Review: Traveler’s HOT L Vol. 2 (CR Downing)

New Tales from the Time Travelers Resort

Introduction

As you’d guess from the name, Traveler’s HOT L: New Tales from the Time Travelers Resort (Volume 2) is C. R. Downing’s (“Chuck”) second installment of short stories from the Traveler’s HOT L. And I’ll say right at the start – from a time travel perspective I think this second volume is better than the first! 🙂

HOT L Volume 2 by CR Downing
Traveler’s HOT L By CR Downing

(And just to remind you – and also in a little bit of fear of one of the proprietors, Eternity, “HOT L” stands for Harmonious Overlap of Time Location – and has nothing to do with a run down hotel!)

Whether the passage of time should be irrelevant or of paramount importance to a time travel enthusiast is a point of discussion, but it’s worthy to note that it’s been about two and a half years since my read of the first book.

This is an important note because I was able to pick things up very easily, so in this way HOT L Volume 2 can be considered to be a stand-alone collection of stories (with the slight caveat that the impressive conclusion of Volume 1’s “Battle for the Far Planet” is given here in Volume 2).

The Stories

The general pattern behind most of the stories is contact with HOT L and then the ‘actual’ story in the new time location. What I really appreciated is that the story doesn’t end there – it usually includes the return trip and a discussion / follow on / twist on the characters’ return.

In a full length novel I suppose these would have been epilogues, but in these short stories they round things off nicely and didn’t leave me feeling left high and dry after a sail across the seas of time!

Like any collection of stories (including Volume 1) there are a mixture – some which sing joyful tunes to my reading soul, and others which didn’t click quite so much. That’s no bad thing – with such a mixture of subjects there’s something for everyone.

A lot of so called time travel novels go back in time and tell an otherwise normal story. Usually I don’t like these as they’re essentially real life fan fiction. Conversely, going into an as yet unknown future means that there’s scope for more imagination because who can tell you that you’re wrong? In this vein, one of Chuck’s story’s throws us into the future and I was really impressed with the intelligent ideas which he presented as a backdrop.

Another story had me guessing all the way through – a couple go forwards in time to prepare for a money making scheme after they return back to their present. It got quite convoluted but I thought it was very clever. Most quick money making schemes involve going back to the past and imparting or using knowledge from the future, but this was different!

And another story was used as an example when the rules of the HOT L aren’t followed and it looks at the consequences of, for example, bringing people back or having 2 versions of yourself in the same time line.

Overall it’s a very varied bag of treats!

Writing style

There seem to be almost as many writing styles as there are stories – and they’re all skillful – both how Chuck writes and also the techniques which are woven in. I particularly like his twist of humour too!

The time travel methodology and the proprietors of the HOT L, Eternity and Chronos, are the the what and who which bind each of the stories together. It makes sense really, because after all, this is what makes the HOT L establishment.

The ‘missing’ E

The attention to the broken hotel sign is an example.

Like your uncle who can’t resist making those awful jokes, visitors to the HOT L seemingly can’t resist pointing out the missing “E” in the Hotel sign.

Missing "E" from HOT L?
Missing “E” from HOT L?

Where I think most authors would think “Right, I’ve written that aspect in the first story so I’ll concentrate on something else for the remaining tales.”, Chuck writes it in again for the remaining stories. Not only does it make each story independent, it also helps us to appreciate the frustration that Chronos – and to a greater extent, Eternity – suffer with each customer coming in droning on about the same issue. Paradoxically, this feature ties the otherwise independent stories together!

Rinse and repeat

Something a little similar happens in the first story (“We Come in Peace (and Quiet)”).

(It’s actually my favourite from the collection, and reminded me in some ways of the “Arrival” movie, based on the excellent short story “The Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang and a hint of Chuck’s own Patterns on Pages.)

In this story Heather and Owen visit the same time period but came from different presents. This means that we read the explanations from Chronos and Eternity twice as they’re given to each traveler separately. But because Heather and Owen are different people, they react differently – and so too do the proprietors of the HOT L.

Reading explanations twice really drives home some points, for example, the importance of not missing their allotted time window for return. And we see again how Eternity gets truly narked off when told about the missing E. (I should say that given her rudeness to her customers I’m quite pleased she gets worked up!)

It’s an interesting angle within a time travel story because it’s more usual to hear things a second time round on a second experience of a time line.

There’s nothing dull in the repetition though. Heather and Owen are different people so tackle problems in different ways. For example, Heather is shown how to rub her clothing to open a hidden pocket, whereas Owen dries his hands by rubbing them on his clothes and finds the hidden pocket that way. Actually, given similar circumstances, we see the differences between Eternity and Chronos too.

Come to think of it, this particular story also had an interplanetary difference in culture which allowed a double take on a single event. One species sees the other with a large head, whereas the other species sees the former with a small head. One species talks, and the other sees a flapping orifice. Loved it!

The Fabric of Time and the HOT L

From memory, the details of how time travel is possible were given in the first volume, but they’re repeated here gently and woven within each story. That said, one of the best chapters was written as the transcript from a radio interview which went into some further details of the time travel mechanics as well as the rules which need to be adhered to. It’s solid stuff; voltages applied to DNA, recurring frequencies and more!

One of the rules I liked was the comparison between travelling in time and backpacking:

“Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.”

I can’t help thinking here of the author of Timeshaft, Stewart Bint and his barefoot hiking! It’s a wonderful – and safe – philosophy in each case!

However, there’s also a saying that rules are made to be broken, so be warned…!

Travel along the fabric of time is made possible thanks to the HOT L – the “Harmonious Overlap of Time Location”. It’s run by proprietors Chronos and Eternity, though they both admit that they don’t know the how and why of what they do.

Given the large expense that a traveler must pay for a trip, you’d expect that the HOT L is a place of luxury, but in reality it’s quite the opposite. The car park needs repair and whilst the lobby has air conditioning, Eternity is strict on keeping the front doors closed to save money. And of course there’s the broken HOTEL sign, though now seeing as this isn’t a hotel I guess the sign isn’t technically broken…

I liked this juxtaposition of the possibility of time travel (and the possibilities it offers) with the limitations of more down to Earth considerations. For example, travel forwards in time and experience interplanetary space travel – but your employer must be willing to give you the time off work to do it! It’s a bizarre situation – but probably realistic!

Rating * * * * *

I have only 2 negative comments. The first is that is that a couple of stories used images which weren’t easy to read on my ereader. But that’s a format not content comment!

The second is my own failing. Usually I’m able to pick up references to other pieces of science fiction. Not this time! It’s particularly annoying because some kid called “Axe Man” in one of the stories was able to spot a reference where I missed it! John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom had something to do with travel to Mars. Apparently Axe Man “knew his Burroughs” who I guess is Edgar Rice Burroughs. I think I have a novel of his, but from memory it’s something about Venus. I need to check!

As I mentioned in my review of HOT L Volume 1, it’s difficult to give a fair rating for a collection of stories where some appeal to subjective tastes and others less so. So here I’ll concentrate on the glue which binds them together, and that’s the HOT L establishment and naturally the travel along the time fabric.

So it’s 5 stars for a solid time travel mechanism (complete with description), its application and consequences when things go wrong and the sheer strength and variation of writing style!

Traveler’s HOT L Volume 2 is available from Amazon.com.

You can read my interview with Chuck here and my review of his full length novel Patterns on Pages.

Paul

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Traveler's HOT L: Volume Two: New Tales from the Time Travelers Resort (Volume 2)
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