An Unmitigated Mess: The Floating Hotel by Grace Curtis

Posted 7th March 2024 by Sia in Queer Lit, Reviews, Sci-Fi Reviews / 2 Comments

Floating Hotel by Grace Curtis
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Brown PoV characters, sapphic PoV character, sapphic PoV character with a speech impediment, blind PoV character, minor nonbinary character
PoV: Third-person, past-tense; multiple PoVs
Published on: 19th March 2024
ISBN: 1529391660

The Grand Budapest Hotel in space, Floating Hotel is a hopeful story of misfits, rebels and found family, perfect for fans of Becky Chambers.

Welcome to the Grand Abeona: home of the finest food, the sweetest service, and the very best views the galaxy has to offer. Year round it moves from planet to planet, system to system, pampering guests across the furthest reaches of the milky way. The last word in sub-orbital luxury - and a magnet for intrigue. Intrigues such as:

Why are there love poems in the lobby intray?

How many Imperial spies are currently on board?

What is the true purpose of the Problem Solver's conference?

And perhaps most pertinently - who is driving the ship?

At the centre of these mysteries stands Carl, one time stowaway, longtime manager, devoted caretaker to the hotel. It's the love of his life and the only place he's ever called home. But as forces beyond Carl's comprehension converge on the Abeona, he has to face one final question: when is it time to let go?

I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


~no one has a happy backstory
~secret sonnets
~a rebel propagandist
~cows as presents
~don’t judge this book by its cover

Let’s get one thing straight: this is not a cosy book. I don’t know why it’s being marketed as one – perhaps the publicity/marketing team had no more idea of what, exactly, this book is trying to be than I did.

Because what it is? Is kind of a mess.

And before we go any further, I want to let you know that Floating Hotel doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s one of those infuriating endings that tries to dress itself up as a happy or at least hopeful one, but is in fact pretty fucking tragic if you think about it for more than .2 seconds. It’s an ending that retroactively ruins any feel-good fuzzies the rest of the book managed to scrape together. (And it did not scrape together many.)

So if you’re looking for a nice cosy sci fi to curl up with…this isn’t it. Allow me to instead point you in the direction of Lovequake by TJ Land (Lovecraftian alien takes human form and adopts human and superhuman misfits) or perhaps Three Twins at the Crater School by Chaz Benchley (traditional English boarding school story but set on Mars, reviewed here) or Gail Carriger’s Tinkered Starsong series (forming a band in space, first book reviewed here). But absolutely, categorically not Floating Hotel.

Like Frontier, Curtis’ debut, Floating Hotel follows a different character with every chapter. Unlike in Frontier, most of these mini-stories don’t tie together into an overarching plotline; instead, each one is more of a flashback to how the character in question ended up working for, or visiting, the hotel, sometimes split between that flashback and what their life looks like now. The characters’ backstories are, to a one, pretty miserable, and the hotel is presented as an escape, a home for all these misfits – one they appreciate to varying degrees. Not everyone’s happy to be working in a hotel for what will presumably be the rest of their lives.

This had plenty of potential to be a very cosy book indeed, which might be one of the reasons I’m so annoyed with it – because instead, Floating Hotel reads like a book that doesn’t know what it’s trying to be. Let’s take the imperial spies mentioned in the blurb as an example. In a cosy story, the spies would probably be played for comedic effect; they might be useless, or completely on the wrong track, or essentially toothless. (…which is an unintentional pun, which you’ll recognise if you’ve read the book.) Instead, we have discussions of and see the aftermath of torture and murder, backed up by many, many mentions and reminders of how horrific the Empire is – and how useless and pointless trying to change things is.

…What part of that is cosy?

There are some smaller storylines that follow developing romances or partnerships, but even those held thorns for me – past trauma leading to awful behavior in the present, for example, or a musical performance that has to abruptly turn into an attempt to save someone from assassins. Even the thing with the love poems ended in someone being emotionally crushed! And the bigger plotlines? Every single one of them ends tragically, heartbreakingly. People die, are blacklisted, tortured, left homeless.


It’s like Floating Hotel was trying to tackle big issues – poverty, the abuse of artists in the music industry, censorship, an even worse capitalism of the future, a big sprawling corrupt empire – while also trying to zoom in on smaller, personal stories; attempting to be cute and sweet while also serving up borderline-grimdark awfulness. And the result is a mess. It doesn’t work, and for the record? That messiness, that inability to commit to one end of the emotional spectrum or the other, made everything so boring. The pacing dragged out what needed to be urgent and high-stakes, and sped up moments of emotional intensity that we should have got to revel in. I had to force myself to finish–

–only to be punched in the face with that ending, which dares to present itself as vaguely hopeful, cautiously optimistic, when really, everything’s been burned to the ground and the earth salted.

I can’t recommend this to anyone: it’s too bitter for those looking for a comfort read, but the more action-y/darker aspects are watered down by the attempt at cosiness.

Just skip this one altogether.

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