Monday, March 4, 2013

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

The actual book cover glows in the dark! Too bad I can't get it to do that on the blog! This is a weird book. I'd say it's "Harry Potter meets the DaVinci Code" weird. I read the whole thing. I kept reading to see if somewhere along the line I'd get it. But I didn't. I think it's the story of a young man, Clay Jannon, recently laid off from his advertising job, who starts out working the 10PM to 6AM shift in Mr. Penumbra's book store. When he is hired, he is told that under no circumstances may he open or look into any of the books. He must keep a journal/log of EVERYTHING that happens while he is there. And borrowers (not buyers???) must have a membership card.  Nights are long, alternating between boredom and absolute lunacy.

Coming from a web design and advertising background, Clay decides that Mr. Penumbra isn't getting enough business and trys to find ways to attract more customers. Having grabbed one of his "e coupons" while she was waiting for a bus at the corner, geek girl Ashley enters his life. By then Clay and another friend have also taken an illicit peek at the contents of this multi-storied - accessible only by ladder- book collection and decided there is something secret and coded going on with the "members" of the book store and the strange volumes with only roman numerals on the spine.   Ashley works for Google, and together with an entire cast of "today" characters, and secret forays into the code busting capabilities of Google's machines, they set out to discover Mr. Penumbra's secrets, and help him.

I wish I knew what they were helping him with.  It was at this point I got lost. I suspect that readers who are into Google, Microsoft, code, web pages, and secrets will love this book.  I suspect that it's one you either get or you don't.  The writing is fun, clear and if you understand the plot, you won't have trouble with it.  If you enjoy fantasy, and perhaps some contemporary science writing, you'll love this.  There appear to be several layers, focusing somehow on the war between digital and print publishing, between paper and ebooks. I suspect it may take some of us more than one read to get everything out of it, and I intend to give it another try sometime in the future. For now, I'll let others delve into the story and perhaps explain it to me.

Did I mention that the cover glows in the dark?

Title: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Subject:Books, technology
Setting: San Francisco, New York
Source: Public library

1 comment:

  1. I liked Mr. P in that it was well written in today's technology nomenclature and culture but there were just not enough tense or revelatory moments, in short it was kind of soft.

    Zaira Lynn (Skagway AK)


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