Saturday, May 19, 2012

Forgotten History

Minimal spoilers this time out. Christopher L. Bennett returns with the second of his Department of Temporal Investigations novels, this time around focusing mainly on the 23rd century, though with a framing story featuring Lucsly and Mulder of DTI.

Like Watching the Clock, Forgotten History is the right kind of fanwank. If you stripped out all the references to previous episodes and other stories, there wouldn't be much left -- but the book isn't just mixing things up, it's setting them in a new context, like Keith R.A. DeCandido's Q&A did with a number of Q stories. Turns out there are reasons why Kirk and the Enterprise had 17 -- no, wait, 18 -- major temporal incidents. Some of it's technical, some of it's bureaucratic, but Bennett puts a new spin on several original series episodes, explaining why Miri's planet is so exactly Earthlike, explaining why the Enterprise popped back to 1968 and met Gary Seven, and much more.

There's not too much plot in this, except for the 18th incident, which takes some time to get to, but I enjoyed the trip and was glad to see who was involved in that last incident. Let's just say that there's a particular animated series episode that introduced a new culture we really should have seen in the novels before now, and they're handled well enough here.

There's not as much focus on characterization this time out. There are a few new characters but for me, at least, they never really came alive, and Dulmur and Lucsly don't get as much development this time out... though Lucsly has some good scenes late in the book. And I can't say the storyline involving Spock and a certain alternate timeline character did a lot for me; it was interesting, but I haven't found the depiction of certain types of relationships and activities that occur in those relationships to be one of CLB's strong points. What he is good at is synthesizing something from a number of pieces and providing new ways to look at them, having them make sense.

I'm not sure where DTI can go from here, if there are any plans for future novels, as it's wrapped up a lot of the remaining time travel mysteries from the various Trek series now. If there's another DTI novel it should take a different path -- tell one big all-new story rather than playing mop-up.


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