piqued the interest of the more-than-casual Star Trek fans who often inhabit various online Trek havens of discourse.

The focus of the novel is the opening of a new front of the infamous Temporal Cold War (from Star Trek: Enterprise), but this time in the 24th century. Lucsly and Dulmur are tasked with making sure history does not get rewritten, but there is also a "B" story with  another DTI crew looking into a temporal anomaly called the Axis of Time which is an interesting side-story, but at times becomes a distraction from the more familiar carryover from established Trek lore.

As for the Temporal Cold War itself, Bennett melds some major and minor time travel events from the various Star Trek TV series into his own unique story of the origins of the conflict, one which places the impetus behind the standoff right in the back yard of the Federation of the 24th century. While this has the effect of drawing in the Enterprise (joining the Titan, which is involved in the “B” story), as well as Federation president Bacco, the story manages to avoid the ‘small universe syndrome’ by maintaining a definate separation between the two stories.


Lucsly and Dulmur are back in “Watching the Clock”

When it comes to characterizations, Bennett, as usual, has developed amazingly brilliant conceptions of individuals who had a minimal amount of screen time. Likewise, those new faces generated specifically for the DTI tale come alive on the page. But all of this complexity in “Watching the Clock” may become unbearable. While I recognize that most Star Trek fans are easily able to wrap their minds around the complex of time travel and various time lines, some casual novel readers might well find themselves scratching their heads from time to time as they try to keep event sequences together in a coherent fashion.

What is perhaps most frustrating, however, is the feeling one gets very quickly that the author is on a mad dash to connect every single time travel incident in Star Trek history. On the one hand, it becomes paradise for the trivia maven, but, insofar as story cohesion goes, it can get to be a bit much, generating groans about halfway through the book when, once again, some established time travel situation gets name-dropped.

While the book’s climax is a satisfyingly mind-bending jaunt that keeps one on one’s toes, the ending is also a bit anti-climactic. “Watching the Clock” is engaging enough to keep the pages turning; sometimes because the action is great, sometimes because the characters are well written… but, most frequently, because any nitpicking Trekker will just have to see what kinds of explanations and tie-ins Bennett develops for the multitude of temporal issues that have come up throughout Star Trek’s history.

“Watching the Clock” is available now at Amazon on Paperback and Kindle.

More Star Trek fiction for summer reading

There are more new and recent Star Trek novels to keep you going for this summer, including the just released "Star Trek: Vanguard: Declassified" collection with stories by Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, Marco Palmieri and David Mack. There is also the recently released "Star Trek: The Next Generation: Indistinguishable from Magic," a standalone adventure from David McIntee which reunites Geordi LaForge with Montgomery Scott. And there is even a new Voyager novel from Kirsten Beyer, "Star Trek: Voyager: Children of the Storm." TrekMovie will have reviews of these in the coming weeks.

And if you are looking for adventures in the new Star Trek universe, and are a younger reader (or young at heart), there is the young adult "Starfleet Academy" series. The third book in the series, "Starfleet Academy: Gemini Agent," by Rick Barba should is just arriving in book stores. It joins "Starfleet Academy: The Delta Anomaly" (also by Barba) and "Starfleet Academy: The Edge" (by Rudy Josephs) released late last year.

Pocket Books provided TrekMovie with a copy of this book for review.

Comments

1. PorthosPoo - June 24, 2011

I look forward (and back) to it!

2. The Professor - June 24, 2011

This is actually an amazing book. I personally enjoyed all the references to time travel throughout Trek. There is a lot of technobabble, however, so if you can’t follow that stuff then this book isn’t for you. Definitely not a book to introduce anyone to Star Trek with, but if you’re an avid Trek reader, a Trek fan, or loved Trials and Tribble-ations, then you’ll likely enjoy this book. Also, if you like Asimov this book is for you. There are quite a few references (implicit AND explicit) to Asimov’s ideas and actual publications.

3. Chris J - June 25, 2011

Picked up the book.

Saw the character names were Lucsly and Dulmur.

Groaned.

Put it back.

4. Snugglepuff - June 25, 2011

I’ve been looking for this book for a while at Walmart and Barnes and Noble and I never see it! =(

5. captain_neill - June 25, 2011

This sounds like it will be a great read.

CHristopher Bennett did a great post TMP novel called Ex Machina

6. Holger - June 25, 2011

I have already read the book some time ago. I give it 6 out of ten.

7. SupremeDalekOnTheBridge - June 25, 2011

I wonder will be be treated to more DTI novels in the future, or is this a one-off…

8. Joshua J. Slone - June 25, 2011

I really really liked this book. Does a surprisingly good job of taking the many different types of time travel we’ve seen on Trek, and boiling it down to some pretty workable rules so things don’t seem so contradictory.

#7: Apparently he’s working on something about the beginnings of the DTI, but last I looked it’s uncertain whether it will be released as a DTI or TOS book.

9. Aitor - June 25, 2011

ST: Vanguard…
Best trek series ever…

10. Markonian - June 25, 2011

Read the book, love the book. In fact it was so awesome I’m going to read it again, soon.

11. Phil - June 25, 2011

Racing to connect every time travel dot……oh, you mean like some people want to do wit the upcoming script, by packing it with every one-off character from TOS into the next movie? Yep, sounds interesting…

Not.

12. CarlG - June 25, 2011

The novel starts with the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey quote from Doctor Who.
That’s like, a billion nerd points right there. :D

Seriously though, I cannot stress how much I look forward to CLB’s novels now. So much twisty FUN.

@11: Give it a chance. I fully agree it’s not a conceit that would work as a movie, but as a novel it’s a cracking read.

13. CaptainDonovin - June 25, 2011

@ #4 – you may be forced to order the book online, I also had trouble finding it when it was released.

It was a good read, enjoyed the deeper look into Lucsly & Dulmur.

14. cjc960 - June 25, 2011

Just once I’d like a Star Trek novel that doesn’t read like it was written by the manatees on South Park.

15. DS9 Forever - June 25, 2011

To Chris J (poster no. 3) the names of the two were established way back in 1996, in “Trials and Tribble-ations”.

16. RedShark - June 25, 2011

Pros: Interesting story, cool ideas, engaging characters.
Cons: Overly complicated at certain points, cliched in others, seemingly tried to cram all the time travel ideas there are into one book…and certain pseudo-scientific philosophizing was annoying and irrelevant.

Overall, it was an interesting read but I won’t read it again. Dulmur and Lucsly were the highlight of the story, while the B plot characters weren’t as interesting. There was some rather pointless sexuality in the book as well, that added nothing to the plot and annoyed me severely.

17. HomerT6 - June 25, 2011

@#4 Often times you have to order these books online that’s what I have to do a lot of times because they never carry Star Trek books all they have are the “wonderful” Star Wars :(

18. Vorus - June 25, 2011

Bennett seems to like name-dropping. He did a very similar thing in his novel “The Buried Age”. It got a little old there too, and was equally implausible. But other than that, I think he’s is an above-average writer of Trek novels. I much prefer him to many of the other modern Trek writers.

19. Gorn Captain - June 25, 2011

@#3 Forgotten that their names were originally an X Files joke by the DS9 writers already? ;)

20. Damian - June 25, 2011

5–I just read Ex Machina last month. Bennett does a great job trying to explain the little things. Ex Machina did a good job explaining some of the loose ends from The Motion Picture and setting things up for The Wrath Of Khan (though Star Trek II was years later in the Trek timeline, Ex Machina did sow the seeds for some of the changes by that movie–even explaining why some of the bridge stations were moved between movies).

His DTI book was an equally good read, but I agree with Robert that it is not for the casual fan. As a hardcore Trekkie I was able to follow all the nuances in his book, but your casual fan can get quickly loss. He even throws some background out there for those interested in the parallel universe and mulit-verse theories used by Bob Orci for the new JJ created Star Trek universe. He basically tries to tie together all the various time travel scenarios used throughout Star Trek, some resulting in alternate timelines (like the JJ universe) or altering the original timeline (like First Contact). I’d even encourage Bob Orci to give it a read.

21. MikeB - June 26, 2011

It’s time for some honest reviews of these Trek novels. Most of the recent books have been boring and unimaginative. DTI is no exception. I’m about 100 pages in and it’s a slog. I forced myself through the Typhon Pact books which were a huge disappointment. Only the Vanguard and New Frontier series have any spark at all.
I’m a long time Trek reader who is about to stop buying. The entire Trek line has seriously lost its way.

22. Father Robert Lyons - June 26, 2011

#21 – DTI has its issues, which are outlined in the review. I wouldn’t say it is unimagniative, in fact, I think it’s a bit too imaginative. It throws too much at most readers, and in a way that one can easily lose track of. That being said, it is entertaining enough to keep the pages turning for a long-term Trekker like me because, even if I think some of the time-travel references were a strech, I have to admit to wanting to hear ideas about how they all fit together.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s no “The Entropy Effect”, “The Lost Years”, or “Dreadnought!” – few Trek books today can really match up to some of the best of the bygone era, but that’s true in any series or genre.

Rob+

23. Damian - June 26, 2011

21–David Mack’s books are usually pretty good. I enjoyed his Typhon Pact book featuring Dr Bashir. Originally the Typhon Pact was originally supposed to be 6 books but they cut it to 4. I think that may have been part of the problem because the writers had to cover more with less pages, which ended up causing the stories to jump around too much. Indistinguishable from Magic started out good but the 2 parts of the story did not flow very well together.

In general, I am one that likes the fact that the books follow from one another (at least in the relaunches). I enjoyed the older books but found myself frustrated when books outright contradicted one another (I don’t know how many times I saw Starbase 12 mentioned in completely different places). These days it seems the authors try to build on one another’s works. Indistinguishable from Magic even made a brief reference to The Genesis Wave books from a few years ago.

24. Bucky - June 26, 2011

Does Nero & Spock’s time-travel incident get name-dropped in this book? Because that’ kind of a biggie. Assuming it takes place after that happened. And they would have any way of knowing they actually time-travelled in the first place. Which they wouldn’t. Maybe.

25. CarlG - June 26, 2011

@24: In his afterword, Bennett mentions he used the Everett “Many-Worlds” theory, same as JJ’s Supreme Court, and that the majority of Trek temporal weirdness fit into it surprisingly well.

@22: “Dreadnought”? Really? I remember reading it as a kid and loving it, then I came back to it recently and it… hadn’t aged well. “Entropy Effect” still rocks, though.

26. Chris J - June 27, 2011

#15,19

No, I got the joke. Hence the groaning. I just don’t think I can read their names in the book without looking past the ‘joke’ and taking them seriously.

27. Damian - June 27, 2011

24–Like Bucky noted, the multi-verse theory was dropped numerous times in the book. The characters continually debated when time travel results in in a new alternate universe, whether they merge in the future again, and when time travel results in altering the existing timeline. However, Nero and Spocks incursions to the past occurred in 2387, and the current events of this book occur mostly around 2381-82, several years earlier.

28. Damian - June 27, 2011

27–oops, my first line should read Like CarlG noted (in response to Bucky). –sometimes I wish we could re-edit comments after they are posted.

29. Father Robert Lyons - June 27, 2011

@25: Yea, “Dreadnought!”, though, it’s been several years since I last read it. Perhaps “My Enemy, My Ally” or “The Wounded Sky” would have been better candidates for a shout-out. I love some of those oddball early variations that sufraced in the novels, like shield flares color-keyed to a ship’s home port, terms like “allcall”, etc.

30. Battle-scarred Sciatica - June 27, 2011

Hey, I’m a Star Trek fan who often inhabits various online Trek havens of discourse.

That is a funny line Mr Lyons. Kudos to you!

31. Father Robert Lyons - June 27, 2011

@30 – I try.

32. The Professor - June 27, 2011

There is no mention of Spock or Nero.

Characters
Ajur • Claudia Alisov • Laarin Andos • Nanietta Bacco • Rif jav Balkar • Sagar bav Balkar • Morgan Bateson • Lloyd Boen • I’stel Borah • Boratus • Borvala • Damyz • Falvin Dor • Juel Ducane • Marion Dulmur • Megumi Dulmer • Dina Elfiki • George Faunt • Felbog Bu-Tsop-Vee • Emro Ganazeel • Teresa Garcia • Daisen Hamor • Hariin • Dennis Harmon • Jamran Harnoth • Kathryn Janeway • Mara Kadray • Vorlis Klega • Korath • Ellec Krotine • Lirahn • Gariff Lucsly • Alan Manheim • Erika Manheim • Paul Manheim • M’grash • Yvette Michael • Rani Mohindra • Naadri • Jena Noi • Oydia • Melora Pazlar • Heather Petersen • Jean-Luc Picard • Ian Purvis • Meyo Ranjea • Ranz • Clare Raymond • Louise Cara Raymond • Revad • William T. Riker • Sanioth • Shelan • Shelithan ch’Riin • Shiiem • Vennor Sikran • Sonaj • Wataru Takizawa • Temarel • Teyak • T’Manis • T’Viss • Deanna Troi • Vard • Vikei • Parvana Whitcomb • Stijen Yol
Referenced only
Akorem Laan • Jonathan Archer • Sonny Clemonds • Daniels • Kal Dano • Arne Darvin • Skrain Dukat • Samuel Estragon • Endora • Peya Fell • Sigmund Freud • Vasily Hunyadi • James T. Kirk • Kira Nerys • Miliani Langford • Lee Majors • Nog • Miles O’Brien • Odo • Ralph Offenhouse • Piccolo • Quark • Berlinghoff Rasmussen • Darrell Raymond • Donald Raymond • Eddie Raymond • Jonathan Raymond • Mary Raymond • Thomas Raymond • sh’Lesinas • Khan Noonien Singh • Rom • Benjamin Sisko • Gillian Taylor • V’Ger • H. G. Wells • Jamshid Whitcomb • Christopher Wren

33. NuKirk in The TARDIS - June 28, 2011

@32–they have to save SOMETHING for the next novel LOL

I love that Doctor Who quote thing at the beginning:) Especially because I heard that the writers of Enterprise were designing the Temporal Cold War as a lead-in for a planned official crossover with Doctor Who (originally the classic but later when the reboot premiered it was planned to be a crossover with that reboot. Still is something I think a novel should explore. WOuld certainly make a much more plausible crossover than the Next Generation/X-Men crossover they did awhile back, and much more like the various name drops in The Eugenics Wars books establishing de facto crossovers with many series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer…

In many ways throughout Trek there have been numerous Doctor Who nods…from the cylindrical warp core resembling the control console of the TARDIS to Enterprise’s Temporal Cold War and referencing Time Agents, to in that horrid Voyager episode Threshold (the one where Paris breaks the Warp 10 barrier) where, at one point during his metamorphosis Paris grew a second heart, died, and then came back to life, to in Seasons 6 and 7, that weird Heirarchy species looking a lot like the Sontarans, to a lot of The Borg’s concepts being similar to the Cybermen, to in Enterprise early episode ‘Cold Front’ where they found a future ship that was ‘bigger on the inside’….to so much more…and so many more Doctor Who nods to Trek that are so subtle to name…

Basically, someone NEEDS to do a Doctor Who crossover…imagine The Doctor pitting the Cybermen or The Daleks against The Borg? xD

34. Damian - June 28, 2011

32–The “current” timeframe of the book is 2381-2382, several years before Nero’s incursion into the past (which was 2387). The novels are still a few years from that. Bennett does mention the muti-verse theories the alternate timeline is based on in the new movie, however.

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