Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Part fantasy, part adventure, and total love letter to both old-fashioned typography as well as to modern-day Google (I think the company’s name is mentioned more times than even Penumbra’s), this book is an interesting and provocative read that raises a lot of questions about technology’s impact on humanity and about immortality.

The main character, Clay Jannon, is a recent art school graduate. He’s an even more recent laid-off web designer in San Francisco, which is why he takes the graveyard shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a shop that’s odd in countless ways. Its shape is long, narrow, and tall; its customers are few and eccentric; its stock features books written in code; and its owner—Penumbra—tells Clay, “Prior experience in the book trade is of little use to you here.”

Although you meet a lot of Clay’s friends, roommates, and other associates in the book, the story is plot-driven, rather than character-driven. Everyone Clay seems to know, from his nerdy childhood friend Neel who has become a software genius, to his new hot-looking, data-loving crush Kat, has a skill or connection that advances the storyline. The search to unravel the meaning behind the bookstore’s encrypted books takes Clay, Neel, and Kat to New York City. There they find a black-robed cult of secret scholars also looking to crack the secret language of the books in Penumbra’s store. It’s at this point the story becomes an intriguing cross between Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code. But this geek fantasy ends back in San Francisco, where Clay learns that the true key to everything that’s important is friendship.

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1 comment:

  1. I thought this book would be more of a fantasy adventure/mystery. It sort-of was, but it was more about things that can be done, or maybe will be able to be done, with modern computer technology. It bored me after a while, but I finished it just to see the outcome.


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