Book Review: The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart

An impossible crime. A detective on the edge of madness. The future of time travel at stake. From Rob Hart, the author of The Warehouse, this is The Paradox Hotel.

January Cole is a Time Enforcement Agent, assigned to the building that gives this sci-fi thriller novel its title. The Paradox is a luxury hotel built to accommodate the wealthy thrillseekers traveling through the Einstein Timeport adjacent to it, making it essentially the world’s fanciest airport accommodations. Via the Einstein, tourists may sightsee their way through past epochs, so long as they keep one guideline in mind: look but don’t touch. Time Enforcement Agents are tasked with ensuring this maxim is abided by, and January is one of the agency’s finest.

Or was one of their finest. Her exposure to the radiation necessary for time-travel has caused her to become Unstuck, a syndrome that she explains to new security recruit, Nik Moreau:

“You remember the idiot’s guide to time travel from the academy,” I tell him. “Time conforms to the block universe model–everything that has happened or will ever happen already exists in a three-dimensional cube. We perceive events as linear because we travel through the cube on a straight line.”


“Arrow of time,” Nik says.


“Arrow of time. So when you’re Unstuck, your arrow gets a little less straight. It zigs and zags, putting you in contact with past and future moments. It feels a bit like déjà vu. You see something that you feel like you’ve seen before. Then it’s gone. The flashes only last for a couple of seconds. Sometimes up to a minute. It’s not so bad. You get used to it.”

Nik has been hired on because the Paradox is about to host a summit of extremely important and wealthy investors. The Einstein and, by association, the Paradox have been bleeding money, and require private investment in order to continue functioning. Senator Danica Drucker is overseeing the conference, and getting on January’s last nerve in the process with her often overbearing demands. And that’s even before time seems to start malfunctioning within the Paradox.

At first, January thinks that the strange things she’s seeing are just a side effect of her own progressively worsening symptoms. If no one else, human or AI, can see the dead body in room 526, perhaps she’s only hallucinating it. But as January’s visions start coming true with more and more rapidity, she realizes that someone is actively sabotaging both her and the hotel, and that someone is trying to get away with murder.

With the safety of some of the world’s most rich and powerful in her hands, and the future of her beloved hotel at stake, January must not only solve the mystery of who is behind all this and why, but use her agency training to get out of several truly life-threatening circumstances, such as this attack by a wild predator that should definitely not be in the hotel:

It lunges, and my mind goes blank. My body takes over. I manage to twist myself to the right and bring my foot up at the same time, planting it on the animal’s sternum, serving to both push it away and push myself back.


The problem is I do too good a job, because then I’m airborne. I tuck my chin to my chest and with my free hand slap the floor as I land, dispersing some of the impact. Then I bring my legs up hard over my head, doing a combat roll into a standing position. My abdomen screams. The muscle memory is there, but it’s more memory than muscle.

Cinematic and heady, The Paradox Hotel is a work of speculative crime fiction that features a wise-cracking, wounded heroine and, perhaps surprisingly, one of the most touching romances I’ve ever read in this genre. January’s love for the Paradox is wrapped up in her feelings for her dead girlfriend Mena, a love she fears may be clouding her judgment as she seeks to protect the summit-goers–no matter how irritatingly privileged–as well as the other denizens of the hotel. The action is brisk and the events engrossing as January gets to the bottom of what’s happening, while also confronting her past and trying to adjust for what this all means for her future. The way that the time travel aspects are intertwined with musings on Buddhist philosophy makes both topics feel more accessible to the layperson while building a smart, exciting read for any fan of mysteries or thrillers, science-fiction or otherwise.

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