Sunday, May 7, 2023

The Paradox Hotel

Rob Hart
Completed 5/7/2023, Reviewed 5/7/2023
3 stars

Very complicated noir thriller about a lesbian chief of security of a hotel which features time travel who has become unstuck in time during the hosting of a summit of potential buyers during a snowstorm.  Yeah, kinda sounds like disaster porn.  There are a ton of characters which makes following the plot even more complex.  But the author does a decent job of holding it together as the mystery progresses and the main character falls deeper into her time disease. The writing is pretty fast paced, but with all the characters and time traveling, it was often hard to follow what was going on.  This book is a 2023 nominee for the Lambda Literary Award for Speculative Fiction.

January Cole is the chief of security.  Her partner died a few weeks ago in a gas explosion and Jan is not dealing with it well.  She covers up her feelings in dark, off-putting humor, alienating the family she built with the other employees of the hotel.  In addition, she is in stage 2 unstuck-edness.  During the present, she sees things from the past and what may happen in the future.  She doesn’t tell anyone about her being in stage 2 because that would get her permanently retired.  But now it’s interfering with her ability to control a summit of trillionaires looking to bid on purchasing the hotel.  Its attraction is that it features time travel excursions for the rich.  However, it is exactly this time travel that has caused Jan’s unstuck problem.  Of course, there are attempted and successful unsolved murders as the trillionaires come to the hotel with their entourages.  And the government is involved to boot, since it is the current owner of the hotel.  Jan’s job is to find who’s trying to murder everyone before she enters a stage 3 coma.  

Jan is the narrator.  She’s a complicated mess who constantly disparages her friends and refuses to listen to their pleas to get help to deal with her partner’s death.  She believes she is using humor to cope, but she is only alienating everyone.  Her Stage 2 condition makes matters worse, but in this case, it gives her clues into the intrigue going on at the summit.  This being a thriller, you know she’s going to figure out who the bad guys are, so it’s her journey that is important.  That being the case, this thriller is pretty innovative, with mysterious ripples in time-space that only Jan can see, prehistoric raptors that have been brought back from the past illegally, and a kick-ass, snarky sidekick AI drone that helps Jan along the way.  But with all this wacky science fiction, it didn’t help me really empathize with Jan.  She just becomes irritating after a while as she fights tooth and nail against getting help.  It was the sci fi and the mystery that kept this book going for me.

It was pretty cool that Jan was a lesbian.  This is a near future story and her identity and past relationship are done matter of fact, with a supportive diverse staff which also includes a non-binary person.  It was refreshing to have these characters in the book, done well and without any pomp.  I love this trend in science fiction, having LGBTQ+ characters where their sexuality is not an issue.   I just wish that with Jan being the main character, I could have liked her better.  

As for the mysteries that are resolved, I did have an inkling as to who was behind everything.  So I don’t know if this book was as successful a thriller as it could have been.  And the snowstorm reminded me of the movie “Airport.”  This would make a good disaster film.  So I give this book a three star rating out of five.  It wasn’t excellent, but it was pretty good.  It takes some effort to trudge through it, but it didn’t hurt my brain that much.  As for winning the Lammy?  I wouldn’t vote for it, but it was a decent nomination.

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