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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel
A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstoreThe Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that’s rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.
MR. PENUMBRA is the ideal read to accompany you through the holidays. It has a light and frothy prose – like the most delicious, buttery mashed potatoes. It has an unexpectedly charming, mildly heroic narrator – kind of like that surprisingly helpful toy store clerk who finds you the very last Flying Super Grover 2.0 (#1 on on little Ceci’s Christmas list) in your town. And, it tackles some of the more challenging questions of our modern life, but still remains charming and inoffensive – like the perfect holiday dinner conversation (you wish you could have) with all your relatives. If your book group has time to meet over the holidays, it will provide plenty of conversation about things like old versus new technology, immortality, and the need for a satisfying quest. Even if your group isn’t meeting, give yourself a little gift and read it on your own. I finished it with a warm, fuzzy glow, and we all can use a little more glow this time of year.
I don't think I have ever read a book that felt so contemporary. It just touches on technology in such a way that it is a freaky snapshot of our time right now. I mean RIGHT NOW. Where other books might try to be a little more timeless, this one grabs the present and shakes it for all it is worth.
Definitely a book I looked forward to getting back to every night as it was just fun, breezy and intriguing.Though if you have the time, don't be surprised if as soon as you pick it up you have whipped though it because you didn't want to put it down. It is not literary genius, though it is well written and well put together. The ending was a little, "ehh" for me, but in hindsight there is some brilliance to that too. DON'T let that dissuade you though, if you are looking for a light and fun read that has good talking points, this is it. And wow, did it make me completely intrigued about Google - and a little afraid of them all at the same time. ;)
Love the geeks in the book. Love the archetypes. Loved the read. Looking forward to discussing it.
(Pick this for a busy month when you want a fun read that still has plenty to discuss.)
By Forrest Leo