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Excerpt from The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Glass Hotel

by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel X
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2020, 320 pages

    Paperback:
    Feb 2021, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rachel Hullett
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About this Book

Print Excerpt


"It was really fantastic," Paul said to the bass player, in order to confound expectations and keep the girl off balance.

"Thanks, man." The bass player beamed in a way that made Paul think he was probably stoned.

"I'm Paul, by the way."

"Theo," the bass player said. "That's Charlie and Annika."

Charlie, the keyboardist, nodded and raised his beer, while Annika watched Paul over the rim of her glass.

"Can I ask you guys kind of a weird question?" Paul wanted so badly to see Annika again. "I'm kind of new to the city, and I can't find a place to go out dancing."

"Just head down to Richmond Street and turn left," Charlie said.

"No, I mean, I've been to a few places down there, it's just hard to find anywhere where the music doesn't suck, and I was wondering if you could maybe recommend ... ?"

"Oh. Yeah." Theo downed the last of his beer. "Yeah, try System Sound."

"But it's a hellhole on weekends," Charlie said.

"Yeah, dude, don't go on the weekends. Tuesday nights are pretty good."

"Tuesday nights are the best," Charlie said. "Where are you from?"

"Deepest suburbia," Paul said. "Tuesday nights at System, okay, thanks, I'll check it out." To Annika, he said, "Maybe I'll see you there sometime," and turned away fast so as not to see her disinterest, which he felt like a cold wind on his back all the way to the door.


On the Tuesday after exams—three C's, one C−, academic probation—Paul went down to System Soundbar and danced by himself. He didn't really like the music, but it was nice to stand in a crowd. The beats were complicated and he wasn't sure how to dance to them so he just kind of stepped back and forth with a beer in his hand and tried not to think about anything. Wasn't that the point of clubs? Annihilating your thoughts with alcohol and music? He'd hoped Annika would be here, but he didn't see her or the other Baltica people in the crowd. He kept looking for them and they kept not being there, until finally he bought a little packet of bright blue pills from a girl with pink hair, because E wasn't heroin and didn't count, but there was something wrong with the pills, or something wrong with Paul: he bit one in half and swallowed it, just the half, didn't feel anything so he swallowed the other half with beer, but then the room swam, he broke out in a sweat, his heart skipped, and just for a second he thought he was going to die. The girl with the pink hair had vanished. Paul found a bench against the wall.

"Hey, man, you okay? You okay?" Someone was kneeling in front of him. Some significant amount of time had passed. The crowd was gone. The lights had come up and the brightness was terrible, the brightness had transformed System into a shabby room with little pools of unidentifiable liquid shining on the dance floor. A dead-eyed older guy with multiple piercings was walking around with a garbage bag, collecting bottles and cups, and after the force of all that music the quiet was a roar, a void. The man kneeling in front of Paul was club management, in the regulation jeans/Radiohead T-shirt/blazer that club management always wore.

"Yeah, I'm okay," Paul said. "I apologize, I think I drank too much."

"I don't know what you're on, man, but it doesn't suit you," the management guy said. "We're closing up, get out of here." Paul rose unsteadily and left, remembered when he got to the street that he'd left his coat at the coat check, but they'd already locked the door behind him. He felt poisoned. Five empty cabs cruised by before the sixth finally stopped for him. The cabbie was a proselytizing teetotaler who lectured Paul about alcoholism all the way back to campus. Paul wanted desperately to be in bed so he clenched his fists and said nothing until the cab finally pulled up to the curb, when he paid—no tip—and told the cabdriver to stop fucking lecturing him and fuck off back to India.

Excerpted from The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. Copyright © 2020 by Emily St. John Mandel. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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