Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Bibliophiles and Google fans will enjoy this debut novel.
Clay Jannon is an out of work twenty-something looking for a job, any job, in San Francisco during the recession. After wandering across a “help wanted” sign in the window of a bookstore, Clay is hired for the overnight shift in this more-than-a little-odd store based on his ability to climb the dizzying ladders and his promise to write detailed descriptions of any and all customers in a leather bound logbook. Oh yes, in addition, he must promise not to read the books. What kind of bookstore caters to odd nocturnal customers who borrow rather than buy? Why are there no bestsellers in the store? Who is Mr. Penumbra and why are books delivered by secret couriers?
This novel rapidly unfolds into a fast, fun tale of books, codes, mysterious strangers, secret societies, and supercomputers. There are just a few too many “too good to be true” details - for example, Clay has a buddy who just happens to be a free spending millionaire, how convenient! Also, there is quite a bit of high tech hero worship (I started to wonder if author Sloan secretly worked for a PR firm hired by Google in a “pay by the mention” marketing scheme. He’s quite the Google fanboy). However, none of that distracts from the fun. The main characters are appealing and the mystery is a mix of today’s digital technology with technology that was once the cutting edge – the printing press. Overall , a very enjoyable read for fans of the genre looking for light entertainment.
Review by Amy
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