I don’t do time travel. It generally doesn’t make sense to me, and the disconnects can be frustrating. Something as innocuous as “Back To The Future” can tie my brain in knots for days and season six of Dr. Who well and truly broke it.
But there was something about this book that made me want to try.
January Cole’s job just got a whole lot harder.
Not that running security at the Paradox was ever really easy. Nothing’s simple at a hotel where the ultra-wealthy tourists arrive costumed for a dozen different time periods, all eagerly waiting to catch their “flights” to the past.
Or where proximity to the timeport makes the clocks run backward on occasion—and, rumor has it, allows ghosts to stroll the halls.
None of that compares to the corpse in room 526. The one that seems to be both there and not there. The one that somehow only January can see.
On top of that, some very important new guests have just checked in. Because the U.S. government is about to privatize time-travel technology—and the world’s most powerful people are on hand to stake their claims.
January is sure the timing isn’t a coincidence. Neither are those “accidents” that start stalking their bidders.
There’s a reason January can glimpse what others can’t. A reason why she’s the only one who can catch a killer who’s operating invisibly and in plain sight, all at once.
But her ability is also destroying her grip on reality—and as her past, present, and future collide, she finds herself confronting not just the hotel’s dark secrets but her own.
At once a dazzlingly time-twisting murder mystery and a story about grief, memory, and what it means to—literally—come face-to-face with our ghosts, The Paradox Hotel is another unforgettable speculative thrill ride from acclaimed author Rob Hart.
This isn’t so much time travel as it is time manipulation. January is unstuck, and that manifests by her turning up in all manner of past and future timelines, able to interact with them, but not able to control how long she is in them.
Sometimes, as the head of security at a hotel, this is a good thing. She can see that a guest is about to be served peanuts—which they are deathly allergic to—and has time to stop that from happening. Good.
Sometimes, it’s less good. January’s ongoing “relationship” with her dead girlfriend is dangerous to both her mental and physical health. The only reason she stays at The Paradox, even though her proximity to the Time Stream is making her condition precipitously worse, day over day, is to have the ability to see Mena, to interact with Mena, to glimpse Mena talking to a guest. All these glimpses are artifacts, slips into the past for a brief, redemptive moment, but January will risk everything for them.
I think that two things really appealed to me about this book. One, it was presented as a murder mystery, and I am a sucker for those. I wanted her to solve the mystery of the dead guy in room 526. I needed to know the story there. It was a hell of a hook.
I was also fascinated by the idea of flights to the past, and was very disappointed to not get to go on one. I wished that we had started with a flashback, one that established what January’s job used to be like, one that showed us the fun of the passengers dressed for the Renaissance, one that showed us a glimpse into January and Mena’s relationship as it was before.
I was not expecting that the book would be so much about grief, the topic that I am most unintentionally (and quite bitterly) an expert in. January’s grief was gutting, and palpable, and so, so real. I get why she stays, although I don’t think I would. There is the pain of touching a sore tooth, and then there is the pain of flexing a joint after surgery. One reminds us that we are alive; one makes us wish we weren’t. January’s need to stay to catch glimpses of Mena, for me, would be the second of those. But grief is weird.
So. Did I like the book? Yeah, I did. It was a frustrating book to get through. The time jumps were abrupt (as they would be) and that made it very hard to follow at times. But I think that it was worth it. I actually dreamed that I was January, in the hotel, trying to fix the time stream, and I think that when a book gets under your skin like that, it’s got something special.