Patterns on Pages: Secrets of the Sequenced Symbols follows in the footsteps of C. R. Downing’s Traveler’s HOT L series.
Despite its consistency with the HOT L establishment for time travelers and the characters (namely Eternity, Chronos, Tempus and Epoch) in the first two volumes, it is a distinct piece of work since like Reverse Image: A Timeless Tale (Volume 3) it’s a full length novel rather than a series of inter-related tales.
I welcomed this as it gave me time to really get stuck into it!
You may recall from (or choose to (re)read) my review of Traveler’s HOT L (Volume 1) on Time Travel Nexus that my main misgiving was that several of the tales didn’t necessarily need time travel, or even covered genres which I wouldn’t normally have chosen to read.
Patterns on Pages is quite the opposite! It’s time travel through and through (although I should correct the term “time travel” and instead use “travel along the time fabric”) and it certainly sits comfortably enough within the scifi genre to capture and hold my interest all the way along the journey!
A cracking start!
Patterns on Pages starts with an almighty bang. Or to be more exact, a crack – the Earth shatters! Now what can possibly happen next?! I’m hooked!
After “The Day the Earth Shattered” the human population is in decline, although it doesn’t seem to know it. Amongst the debris humans struggle to survive. Technology and progress have taken a backward step.
It’s not like they’re able to help themselves – without the power of literacy, for example, books are viewed as a fuel source rather than a source of information and education. At best books are holders of “patterns on pages”. (This is somewhat ironic given that I had some formatting troubles with early versions of the manuscript on my ereader! 😉 )
With no means (or desire) for the ability to use products from the past – let alone fix broken items or develop new ones, human kind is in a mess. And then there’s the death rate which is starting to overtake the birth rate. Human kind is set for extinction.
The question of using (burning) books for short term benefit (keeping warm) instead of longer term survival (education) reminded me a little of the desire to choose plants over people in the movie Silent Running. An arguably agreeable attitude when you’re faced with villagers with pitchforks and scepticism when it comes to learning about the value of books. People can be too stupid to know how stupid their stupidity is.
Thankfully there are two characters, Marin and Lincoln, who are more open – and curious – about books. They’re able to wade through an old library and access some talking books (which reminded me of the 2002 movie remake of The Time Machine with Guy Pearce) running on electricity still generated from old solar panels.
The plan is to send Marin and Lincoln back in time so that they can see first hand how things used to be, and how literacy can be key to saving the human race – and then come back to their own time to share their knowledge and show their community that there’s a better and sustainable way to live.
Patterns on Pages has an original and brilliant angle when it comes to putting people from different times and cultures together. It’s executed perfectly and written with an incredible insight into human behaviour and society.
I was immediately taken with how a global catastrophe has a personal impact. I remember my aunt many years ago explaining that we can identify with the sorrow of an individual in, for example, a fatal car crash. But scaling that up to 200 passengers on a plummeting aircraft is much more difficult because our minds are less equipped to deal with that enormous amount of tragedy. It’s a fair point, and a little ashamedly I feel more sympathy for my daughter when she’s fallen and grazed her knee than hearing about a car crash on the motorway.
How author C.R. Downing (Chuck) manages to stir feelings of personal empathy within a worldwide event I’ve no idea, but it works! One Earth is kept separate from the impact that it has on many people. Be warned – it’s a powerful and emotional start!
There’s a similar display of personal versus many when Lincoln and Marin discover that tens of books have been burned. This is serious because it represents the loss of a lot of useful information which would help to not only improve the quality of life, but ultimately preserve the human race. Lincoln’s reaction is that instead of passing Marin a personal letter today as planned, he’d be better off giving it to her tomorrow when she’s not feeling so emotional. He’s not selfish; he’s bringing large problems to a personal impact level.
I should clarify again that Lincoln and Marin are residents in our future, and part of a relatively simplistic culture. I recently watched the movie Arrival based on the short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang (stand by for a post on that…). The point is made that linguistics can effect culture – and vice versa. And we see that here with Lincoln and Marin who clearly have a different way of speaking English to each other than people of our time. I was very interested to see that after their education and residency in the past [culture] Lincoln and Marin’s speech changed.
One of my pet peeves is when authors spell out accents. It’s the exception to the “show not tell” rule; I’d rather be told someone has an accent, and let my brain make the sound when I read. Having phonetic spelling is patronising and barely different to reading a book with pictures. All that said, phonetic spelling is used here in a couple of instances where it comes over as a powerful literary device used to show the diversity of humans and how accents are perceived by Lincoln and Marin. Brilliantly done!
Lincoln and Marin aren’t the only characters. There’s also Rulora. I’m not sure what she was, but she came over as some form of AI, for example, by providing her location co-ordinates with her name, or by prefixing her sentences with qualifiers such as “question”, “statement”, “observation” , etc..
Lincoln and Marin’s teachers, Courtney and Dawn, fairly quickly become people in their own right as opposed to background and secondary characters used only to bounce around dialogue and ideas. They have a crucial role to play in the plot line, and subsequently each have depth without cluttering up the novel.
My own experience of teachers is generally pretty bad. Naturally I’ve had some very good ones, but (maybe this is my pessimistic outlook) I tend to remember most clearly the cretinous nightmarey ones I suffered under who were not only a disgrace to teaching but to the human race.
When I read how Courtney and Dawn felt about teaching Lincoln and Marin and the techniques they used I was really impressed. Perhaps this should have come as no surprise given that Chuck (actually here I shall refer to him in full as Dr Downing) has received several awards for teaching including the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching. It’s wonderful how he’s able to bring his personal experiences into his writing!
On a similar note I was very happy to read about Lincoln and Marin’s introduction to Christianity. The subject is touched on very delicately which is all it needed to be acknowledged (its omission would have been a statement in itself…). Actually, for those interested, Chuck is working on a piece in Biblical fiction titled Who Leads the Shepherd).
There’s one final thing I want to mention about the writing style and that’s the thankful avoidance of blabbing on about historical crap. There’s a section where we’re taken back to 1816. Naturally there are some observations about the people and culture there, but it’s not full on, doesn’t go on for pages on end, and it’s not used as evidence that an author has carried out loads of research and finds it compulsory to bore us to tears with.
Like the religious segment, the 19th century view is treated softly and succinctly. (Phew!)
I think it’s clear that I’m very impressed with the quality of writing (and content) in Patterns on Pages! For the sake of balance, I do have only one very small negative comment: temperatures are given not in degrees Celsius / Centigrade but in fahrenheit – a measurement scale which doesn’t speak to me as a scientist.
Of course this is very subjective, but I’ll point out this – the fahrenheit scale was crafted with the aim of body temperature being set at 100 degrees fahrenheit. And they got it wrong (98.6)! (Certainly some of my school teachers made my blood run cold. Maybe Rulora has a body temperature of 100?
The Time Fabric
The Day the Earth Shattered caused a huge loss of human life. This means that the Fabric of Time was damaged and became unstable because it’s made from the summation of single life threads of sentient beings.
Epoch, Tempus and Pater become involved though I sense a little chicken-and-egg regarding their motivation. Is it to prevent the extinction of the human race; so that humans can occupy a longer length of Earth’s existence and get closer to their potential? Or it is that more human population threads are needed to support the failing fabric of time?
Moving from the the more ubiquitous time fabric to a more a local scale, we read that the Earthquake realigned the location of the HOT L establishment. (HOT L is the Harmonic Overlapping Time Location.) It’s another example of Chuck’s handle on scales of impact whilst keeping realism in check.
The HOT L series makes a point of neither approving or using the term “time travel” but travelling along the time fabric. This is a very physical approach, and could perhaps be seen as a move towards linking time and space – and back to time;
time travelling walking along the fabric of time to 1816 took an hour! 😉 The idea of a physical approach to time travel is also enhanced when the travelers are advised to tread on each other’s footprints on the fabric to minimise damage to it. Love it!
I suspect that my electirical skills aren’t up to scratch, but something did strike me about the actual workings of the HOT L. The strength of current (voltage) harmonizes the vibrations of a person’s DNA to that of the HOT L. I’m not sure about this on two counts. Isn’t the strength of current the Ampere and not the Volt (potential difference – the amount of ‘push’)? And wouldn’t a change in frequency be required for harmonization?
There are several moments in the novel where it could have ended, or worse painfully peeled off to make a (perceived) marketable addition to a series. Thankfully this isn’t the case here and Patterns on Pages carries on taking us with it to a suitable conclusion (without it being long and drawn out!)
Rating * * * * *
Patterns on Pages is an easy full 5 stars! The time travel mechanism is well thought out and applied consistently throughout the novel. I really liked the story line which has an original approach on putting people from different times and cultures together – enhanced with a two-step learning process – from ‘older’ more advanced people to ‘younger’ less advanced – and back again.
There’s currently a KindleScout campaign on Amazon where you can nominate Patterns on Pages. I’ve already nominated this wonderful novel – you can do the same too! (Nominations close at midnight at 12AM EDT Sept 10.)
| 5* Excellent! | 4* Good | 3* OK | 2* Not good | 1* Crud |