TagHotel Alpha

Elsewhere: Shiny New Books issue 3 and the Strange Horizons book club

News about some external stuff today. There’s a new issue of Shiny New Books out, where you’ll find a couple of pieces by me. One is a celebration of the short story, with a few recommended story collections. The other is a review of Mark Watson’s new novel Hotel Alpha, which chronicles forty years in the life of a hotel and its people, and comes with a hundred bonus short stories online – one of which is also up at SNB.

Then there’s something new over at Strange Horizons: a monthly round-table book club. Each month, a panel of participants will discuss a particular title, with the opportunity for others to contribute in the comments. I’m involved in two of the initial instalments: later this month, I’ll be taking part in the discussion on Patricia A. McKillip’s Ombria in Shadow; then I’ll be moderating the December panel on Ghalib Islam’s Fire in the Unnameable Country. The other discussions coming up concern Nick Harkaway’s Tigerman (November) and Rachel Pollack’s Unquenchable Fire (January). I’m really excited by the book club, which is planned to be a regular feature; I hope you’ll take a look and perhaps join in.

A story from Hotel Alpha

Hotel AlphaToday is publication day for a novel I’ve been looking forward to since I first heard about it: Hotel Alpha by Mark Watson. Although best known as a comedian, Watson has also been written some very smart novels (I reviewed his Eleven a few years ago). Hotel Alpha is his fifth, and chronicles forty years in the life of a central London hotel. What’s particularly intriguing, though, is that Watson has written a hundred short stories (from the length of a tweet to a thousand words or more) to go with it – stories that exist within and fill some of the gaps in the novel.

I’ll be reviewing Hotel Alpha for the October issue of Shiny New Books; for now, though, I’m hosting one of the hundred stories here. It’s only a couple of paragraphs, but I love the emotions that it evokes. You’ll find the rest of the stories at http://www.hotelalphastories.com.

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Story 48: Room 76, 1970

Every time someone knocks on any of the bloody doors in this place, it sounds like it’s yours. This is the third time he’s sprung to his feet, gone to jerk open the door, and not found herthere. Once it was a visitor for the person the other side of the wall: a visitor who ought not, from the look on her face, to be there. Once it was a housekeeper in a uniform so white it looked brand new; she glanced wryly at him before being admitted two doors down. And this time there is nobody there at all. Whoever made the knock has been noiselessly admitted to a room, or was the product of his imagination. Or a ghost.

It’s not as if it could be her, anyhow. She isn’t coming back. He has lost her. She is with somebody else; or she’s with nobody else, but happy; she’s happy without him, that’s the point. And that’s how it has to be. He doesn’t deserve another chance, probably. It’s just that a hotel promises everything, or at least rules nothing out. Anything, in its neutrality, can be imagined. Nobody made of the ordinary human stuff can hear a knock on a door, even the wrong door, without believing for a few seconds that the impossible has happened, and the person they have longed for is here after all.

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