Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

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The Grand Abeona Hotel is both space ship and resort, an interstellar cruise ship floating from system to system, providing old fashioned luxury to the well-to-do of each planet at which it calls. Its crew are a chaotic bunch of outcasts and refugees, forged into a well oiled machine (well, mostly) by kindly hotel manager Carl - who knows that each and every one of them has a story of their own. But even an out-of-this-world place like the Grand Abeona cannot escape the political realities of the galaxy. Some of the guests carry secrets - and even worse, perhaps so do some of the staff…

Full disclosure: We received a free advance reading copy for Floating Hotel.

I’m not the biggest fan of low-plot stories. I read one Becky Chambers book and didn’t hate it, but I generally need stuff to be Happening in order to keep me engaged. I had a similar issue with Legends & Lattes, though as I listened to the audiobook I could just let it happen without having to really focus. Oftentimes with cosy books, you can miss a couple of minutes and you won’t miss much of the story.

I really enjoyed the setup of this book. You’re pulled in with the story of the hotel manager, which in turn introduces you to several other of the crew. Each new story explores the origin story of the crew member, as well as their current life on the ship. Throughout all this, a mystery is introduced, which keeps you on your toes and gives you a reason to keep reading.

The strongest part of the novel for sure are the characters Curtis introduces. Carl is my absolute favourite and I would have enjoyed to see more of him in the book, but there are plenty more characters I would have loved to find out more about. This book is mostly character driven, and it does a really good job at making you like its characters.

Overall, this type of story still isn’t really for me, but it was executed well enough that I enjoyed my time reading it. Especially near the end, I struggled to put it away!

Some books you read because you’ve wanted to read them forever, because they come highly recommended, or because they’ve won awards left, right, and centre. Other books are just thrown into your lap at the right time and you figure ‘why not?’. Floating Hotel is in the second category. It is perhaps not the type of book that I might otherwise have read, but it’s good to get out of your comfort zone every now and then.

Although… Floating Hotel is very much a comfort zone-book. It is an aggressively light read. I’ve read a few ‘cozy’ stories, lately, and Floating Hotel falls squarely in that corner of speculative fiction.

Each chapter of Floating Hotel follows a different staff member of the eponymous floating hotel as they go about their duties for the day (often derailing as the story progresses), while giving us that particular staff member’s story for ending up in the interstellar hospitality business. Each of them a misfit in their own world, they have come together as a found family under the kind leadership of supremely inoffensive hotel manager Carl.

There is a through line in Floating Hotel, but at times, the book almost feels like a collection of character-driven short stories. In fact, the through line (lines?) are probably better not thought about too much. You’re certainly not reading Floating Hotel for the plot.

So what are you reading it for?

I think Floating Hotel’s main attractions are probably its likeable characters, its unpretentious style, its gates-open-come-on-in storytelling. It’s the kind of book that takes no processing at all, a brains-off and go-with-the-flow experience.

I mostly enjoyed Floating Hotel, but it is not really my cup of tea. The story is set in a distant future, but it is a typical sci-fi-as-a-setting book. The same stories could easily have been told in a fantasy or even real world setting. It leans heavily into well worn tropes, without much variation or subversion. They’re well executed, but Floating Hotel really never surprises you (nor, I guess, does it intend to). It has loveable characters, but none really sparked for me. Overall, as someone who likes to take something from every book that they read, Floating Hotel is just a little too shallow.

Then again, I feel like Floating Hotel knows this. It does not pretend to ask or answer big questions. It is quick, short, easy. Floating Hotel is the kind of book that could have easily irritated me, but it never did, and I think that is because Curtis knows to keep it simple.

It is the one thing that sets Floating Hotel apart from the likes of The Long Way Round to an Angry Planet, which is far more ambitious, but falls flat a little when it tries to answer big questions and (in my eyes) fails because it is just not the type of book for it.

Overall, I think Floating Hotel is good at what it wants to do – though what it wants to do is just a bit too simple to really get me excited.

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