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ChronoSpace

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the tell-us-what-you-really-feel dept.

Space 95

Bonker writes: "When I first picked up 'ChronoSpace', parts of which were published earlier in 'Asimov's Science Fiction', it initially looked like an interesting time-travel thriller-- something we've seen many of, but not a story that gets old due to its variations. Indeed, the story starts out revolving around the central premise that the small percentage of UFO's sighted that can't be explained away as airplanes, comets, or blimps, are in actuality time-travelling ships from the future sent to investigate the past." Read on for Bonker's thoughts on how the book progresses from there.

It's an intriguing concept and one that the author explores with relish. Indeed, one of the two main characters in the story spends a great deal of his time exploring the social climate of pre-World War II Germany during Hitler's rise to power. After the initial concept is explained, however, the story starts to break down.

The author seems infinitely more interested in name-dropping other, more successful sci-fi authors and scientists. Steele has done his research on obscure historical persona, but he can't seem to fix the holes in his own story.

A good example in terms of broken plot is the fictional scientific principle the author uses to drive his time-travel ships. It's called the 'Morris-Thorne' principle in the story, obviously named after the scientists who discovered it. Since this *is* a time-travel story, when a character named Morris is introduced, the observant reader would think that the author is stitching his story together, trying to subtly explain things to the reader. The observant reader would be wrong, because this angle is never touched again. In fact, the author rather absent-mindedly contradicts the possibility later in the story.

Another good example is the date scheme that Steele uses to identify his chapters. After the inevitable 'uhoh, we caused a paradox' event in the middle of the story, one of the dates listed mysteriously jumps from Monday, January 14th, 1998 to Thursday, January 15th, 1998. (The latter is correct. Monday was the 12th in 1998.) In any other kind of story, this kind of discrepancy could be easily dismissed as an editorial oversight. In a time-travel story, it's *supposed* to be a dead giveaway, just like the next date problem, when it jumps from a correct day in 1998 to an incorrect day in 1997. It's not any kind of giveaway. It's an editing mistake, and a painful one at that.

What's really amusing about this is that, earlier in the story, one of the characters makes the case for having to know the exact time and date in order to time-travel correctly. Apparently having the wrong date doesn't make much of a difference to their calculations when they use it to time-travel because it's never mentioned again. Neither are the other limitations on time-travel the author introduces, such as the inability of time-travellers to breach the first millennium or earlier.

The book is ridden with inconsistencies like this. I'm not sure if it's laziness or incompetence on the part of the author or if Mr. Steele was stuck with a rhesus monkey for an editor, but in a story where incidental details matter so much, these otherwise trivial errors are hard to forgive.

The climax of the book is a first-degree act of Deus Ex Machina, perpetrated by judgmental aliens who are super-intelligent and somehow immune to paradox. It's hard to swallow by the time you've already waded through the rest of the story's problems. The cautionary ending is bitter and disappointing. Steele successfully deviates from formula in this respect, but only at the cost of making his painfully static, flat characters seem even more depressive and uninteresting.

I have to conclude that 'ChronoSpace' is simply not worth the time it takes to read, even for the most adamant of sci-fi or time-travel fans. Even if you completely dismiss the amount of smugness the author shows dropping modern and historical names, the story is rife with inconsistencies, errors, and writing blunders. The characters are flat and uninteresting. Any chance they have to grow is brutally crushed by this steam-roller of a plot that Steele's trying to push. The one thing that could redeem a story like this was if it were inspiring or offered some new insight on the philosophy of time travel. Instead, Steele tries to be cautionary. It's hard to convincingly cautionary when the moral of your story is, "Don't mess with time travel, or easily angered super-aliens will destroy your planet's civilization." In fact, if Steele has anything to say about inspiration in ChronoSpace, it's that inspiration is dangerous. Even carefully controlled forward advancement is harmful and should be avoided. I'm not sure if that's what he was trying to accomplish, but it's a major theme in the book nonetheless.

The hell of all this is that even up against the super-cautionary tone of the book, Steele could have easily done a better job with his story, even if it was just a quick read-through of his own work to correct some of the screaming errors he's made. He didn't, and it shows.

Don't waste your time with 'ChronoSpace'.


You can purchase ChronoSpace from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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boring (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4250994)

done to death, stupid, nothing new. zzzz.

Chrono? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251001)

I don't have time to read this.

more toast ! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251003)

everybody wants one !

Is there time for negative reviews? (5, Insightful)

ewanrg (446949) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251017)

I am always interested in reading reviews about material I should read and hadn't heard about. I'm not so keen on spending time reading a review telling me that something I otherwise wouldn't have looked at anyway isn't worth the time and trouble. Just as the moderation guidelines suggest that it's better to raise the good than to punish the bad, I think that would have been a good idea here as well - give us a good review about something rather than spend the mindspace on this.

Just my .02 worth...

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251085)

I am always interested in reading reviews about material I should read and hadn't heard about. I'm not so keen on spending time reading a review telling me that something I otherwise wouldn't have looked at anyway isn't worth the time and trouble.

Then don't read the whole review?

"Hmm, they're reviewing something called "ChronoSpace"." [skips boring article intro] *click* "1/10? Not going to bother with the book _or_ the review." *back button*

Simple enough to quickly assess.

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (4, Informative)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251110)

Actually, I think there is a good time for negative reviews.

There are two examples:

  1. When the subject matter is bad, a negative review is useful for preventing the spending of money on experimental items - ie, the "impulse buy". If I look at a book/movie/game and wonder "Hm - I've got an extra $20 in my pocket I want to spend - maybe I'll buy this", a negative review is useful in filtering out the obvious non-choices.
  2. When it's just plain fun. There are some things so awful (Swimfan), to stupid (Daikatana), and so worthless (Space Bunnies Must Die!), that its fun just to see how someone will trash it. Sometimes, reading a good review of a bad product can be just as much fun as reading a bad review of a good product - no, wait, that makes no sense....

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251631)

Diverging from the topic, but...

I recently bought Daikatana on a whim for like $5, but haven't taken the time to install it yet. I hear from everyone that it's a really bad game; care to enlighten me what makes it so goddamn awful? Should I saw myself the time and not even install it? Or is it at least worth a chuckle at something done so crappily, like the MST3K-worthy B-movies?

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (2)

Dark Paladin (116525) | more than 12 years ago | (#4252873)

Bad AI. Puke green graphics.

Sorry to pimp myself, but I think it's put best here:

Daikatana Review [gamerspress.com] .

I also bought it for $5 - and found it was $4.99 too much.

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (2)

_ph1ux_ (216706) | more than 12 years ago | (#4252408)

what if your reading a bad review of a bad review of a possibly bad product? but you cant determine if the product is bad or good because you may have thought that the bad review was actually a good review, but it got a bad review? thereby making your possible purchase of the good or bad product a bad decision to spend good money on something that had a review that was reviewed as bad?

Good reviews... (3, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251212)

Does a good review, where the reviewer trashes a certain work, have a place in Slashdot? Certainly, if only so that you can avoid the book. Then again, a review is after all only the opinion of the reviewer, and you may find the book an interesting one even if he does not.

A good review will give you a fairly good indication whether you will like the reviewed work or not, regardless of what the reviewer thinks. I have read reviews of films where the reviewer goes all-out to show us his disgust for the movie, after which I immediately made up my mind about having to see it. Good reviews provoke some sort of emotion in the reader. A bad review makes a bland read, and it will not tell me whether or not to pick up the book even though the reviewer is trying to persuade me one way or the other.

Re:Good reviews... (2)

reallocate (142797) | more than 12 years ago | (#4252684)

...still waiting.

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (1)

u8nogard (546370) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251360)


Due to the opinion of this book review, I got curious to what other people though of this book and took a look at their review. It seems more on the positive side at Amazon.com [amazon.com] (while still mixed), but I will let you be the judge of that.

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (2)

Rupert (28001) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251473)

Well, some people think so. Every third book review someone will complain that there are never any negative reviews, and the whole review section is just to drive up slashdot's income from the referral program at fatbrain.

I don't think there'd be any point in a slashdot review of Business @ the Speed of Thought, but this is a book I might have bought otherwise, because the premise is interesting.

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (1)

Photon Ghoul (14932) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251639)

Fatbrain does not really exist anymore, does it? It was my understanding that they were bought by Barnes & Noble's parent company, then the website itself was absorbed into bn.com.

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (3, Funny)

Kengineer (246142) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251578)

You didn't have to waste time reading the WHOLE review. Just do what I did... skip to the summary. I saw the rating (1/10 - Boo! Hiss!) and skipped right to the comments to get my troll on!

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (1)

_14k4 (5085) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251791)

I like your idea, but you're forgetting about the rating on the top of the review. If you don't like reading bad reviews, then skip it. I like reading them because it helps with the impule buys (see comments below from others).

Maybe /. needs a filter on reviews? "I don't want to see any reviews under 3" or something.

Re:Is there time for negative reviews? (2)

Jester99 (23135) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251840)

Frankly, it's refreshing to see negative reviews. Just about every other book I can remember had a rating of 7/10 or better... it made me start to wonder after a while whether the scale was getting top-heavy. (Think olympic figure skating. While it's technically on a 0-6 scale, I've yet to see anything below a 4.5 or so... so it's really a 4.5-6.0 scale.)

It's nice to know that the reviews do have a critical eye and that - yes, when they say a book is a 7/10, it means that it's pretty darn good, not at the bottom of the heap.

Sweet (2)

NiftyNews (537829) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251021)

Hey, where can I sign up to write reviews of other books that SlashDotters shouldn't buy?

I love the recent trend in book reviews. We either get "this sucks" or "this is a positive yet vague review and here's a link to purchase it." Woo-hoo!

Re:Sweet (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251130)

I wrote a stirring review of "Who moved my cheese?", but it was rejected. :(

Wow. (2)

Kredal (566494) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251038)

What with the flame called a book review, I would have thought the ObBN reference would say something like this:

"You can purchase ChronoSpace from bn.com, but I don't know why you'd want to."

I did like the "From the ... dept." byline though. Prepared me for a major book bashing, which is exactly what I got. (:

Re:Wow. (1)

fuzza (137953) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251171)

I did like the "From the ... dept." byline though.

Hmm, for some bizarre reason the byline hasn't come up on my generated (due to login) page for this story. I had to go back to the homepage to see what it was...

What's up with that?

Hopefull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251045)

It would be best if UFO are from the future.

That means we make it.

Re:Hopefull (2)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251519)

It would be best if UFO are from the future. That means we make it.

Would you change your mind if they have purple tenticles, 3 eyes, no sense of humor, and smell like methane?

Re:Hopefull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251560)

...purple tenticles, 3 eyes, no sense of humor, and smell like methane

Future? My wife fits that description *now*!

Re:Hopefull (1)

l1gunman (463233) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251886)

Come on now! I think you could come up with a better imaginary wife than that!

Re:Hopefull (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4252750)

Come on now! I think you could come up with a better imaginary wife than that!

Are you saying that 3 eyes and methane smell is *bad*?

Biggot!

Time Machines? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251049)

That's what Miller was saying [imdb.com] all along!

Special Slashdot Question: +10**10 ; Fun (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251050)


Where in the world is Jon Katz ?

Be Patriotic: Smoke Amerikan grown marijuana.

WTF (2, Insightful)

PcSarinIV (586574) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251057)

Speaking as a budding author, or maybe just a wannabe, I think that it is extremely important to plan your story in detail before you begin writing a novel length work. Research goes into the technology, the time, and pretty much everything else. This is why so many budding authors never make it past their first story.
If they do, they are frequently in the same boat as this guy--glaring inconsistencies. For me the biggest challenge is remembering what one has written about certain locales, which in a fantasy setting is devastating. In a real-earth fiction, it shouldn't be as hard--you go and visit the place you are describing.

Verbosity is no replacement for compentency.

Mod parent up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251289)

We need to start forcing people to read Tolkien's essay, "On Faerie Stories", before writing.

Anyway, there's a reason that works like Lord of the Rings are so popular. When Aragorn shouts, "Elendil!", it has history behind it. There's an entire story behind that battle cry. It wasn't something that Tolkien just inserted at random because Aragorn should sound cool while swinging Narsil around.

Oh, by the way, I have the same problem of remembering what happened where. When you're neurotic enough to flesh out a few thousand years of history, it becomes rather easy to make minor (and major) mistakes.

I'd recommend, at the least, a series of binders, where you can index and easily modify various notes about your setting. Or, if you have inclinations of the technical nature, you can learn enough SQL and some sort of language to make a web interface, and do the same through that.

It's so wonderful to type in the name of a city, for example, and see everything that you've written about it. This sort of thing doesn't take that much work, either. Your readers shouldn't be browsing this database, so you can simply add notes instead of going into great detail.

Just enough so that you remember what you've written about a person, place, or thing.

As one of my friends told me last night, "The devil is in the details. And we all have to pay the devil his due."

Details! Verily!

Re:Mod parent up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251505)

I'm sorry, but I disagree that you need to be one hundred percent accurate in large volumes of work that span over many years. Look at the Discworld series(by Terry Pratchet), there are inconsistancies, but they do not hurt the books at all. You and your friend are probably the people that say things like:

In episode D12A4 you were supposed to be flying the spaceship to Delta XY778, but clearly the planet that we see in the background when you arrive is not Delta XY778, but Delta XZ101. Which we know from the episode A04B8 or "How to defrob your frobulator!"

Ok comic book guy.

Re:WTF (2)

superdan2k (135614) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251386)

As someone with a degree in creative writing, I have to disagree with you. It is not always necessary to sit down and plan a story before it's written. Now, granted, it depends on the genre, it takes a LOT of planning to pull it off well. Hell, I have a trilogy brewing in my head that's been researched and brainstormed now for the better part of 5 years.

However, with things like mainstream fiction that don't require tons of research into technology or anything like that, you can write what you know, and hit the page running. The novel I am currently working on is like that...the whole thing spawned from a title. The title came from words spoken by an old cycling buddy. And within 2 minutes of him saying those words, the whole novel was formed in my head. Many of the places in the novel have only been visited once, some not at all. Anything can B.S.ed if you're a good enough writer.

Re:WTF (1)

carrolljim (412715) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251766)

While I agree with you that it's possible to produce a passable first draft - even novel length - on the fly, I do think that science fiction, and the whole time-travel sub-genre in particular, is a case where the author absolutely should be as meticulous as possible. This may be only because often times the plot hinges on minor subtle details, but also because bad/implausible/unsupported/stupid science can really destroy would might've been an interesting read. To switch media for a moment, the movie Event Horizon, for example, might have been an enjoyable horror story, except I was expecting science fiction, and the too-many-to-list cringe-inducing technical errors annoyed me enough that I didn't enjoy it at all.

That said, assuming the reviewer was accurate (and I've no reason to doubt this), I would avoid the book based on that criteria, even though I generally love time travel stories - and I thank Bonker for posting it.

For good time travel, pick up any of Jack Finney's 'time' stories, and of Poul Anderson's or Simon Hawke's time travel adventure yarns (the Hawke books are light on 'science', but fun to read), and especially Gregory Benford's _Timescape_ and David Gerrold's _The Man Who Folded Himself_

Grammar police... (0, Offtopic)

Black Jack Hyde (2374) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251059)

the small percentage of UFO's sighted

Try it without the apostrophe next time, please.

Jack

Re:Grammar police... (-1, Offtopic)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251088)

Insightful, considering the article was criticizing the flaws of another writer.

Re:Grammar police... (-1, Offtopic)

OrangeSpyderMan (589635) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251099)

Is the plural of UFO not UFO?

Unidentified Flying Object
Unidentified Flying Objects

Perhaps looking here [dictionary.com] before you talk would be a good idea.

Grammar Vigilante (2)

Washizu (220337) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251154)

MLA does not call for an apostrophe there, but some styles do:
http://www.asu.edu/duas/wcenter/apostrophes.h tml

Re:Grammar Vigilante (2)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251463)

the small percentage of UFO's sighted
Try it without the apostrophe next time, please.
MLA does not call for an apostrophe there, but some styles do When the buggers finally land on the Whitehouse lawn and step out, clearly the first question to ask them is how they wish to be punctuated.

Re:Grammar Vigilante (2)

alienmole (15522) | more than 12 years ago | (#4254820)

Why do you think the aliens haven't contacted us yet? They were quite encouraged when they noticed we had begun communicating on a global network. The enthusiasm faded once they began checking in on our most popular sites. (Although to the aliens' credit, they did steal the idea for Google from us.)

BTW, re your sig: "OOP is objectively better" than what? Happily, there's some objective, mathematical, prooflike evidence that functional programming is better, so I guess that debate is toast. ;)

Re:Grammar Vigilante (2)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 12 years ago | (#4255827)

The enthusiasm faded once they began checking in on our most popular sites.

What, you don't think aliens have their *own* porn and trolls?

Happily, there's some objective, mathematical, prooflike evidence that functional programming is better, so I guess that debate is toast. ;)

Any decent evidence. It does not have to be mathematical. That would be nice, but probably not possible at this stage. Where is the top evidence, the best shot, so far? Just some way to demostrate that OOP is (allegedly) superior beyond "I like it therefore it is good for all" and beyond the typical brochure-level claptrap.

Hmmmm. I wonder if other civalizations use OO?

Re:Grammar Vigilante (2)

alienmole (15522) | more than 12 years ago | (#4263024)

Any decent evidence. It does not have to be mathematical. That would be nice, but probably not possible at this stage.

Well, there are mathematical theories of objects, probably the most well-known of which is put forth by Abadi and Cardelli in A Theory of Objects [demon.co.uk] . Read the prologue for an overview.

However, as that prologue points out, procedural and especially functional languages have much better formal underpinnings than do object languages. The functional languages in particular, examples being Scheme, Haskell, and ML, evolved from mathematical theories like lambda calculus and type theory, which makes them much more rigorous than less formally founded languages, and therefore, by some measures, "better".

The existence of mathematical theories of objects primarily serve to demonstrate the ways in which OO languages deviate from those theories. This is not surprising, since OOP was developed on a mostly ad-hoc basis. No single definition of what OOP is exists, and different languages implement OO in different ways.

To provide "decent evidence OOP is objectively better", you would first need to clearly define what you mean by OOP. You would also, as my original post asked, have to answer the question "better than what", or more specifically, "better than what, for what purpose". For example, it's easy enough to make an objective case that many object languages are more expressive, in general, than most purely procedural languages. By "expressive" I mean capable of expressing the same program both more concisely and understandably. It's also easy to make the case that in many situations - such as implementing algorithms involving functions on relatively simple data structures - that a purely procedural language is no less expressive than an OO language. So, as with Deep Thought's answer of 42, a lot depends on the definition of the question.

My own take on this, which is based on having researched, developed and sold a commercial OO language product back in the early '90s, is that OO contains some very good and important ideas, but that they're rather arbitrarily lumped together as though they all inherently belong together, although they don't necessarily. Part of this lumping often involves conflating otherwise unrelated ideas, which can lead to design strategies that aren't as clearly decomposed as they might otherwise be. Language limits thought, and the limitations of OO languages tend to limit the thought of those who treat a particular OO language or design methodology as The One True Way to design systems. It's a variation on the old "everything looks like a nail" syndrome.

One of the better ideas which OO adopts - but did not invent - is that of subtype polymorphism, which aside from its useful properties from a type theory perspective, is a big enabler of reusability in real-world code. However, OO languages regularly confuse types with implementations of those types, i.e. they don't set up a sufficiently clear or enforceable distinction between interface and implementation. With class inheritance in particular, these boundaries are blurred to the point of causing confusion in the minds of many OO advocates.

Given the arbitrary and varying collection of features that usually consitute OO, I would answer your question of "I wonder if other civilizations use OO?" by saying that other civilizations with sufficiently advanced programming languages would almost certainly use many of the concepts inherent in OO, but that they may be organized in different ways, and an OO "purist" (a rather outdated notion, with what we know about languages today) would possibly not be inclined to call those languages OO. For example, neither Haskell nor ML are OO languages, but both incorporate many features that would be considered part of OO by most OO practitioners. OCaml explicitly incorporates OO, but it is necessarily a little different than in most other OO languages, because OCaml is a functional language.

To summarize, OOP arose to address certain problems in the organization and reusability of code, and in doing so adopted some important ideas, such as subtype polymorphism. It's certainly possible to demonstrate that a language with subtype polymorphism is more expressive than one without, so an OO language would beat out, say, BASIC, FORTRAN, or C in this respect. In that sense, OO languages tend to represent a step forward from what went before, but it was something of an ad-hoc step.

I have no doubt that future languages will take what's been learned about OO's various features into account, but will integrate them in a more rigorous and well-factored way. This can already be seen happening in languages like Java, which is the first mainstream OO language to introduce an explicit notion of an "interface", thus correcting a limitation in many prior OO languages. These baby-step improvements in mainstream languages are about the best we can expect, since it takes a long time to communicate academic knowledge about programming languages into the commercial world, and a similarly long time for the academic world to sift out the actually useful (or simply un-ignorable) innovations from the commercial world.

That all said, I think it's dangerous to dismiss OO as being hype or whatever. That's why I asked "better than what". If you were trying defend pure C against OO, for example, then I think you have something yet to learn, not about OO necessarily, but about programming languages in general; but once again, it depends on the exact question.

Sorry for the essay; brevity and conciseness takes more effort.

holy anal batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251071)

..Monday, January 14th, 1998 to Thursday, January 15th, 1998. (The latter is correct. Monday was the 12th in 1998.)

Sheesh.. Better stay away from "Time Squad" on cartoonnetwork if you're going to analyse stuff that deeply.

Do some research (5, Informative)

Doug Loss (3517) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251082)

I haven't read the book, so I can't comment on it, but the reviewer clearly didn't bother doing any fact checking. "The Morris-Thorne principle" is based on a paper by Michael Morris, Kip Thorne, and Ulvi Yurtsever which was published in the conservative and prestigious journal Physical Review Letters in 1988. For anyone interested in how this might relate to time travel, take a look at John Cramer's Alternate View [washington.edu] column for June 1989.

Re:Do some research (1)

punchdrunk (257279) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251155)

Regardless of whether the Morris-Thorne principle is real or not, the reviewers point is still valid. If you have a Morris-Thorne principle and go into the past at approx. the right time and introduce a character named Morris, the reader is probably going to assume that it is the same Morris. As an author you can pick any name. Why introduce a duplicate if it isn't necessary?

Re:Do some research (2)

scotch (102596) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251269)

But that's so cliche, after all - morris is such a common name that it would be far more likely to meet someone in the past that had nothing to do with the principle. Kudos to the author for not following the set formula for doing time travel!!

Re:Do some research (2)

mgblst (80109) | more than 12 years ago | (#4255150)

it is needlessly confusing, and offers nothing extra to the plot to have a character names Morris.

Re:Do some research (2, Informative)

jdkincad (576359) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251420)

For those interested the Morris, Thorne and Yurtsever paper is in the September 26, 1988 issue.

Which Facts Were Missed? (2)

SteveM (11242) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251525)

The reviewer writes:

The author seems infinitely more interested in name-dropping other, more successful sci-fi authors and scientists. Steele has done his research on obscure historical persona, but he can't seem to fix the holes in his own story.

And then:

A good example in terms of broken plot is the fictional scientific principle the author uses to drive his time-travel ships. It's called the 'Morris-Thorne' principle in the story, obviously named after the scientists who discovered it.

So to me it seems that the reviewer is saying that Steele has named the fictional principle after the real scientists. Albeit leaving out Yurtsever, as the Morris-Thorne-Yurtsever Principle doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

So which fact was missed?

Steve M

Herman comic strip (3, Funny)

Mad Man (166674) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251119)

Indeed, the story starts out revolving around the central premise that the small percentage of UFO's sighted that can't be explained away as airplanes, comets, or blimps, are in actuality time-travelling ships from the future sent to investigate the past.


There was a Herman comic strip -- oh, about 3 or 4 years ago -- where the characters are discussing UFOs. One of them says something like "I think they're time travellers from the future." When asked what they're doing, he answers "Buying up real estate."

Star Trek (1)

dubstop (136484) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251445)

Wasn't there an episode of the original Star Trek where the Enterprise accidentally got sent back to the 1960s and was mistaken for an alien spaceship?

Re:Star Trek (1)

RobertNotBob (597987) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251602)

Yes, but if I give you the name and episode number I will be confessing to things I don't want known.

Re:Star Trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251664)

Tomorrow is Yesterday [startrek.com]

Re:Star Trek (1)

Bolen (4896) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251689)

Indeed there is. The Enterprise was on its way back to Earth when it had a near-miss with an undetected black hole while at warp speed. The accident caused the Enterprise to be thrown back in time, conveniently knocked everyone temporarily unconcious, so that the Enterprise wound up dropping down in Earth's atmosphere over the US, low enough so that a jet fighter could scramble up to their altitude and take some pictures. All that happened in the teaser before the credits.

Re:Star Trek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4255558)

There's an funny episode of DS9 called Little Green Men that deals with the 'weather balloon' crash in Roswell NM. (Wait, didn't the government change the story recently and say it was actually some sort of research project?)

masochistic tendencies??? (2)

YanceyAI (192279) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251120)

I gotta wonder about the guys who pick up a book as crappy as this one seems to be and then keep reading and digesting it enough to be able to review it. I just don't have time to keep reading crap...much less review it. :)

Did I spell masochistic right?

Re:masochistic tendencies??? - Pretty Much. (2)

Bonker (243350) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251176)

When I was reading it, I kept making the mistake of thinking... okay, this is a plot element. Surely this is going to resolve at the end. Right?

(No, I didn't know about the *real* Morris-Thorne research, but imagine including a character named 'Einstein' in a book about relativity and then *not* having that character be in some way responsible for the plot device.)

By the last fifty pages of the book, it was like watching a train wreck. I wanted to put it down, but I couldn't. I had some vague ray of hope that it would turn out well. Just like aforementioned trainwreck, there's always the hope that the train will right itself before it derails completely. In this case, the train didn't just derail, it slid off the tracks and rolled across the station.

Re:masochistic tendencies??? - Pretty Much. (2)

scotch (102596) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251301)

Yeah - since the name Morris is just as recognized and culturally loaded as the name Einstein is. Maybe the name is Morris is so common that the situation that occured in the book is far more realistic that the one you hoped for?

Re:masochistic tendencies??? - Pretty Much. (1)

Bonker (243350) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251326)

Maybe the name is Morris is so common that the situation that occured in the book is far more realistic that the one you hoped for?

Even if that's the case, it's baaaad writing...

More like *sadistic* tendencies (1)

mirnav (572204) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251340)

So, basically, you suffered while reading the book and wanted to inflict a similar pain on others and that's why you had to review it on /.

That sounds more in line with sadism than masochism in my opinion.

I recognize the symptom - this is not unlike the way married people always try to fix others to get marred :)

Re:More like *sadistic* tendencies (2)

mgblst (80109) | more than 12 years ago | (#4255162)

or... perhaps he wanted to save us from succumbing to reading the same drivel? naahhhh

Re:masochistic tendencies??? - Pretty Much. (1)

YanceyAI (192279) | more than 12 years ago | (#4254714)

Now that I've thought about it, I guess I have read horribly written books all the way to the end while thinking this has to get better at some point or he'll/she'll salvage the plot in the end. I guess we're the suckers then.

Maybe they created a change in the time continuum (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251143)

creating an alternate universe in which the days of the week correspond to the dates in that matter...besides, the day of the week a given date falls on is not part of the unique identifier for that period of time.

Journalism at its finest! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251157)

Anyone else here see a dangerous trend of lazy submitters????

Re:Journalism at its finest! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4251536)

This isn't journalism, idiot, it is Slashdot!

If It Looks, Smells and Walks Like Journalism.... (2)

reallocate (142797) | more than 12 years ago | (#4252788)

Slashdot may be CmdrTaco's own little playhouse, but if it's gonna run reviews, interviews, news, and the occassional feature, it's engaging in the practice of journalism.

Pretending that it's just a big talkfest for geeks is a copout. That doesn't absolve the "staff" from their responsibility to be accurate and professional. Nor do claims in the FAQ that Slashdot doesn't verify or check anything -- leaving that to the (anonymous or disguised) readership -- can't negate the fact that much of what's going on here is, in fact ,journalism. Sloppy, biased, unbalanced and amateur-hour journalism, but still journalism.

What if the Author reads /. (1)

Christopher_G_Lewis (260977) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251199)

Talk about a dose of humble pie...

My mom always said "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

I hate it when my mom is right.

Re:What if the Author reads /. (3, Interesting)

Da VinMan (7669) | more than 12 years ago | (#4252282)

Well, maybe your mom was right. But reviews aren't "mean" in the spontaneous emotional sense. They're (supposed to be) a somewhat dispassionate dicourse on the material/event.

On that note, I always love reading negative reviews. I like them because you don't learn anything from good reviews. Good reviews are usually quick to gloss things over and give the reader this "just trust me *nudge* *wink*" kind of impression. Negative reviews are treasure trove of detailed expectations and how the subject missed meeting those expectations. If you're an artist/content developer, there is so much to be learned from negative reviews about how to do things right.

Of course, all of this describes a good review written by a good reviewer. Now, who's going to review the reviewers? :+)

Re:What if the Author reads /. (1)

breon.halling (235909) | more than 12 years ago | (#4268866)

Now, who's going to review the reviewers?

I think you just did... =)

Sounds like it's already been done (2)

Quila (201335) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251222)

in Michael Crighton's "Sphere"

Written any Star Trek scripts? (1)

redbaron7 (577469) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251229)

it initially looked like an interesting time-travel thriller-- something we've seen many of, but not a story that gets old due to its variations.

You didn't write scripts for ST:Voyager, by any chance?

RB

Time-travel paradoxes... (5, Funny)

sgage (109086) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251237)

"looked like an interesting time-travel thriller-- something we've seen many of, but not a story that gets old due to its variations"

How can time-travel get old? :-)

Re:Time-travel paradoxes... (2)

tdye (308813) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251428)

How can people skip over the word "not"?

"looked like an interesting time-travel thriller-- something we've seen many of, but not a story that gets old due to its variations"

Re:Time-travel paradoxes... (2)

sgage (109086) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251999)

Yes, I saw the word "not". I was merely poking fun at the idea that a time-travel story could get old. You know, fun, humor, light-heartedness? Man, this place is getting prickly.

Re:Time-travel paradoxes... (2)

tdye (308813) | more than 12 years ago | (#4265147)

heh.. yeah it is, isn't it.

Something about the disintegration of the tech economy has got a lot of people very testy lately.

Re:Time-travel paradoxes... (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 12 years ago | (#4252146)

Methinks someone missed the joke.

Re:Time-travel paradoxes... (2)

tdye (308813) | more than 12 years ago | (#4265160)

Whiff... /me looks up and wonders what just went by...

Pastwatch (2, Informative)

ckotchey (184135) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251239)

A VERY good book along a similar plot-line is Orson Scott Card's "Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus", in which future observers watch events in the past, and eventually come to the conclusion that their own miserable future all stemmed from the events of Columbus discovering America, and their subsequent attempt to go into the past and alter it for a better future.
It's a very good read.

You want time travel novels? (1)

thunderbee (92099) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251277)

Read Poul Anderson's books. Some are loosly knit together, some stand alone. All are worth a read. Actually, most Poul Anderson books are worth a read :-)

Slow day? (1)

Winterblink (575267) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251414)

Must be a slow day for nerd news or something. On the other hand it's nice to see an extremely negative review of a book -- most /. reviews are glowingly positive ones.

The more you drive, the stupider you get.... (3, Informative)

DavidBrown (177261) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251436)

"Indeed, the story starts out revolving around the central premise that the small percentage of UFO's sighted that can't be explained away as airplanes, comets, or blimps, are in actuality time-travelling ships from the future sent to investigate the past."

Repo Man, 1984.

Oh... (1)

Rocky (56404) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251494)

...I thought the name of the next game was supposed to be "Chrono Break"?

Time travel for dummies ;) (1)

eric_ste (446052) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251574)

This link gives a highlevel but nice intro to timetravel and how it might be possible or not.

http://www.biols.susx.ac.uk/home/John_Gribbin/ti me trav.htm

It wouldn't surprise me if it were this bad... (3, Informative)

eaeolian (560708) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251585)

I've read most of Steele's output, and I have to say, he's very uneven. His first couple of books were lighthearted stories in the mode of early Heinlien (especially the "future history" books), and were quite enjoyable reads. In fact, his best stuff seems to be in this mode, as the last good one, "A King of Infinite Space", was in much the same vein. He seems to have problems handling higher levels of complexity, however, and the name-dropping and quoting can get old after a while. This review, and the synopsis I've read, make me really want to take a pass on this one.

On another note, having doen CD reviews for many years now, I like to see negative reviews of this type - pointing out the actual problems, rather than just saying "this sucks". I think with the growing amount of media contesting for our attention out there, a negative review can help people decide NOT to read/buy/listen to something, therefore not wasting their time, and generating feedback to the work's creator.

Hope for amateur authors? (2, Funny)

cyrek (556620) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251780)

Let's assume the book is truly as ill-plotted, badly written and poorly presented as the reviewer says. Then consider that the manuscript was still accepted by a publisher and further, made it into book form.

I reckon to those of us who have a half-decent plot idea but not the skill to build a storyscape around it could be in with a chance.

If it was truly that bad I'm sure some of the extremely short stories that I write then delete as rubbish from my hard disk would have made it past a publisher. In fact anything with a good plot idea and nothing else should suffice.

Now where did I leave that data recovery software?

How to avoid time travel paradoxes (1)

ohboy-sleep (601567) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251828)

I think Basil Exposition from the Austin Powers movies said it best when trying to explain time travel:

"I suggest you don't worry about this sort of thing and just enjoy yourself. That goes for you all, too."

You can purchase a worthwhile book at bn.com... (1, Offtopic)

stienman (51024) | more than 12 years ago | (#4251875)

You can purchase a worthwhile book at bn.com, but I'm not even going to bother looking the ISBN up for you. Slashdot welcomes reviews, but please try to review only good books so people will buy them through our sponser's links and we can get more keg-cash.

Thanksh.

Shincerely,
The sloshdot team

-Adam

The book is pretty good. (2)

BitGeek (19506) | more than 12 years ago | (#4252300)



I enjoyed it. I was surprised at how negative the review was... it is entertainment, not science. I didn't take it too seriously and I enjoyed the book.

Lately I've been reading some heinlein I missed when I went thru the obligatory hienlein phase in high school. Of course, some of what I'm reading was written in the 50s, and the science is just plain wrong. OK, fine. The science isn't that critical for a story-- and I'm someone who hates stories where the science is wrong. But you can't expect someone to predict science accurately 50 years into the future and then be unhappy when they are wrong. you have to suspend some disbelief.

IF you went into a time travel story without suspending disbelief, no wonder you were unhappy! By its nature, time travel stories are always going to be incorrect

Anyway, I'm not saying this is a golden book. The ending wasn't the greatest, but it was entertaining and thus, worth my time reading it.

Best book by steele (I think it was steele, it was a long time ago) is Kaleidascope Century. Really good book.

Chronospace is a good weekend read when you want to get away from reality for awhile.

Re:The book is pretty good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4255377)

Talking about going back over old work, I have been going back through a lot of old stuff gleaned from bookstores, friends and lifeline book shows. I have been amazed at how much I have enjoyed some of the obscure early sci fi authors. Some I just couldn t put down. Here is a tip for /.ers. Got some free time and some pocket money go and buy a box load of old sci fi stuff at book shows. They are an absolute gold mine of the last 50 years of sci fi.

Not Steele's best book, but not as bad as this (4, Informative)

doonesbury (69634) | more than 12 years ago | (#4252422)

Whew. That was a pretty harsh rip.

I will say this; I was disappointed with this book when I read it. I've read most of Steele's other work, and this was not one of his best. But it definitely wasn't quite that bad. It had some interesting premises in it: and it didn't quite come through.

Having said that, I will say that this book is not reminiscent of his best work, by far. When he's off, he's off -- but when he's on, he's stellar.

If you're looking for his best work, check out Steele's short story work, Sex and Violence in Zero G, Rude Astronauts and All-American Alien Boy. The short stories in those books by far outstrip this book, and build an amazingly neat background for his "Near Space" series. Orbital Decay and Lunar Descent are great; I personally like The Jericho Iteration, because he writes about some of my old stomping grounds in St. Louis.

Also, check out the short story he was just put up for: Stealing Alabama. Very neat premise.

And don't forget... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#4264128)

..."The Tranquility Alternative", a wonderful novel and part of an interesting Alternate History where Robert H. Goddard developed a suborbital interceptor in 1944 and Neil Armstrong lands on Mars on July 20, 1976 to scatter his ashes there at Utopia Planitia.

Alien probing. (0, Troll)

Talinom (243100) | more than 12 years ago | (#4252537)

Are our future spawn coming back in time as violent homosexuals or is the behavior a side effect of time travel? That is the only explanation that I can think of for all of the cattle mutilations and the endless anal probing.

I mean who is going to tell Cartman that wasn't an alien probe, but rather was a manmade one, stickin' outta his ass. This could be the last straw for him. The one to push him over the edge.

But perhaps we should give our descendents a break. After all we don't know what sort of pressures they might be under. Perhaps their orgasmatrons have all broken and they are pissed about that. Perhaps they are all sterile after the great war and need our sperm and ovum to propagate the species and are using the anal probing as a distraction during the procedure.

Hell, perhaps the cows are super intelligent due to excessive hormonal treatment and are exacting their revenge upon the homo-sapiens that feasted upon them for so many years. That would explain the mutilations to some extent if they were harvesting ovum and sperm due to species infertility. Also, isn't is some poor unsuspecting cow farmer in the middle of nowhere that usually recieves the anal probe? Thought so.

It is a smarter person than me that knows the answer.

Mod me down for being a twit.

Obscure B Movies (2)

Mulletproof (513805) | more than 12 years ago | (#4255664)

Let's just pass over the comment that this particular idea hasn't been used to death and introduce you to the movie Millenium [centerstage.net] in which Humans from the future travel back in time and harvest people who history records as having died in airline crashes into the future... It bares a passing resemblance to Freejack [barnesandnoble.com] starring Emilo and our ever lovable Sting. No UFOs in the latter movie, however. No, this idea hasn't been trodden, beat, raped and otherwise set aflame now, has it?

Re:Obscure B Movies (1)

TechnoWitch (82551) | more than 12 years ago | (#4255829)

That wasn't Sting. It was Mick Jagger.

Re:Obscure B Movies (2)

Mulletproof (513805) | more than 12 years ago | (#4256936)

Oooooh...Damn. that hurt, and right you are. My Bad. I get em mixed up from time to time. There's a joke here, I'm sure of it, but I'll pass for now.
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