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Review of Floating Hotel by

Floating Hotel

by Grace Curtis

The description of Floating Hotel overtly likens it to The Grand Budapest Hotel, and this comparison is both correct and compelling. Recreating the same tragicomic balance with her wandering space hotel, Grace Curtis takes this story places I didn’t expect it to go. Simultaneously heartwarming and heartwrenching, this is a book about doing what you love—and then saying goodbye to what you love. I received a copy in exchange for a review.

Carl is the manager of the Grand Abeona Hotel. This spacecraft makes a circuit of the known galaxy, taking on new guests for a system or two, hosting conferences, etc. Populated by a quirky cast of misfits and the occasional malcontent, the hotel is renowned and beloved by many, yet behind the scenes it has seen better days. The book follows Carl and several employees and guests in a series of interwoven plots, culminating in a confrontation that threatens the survival not only of Carl and his guests but of the Grand Abeona itself.

Curtis is skilled at a kind of shorthand with characterization, and the structure of this novel serves that well. At first, I was annoyed that I didn’t learn more about Carl immediately, didn’t get more of his backstory with Nina and how he came of age aboard the hotel. However, Curtis quickly won me over. With each chapter and each new viewpoint character there is a new opportunity to learn about the hotel through their eyes. I’m not exaggerating when I say that each character’s story has sufficient depth to be its own novel (or at least novella). Although Curtis returns to some of them throughout the novel, others only have a brief moment in the spotlight, and it always felt bittersweet to swipe left and say goodbye.

There are several intersecting mysteries at the heart of this novel. None of them by themselves are particularly deep or intricate. Whether it’s the identity of the Lamplighter or the nature of the mysterious message investigated by the Problem Solvers conference, I thought the solutions were fairly obvious from the start. However, that’s OK—the mysteries themselves are kind of beside the point, for the real reward here is the immersion in the setting and the characters who populate it. The vibe reminds me a lot of Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, though less cozy than quirky.

Indeed, the transformation in tone that this book undergoes is perhaps the most enjoyable thing about it. When I reached the chapter with the spies, when there was a scene with the bathtub, I realized this story was turning serious. From there, each chapter turned up the tension, yet the book overall never lost its charm and wit. Once again, a delightful sense of balance infuses Curtis’s writing. After several heavier books—many of which I enjoyed—Floating Hotel managed to be exactly what I needed.

Although I easily guessed the resolution of most of the mysteries, I was surprised by how the book itself ends—and I’m happy about that. Without spoilers, let’s just say that I expected Carl to come up with a very different plan from the one he ends up implementing. I expected something … perhaps more trite, more storybook? And instead, Curtis reminds us that sometimes the only way to win is not to play the game. It would be harsh if it weren’t also so hopeful: this book is a reminder that no matter what you lose, no matter what happens, your life goes on and you can always move forward. You’ll be different, that’s for sure, but you can move forward.

This is a sweet, sometimes sad, always entertaining novel. Highly recommend for people who want some soft, creative, and satisfying science fiction.


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