Category Archives: Time Travel

The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart

 Stars: 4 out of 5.

I don’t read a lot of time travel stories. Usually because the science of it makes my head hurt, or because the complete lack of scientific backing or inner logic makes my brain hurt. Plus, I usually can’t get over the time paradox that a lot of these stories create. Like, if the character went into the past to save his sister/lover/parent, wouldn’t that person be alive in the new present, thus negating their need to go into the past and change things? Brain explodes.

But I’m happy to announce that we don’t have as many time traveling shenanigans here, so I could enjoy this book without giving myself a migraine. We have more of a case of people existing outside of time, or being Unstuck. And that’s a wonderfully interesting concept that I haven’t see in books before. I liked the narrative possibilities it opened. Being Unstuck is not a boon. In fact, most people who reach the third stage of being Unstuck fall into a coma, their mind lost in time, disconnected from their body and the “present”. This adds an additional danger to the already dangerous situation our protagonist finds herself in.

Speaking of protagonists. January is a hard cookie to crack. She is far from being a nice person. She is abrasive and rude to everyone around her. She lashes out at everyone who tries to help her out or even try to be nice at her. She is like a wounded dog that bites the hand that tries to pet him. It’s hard to empathize with such an abrasive character… and it’s a real feat that the author actually makes you empathize with her in the end. 

January is a major b to everyone around her and so clearly miserable with her job, with the hotel, with her life in general, to the point that nobody understands why she stays there. She has enough years on the job to retire comfortably. In fact, retiring and getting away from the time port is the best thing she can do, since being so close to it slowly worsens her condition. So why does she stay? By slowly uncovering her reasons for staying, the author explains why she is so abrasive to everyone. And makes the reader care for her in the process.

It also helps that she genuinely cares about the hotel and the people who work there, even if she doesn’t know how to show her affection to them. So she fights tooth and nail to keep them safe. To neutralize the threat she uncovers. And she grieves for those she is unable to save. January is flawed, even broken, but she isn’t a bad person.

And the other characters are just as interesting and eclectic. I really enjoyed getting to know them. They felt real. I would have loved to discover more of their backstories. What brought them to Paradox Hotel? Why are they staying? It’s not like they are treated well or that the pay is exceptional… yet all of them stay. It says a lot about the author’s mastery of their world that each supporting character could have been the protagonist of their own story, and I would have been there for the ride.

My only complaint is the villains’ motivation. I’m still not sure what the end game was here, for either of those people. They already went back in time and made one of them filthy rich. What else did they want to accomplish? What’s the ultimate end goal? Since that’s never really explained, it lessens the impact of the book, in my opinion. 

But that’s a small gripe. I loved this story a lot more than I expected, and I’m not a fan of time travel stories. So for those who love them, this is a must read!

PS: I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wakers (The Side Step Trilogy 1) by Orson Scott Card

Stars: 2 out of 5.

DNF at 70%, so you darn right I’m leaving a review for this, since I put so much effort into this book!

I am very disappointed. I loved The Ender’s Game by the same author so I had high hope for this story as well. 

And the beginning was pretty good actually: intriguing and suspenseful. I was along for the ride with Laz, and even his constant monologue and the tendency to over-analyze every little thing to death wasn’t all that annoying at first. He was looking for answers, after all, and we, as the reader were looking for them with him. Yes, the pacing was rather slow, but I was willing to forgive that as long as I got the answers I was looking for in the end.

Then Laz finally wakes up Ivy… and things took a nosedive from there. 

First of all, the pace, which was already slow, became glacial. I mean the story progression grinded to a halt to be replaced by pages and pages of mindless and mind-numbing dialogue between two obnoxious teenagers. It was pointless. It wasn’t interesting. It didn’t bring ANYTHING useful to the story. It made my eyes roll back in my head and make me want to take a nap every time I opened the book. It’s an endless stream of verbal vomit between two people who I found more and more unlikeable the further in the book I got. 

Because most of the book is written in these horrible dialogues, the author does a lot of telling, but almost no showing. The characters debate scientific theories, explain to each other things that should be self-evident for them just so the reader can catch up with the science here. Problem is, the reader has checked out ten pages ago. 

I got no sense of the world, because the descriptions are almost non-existent. It’s all just Laz made a snide remark, Ivy retorted with something the author meant to sound smart, but just made her sound like a spoiled brat, Laz retaliated in the same fashion, blah, blah, blah…. twenty pages later we still haven’t learned anything new and the story hasn’t progressed an inch. Heck, I don’t even know what the dogs in the pack of four look like because mighty Laz didn’t care enough about it to talk about it.

I understand that this is a YA book, but I still didn’t particularly appreciate how all adults are described as complete idiots. Seriously, Laz and Ivy have this “better then everyone else” attitude to them when they talk to anybody else that would never have worked in the real world. You might be smart and possess a unique ability, but you are still a teenager, no you are a clone with fake memories, so if you talk to me this way, you will get smacked. I think that’s my biggest pet peeve with the author’s approach – you CAN create smart and resourceful teenagers without making them disrespectful at the same time. 

It made me hate the main characters more and more, and by the end I didn’t care about them or finding the answers to the big questions enough to read through the last 30% of obnoxious dialogue.

I will not continue with the series. I will definitely not recommend this book. And if this is the author’s new style of writing, I doubt I will try any of his newer book going forward. I’d rather re-read the Ender’s Game.

PS: I received a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

Stars 3.5 out of 5

This was a very interesting take on time travel and on what happens to people when history changes. The idea of the deja vu and the fact that people would suddenly forget who they were for a few moments wile reality rewrote itself is something I never saw before.

What would have happened if the English lost the battle of Trafalgar? How would history have changed? What kind of world would have emerged from that crucial change? I was delightfully along for the ride for that. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed. That alternate reality was well-thought out and rather fascinating. 

It is actually a very sad book, if you think about it. Especially considering that all those people Joe vaguely remembers in his deja vu episodes existed in the previous versions of reality, but are gone from the surface of the Earth now. 

Having an unreliable narrator who struggles with his own memories (and lack of there of) as well as with his identity add to the confusion of the situation. We are on that train station with Joe when he first realizes that he doesn’t remember anything but his name. We experience that terror and sense of being utterly lost. I was happily along for the ride on his journey to find his identity and discover who sent him that postcard 100 years ago. 

This is also where the problematic part of the book is for me. I understand that the author wanted to keep the mystery of Joe’s identity for as long as possible, so none of the characters ever tell him what they really know. But that also makes for a very frustrating read. 

First of all, it seems that a lot of characters are withholding information just because the author decided so. I understand why Kite would do it, but what stopped Agatha from revealing Joe’s identity? Or the other marines and sailors he’d served with before? It makes no sense and it feels more and more forced the further in the book we get. 

The other problem is Joe himself. He is way too passive as a character. His only real act of rebellion and self-definition was to go to that lighthouse in the beginning of the book, after that, he just kind of floats with the current. You could argue that his status as a prisoner doesn’t give him much choice, but there is also this passivity in him that gets infuriating the longer you read the book. I understand why he was like that at the beginning, when he had no memories and everything around him was foreign and scary, but he never grows a backbone until almost the very end of the book. It’s’ very hard to root for a character who is a voiceless victim of circumstances for most of the book.

Another problem I have is character motivation. Why bring Joe back into the past? Yes, after finishing the book, I understand the selfish reasons of why Kite wanted him there, but historically speaking, it makes no sense. Kite said himself that he didn’t want to restore the English rule because he despised that system almost as much as the French did. And honestly, building one small telegraph didn’t change matters all that much. Or at least the author didn’t show any of those changes. History was changed by people, not an invention, in this case. 

I also didn’t particularly like the ending. I thought it was a cheep trick on the part of the author to basically have most of Joe’s current family vanish overnight just to justify his decision to go back. It would have been more emotionally rewarding if he had to say goodbye and choose between his new family and his found family from the past instead. It would have given Joe’s character growth a deeper meaning. As it stands in the book, it’s a cheep cop out. 

These problems notwithstanding, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a fresh idea and a mostly enjoyable execution. I would definitely recommend it for those who enjoy books about time travel.

PS: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.