The Paradox Hotel, Rob Hart (Ballantine 978-1-98482-064-8, 324pp, $28, hc) February 2022.
Rob Hart’s The Paradox Hotel sums its own energy up with one line of dialog: ‘‘We’re at DEFCON Level Holy Shit.’’ Hart not only starts in media res, he puts us on the rollercoaster that is the Paradox Hotel just as it is tipping down the first big hill. The pace never really lets up until the end.
January Cole is in the first car on the ride, able to see just how harrowing the track will be and completely unable to get in front of what is about to happen. She’s the hotel’s detective, and there’s some weird stuff going on during her watch. Of course, when you have a hotel near the travel terminal for the luxury tours that take wealthy clients back into the past, time itself can get a little bendy. When Cole’s own brain comes unstuck – it’s like age-related dementia, but with chronology – mysteries pile on mysteries as the stakes continue to mount.
And then the baby dinosaurs arrive. Chaos ensues.
In terms of a book-length demonstration of managing a tornado, The Paradox Hotel should be Exhibit A. There’s a lot to enjoy here, especially if you just want to get swept up in a plot with no brakes, only gas. Hart is on less sure footing when it comes to building his characters. While he has done yeoman’s work of fleshing out what makes Cole tick – grief is involved – her persona never quite gels beyond a collection of quirks. The same is true for her antagonists, of which there seem to be too many, and they are all more or less the same, despite having different names.
Still, there is a lot in this hotel to praise, as long as you lean into to the dazzle and avoid looking under the beds.
Adrienne Martini has been reading or writing about science fiction for decades and has had two non-fiction, non-genre books published by Simon and Schuster. She lives in Upstate New York with one husband, two kids, and one corgi. She also runs a lot.
This review and more like it in the April 2022 issue of Locus.
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