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The Hotel Under the Sand
Kage Baker
Tachyon Publications, 181 pages

Kage Baker
Kage Baker was born in 1952 in Hollywood, California. She grew up there and in Pismo Beach, where she now resides. She has worked as a graphic artist, mural painter and assorted roles in the theatre. Many years of total immersion research in Elizabethan as well as other historical periods has left her with a working knowledge of period speech and details evident in her writing.

Kage Baker Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Women of Nell Gwynne's
SF Site Review: The Empress of Mars
SF Site Review: Rude Mechanicals
SF Site Review: The Children of the Company
SF Site Review: The Angel in the Darkness
SF Site Review: The Anvil of the World
SF Site Review: Black Projects, White Knights
SF Site Review: The Graveyard Game
SF Site Review: Sky Coyote
SF Site Review: Mendoza in Hollywood
SF Site Review: Sky Coyote
SF Site Review: In the Garden of Iden

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

The Hotel Under the Sand Kage Baker's latest is marketed to middle grade readers (the publisher suggests ages 9-12), but as with most such categorization that's more of a lower bound than a true limit. Certainly the story's protagonist is a girl in that age range, and certainly the story seems pitched to appeal to that range, but I found it very enjoyable on my terms.

The Hotel Under the Sand opens with Emma having a "dreadful" adventure, a "storm [that] swept away everything that Emma had, and everything that Emma knew". The phrasing seems to insist on regarding that storm as metaphorical, though Baker has no interest in telling us its "real" nature -- I wondered for a while if we'd eventually learn that, say, her parents had divorced, or that she had been very ill, or some such mundane "storm". But instead, Emma's personal catastrophe is at once metaphorical -- it could have been any of those things, or none -- and literal, because she ends up marooned on an isolated island.

On this island Emma digs up something wonderful -- an old hotel. And with the hotel comes a ghostly Bell Captain named Winston who tells Emma the hotel's story -- a century or so in the past, a rich inventor named Wenlocke built the hotel. Along with it, he created an invention: the Temporal Delay Field, which would allow hotel guests to stay as long as they like, while no time passes in the outside world. Alas, the hotel was destroyed almost immediately, in a terrible storm, much like the storm which marooned Emma.

The rest of the story involves a pirate, and a cook, and some romance. And most of all, a hidden treasure, only accessible after solving the clues of a treasure hunt. And finally an improbable ocean journey, and an encounter with rapacious relatives. What can I say? It's all a great deal of fun, with a sober undercurrent reminding us that "storms" are real, and have real consequences. The book is nicely illustrated by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. I don't know if Kage Baker has ever failed to deliver the first promise a writer makes to readers -- to entertain. Certainly she hasn't failed here. A very enjoyable work.

Copyright © 2009 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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