Holt’s latest fun, humorous fantasy is a trip. Prepare to suspend all disbelief, because Holt has created a world where literally anything is possible — from talking insects to airplanes that write out complex messages in the clouds. Holt skillfully builds up this strange tale, relying on the reader’s curiosity about the rationale behind the alternate reality that protagonist Theo is thrown into. Readers may feel just as confused as Theo at first but, as the story unfolds, you’ll be transported into a universe that, by the final chapter, you’ll wish actually existed.
Renowned physicist Theo Bernstein has seen better days. After accidentally blowing up a mountain, he’s not only ostracized from the scientific community, but hated by just about everyone in the world. When his friend Professor Pieter van Goyen dies, Theo is surprised to be named heir to the professor’s safety deposit box, which contains a mysterious empty vial, directions to an odd hotel that will employ Theo and a vague set of instructions that, above all else, beg Theo to “have fun.” When Theo begins his job at the hotel, he’s confused by the lack of guests, the massive wine cellar filled with empty bottles and two employees who are dying to get their hands on Theo’s inherited vial — a contraption that transports Theo into YouSpace, a bizarre virtual reality where his only way out is found by looking through the hole of a doughnut. Through his adventures, Theo will discover more about science, reality and the secret plans Professor van Goyen had in store for him. (ORBIT, Mar., 400 pp., $13.99)