Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 2011: "Watching the Clock"

It's time for 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.

Christopher L. Bennett
Pocketbooks – May 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.

DTI: Because somebody has to make sense out of this crap.

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 kept
busy "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.

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