The horizon flipping once, twice, camera flying from my hand.
It felt like plunging into shards of ice (294).
Emily St. John Mandel skips like a stone across genres. Last Night in Montreal (2009) begins as a detective story, but its mystery takes the tale into something else entirely. The brilliant Station Eleven (2014), an SF novel about a pandemic that starts in the near future, jumps across twenty years into a tale of post-apocalyptic actors and a meditation on what makes us human. It brought her SF and literary accolades, international fame, and an HBO mini-series deal.
So, naturally, her next novel concerns economics.
The Glass Hotel (2019) begins with half-siblings, a talented, doomed woman named Vincent and an aspiring musician and addict, Paul. It develops into an account of the lives of multiple people connected to both a remote luxury hotel and a Ponzi scheme. Time fractures. We move among past, present and (in one chapter) the near future. Two characters from Station Eleven turn up, though this story will not lead to that one. We're experiencing the paths people's lives can take, the consequences we face for our choices, and the ghosts that will haunt us. And those ghosts may not be mere metaphor.
Glass Hotel may occur in something like the actual twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but Mandel engages in as much world-building as she did in Station Eleven. With a style both poetic and infectiously readable, she resolves the story's mysteries, though not in the order or manner we might expect. The deeper questions raised we, like her cast of characters, must ponder for ourselves.
Mandel's deft hand, strong characterization, and multiplex storytelling mark her as one of the great emerging contemporary voices, and The Glass Hotel as a book worth reading.