PUBLISHER: Atlantic Books
BUY IT: Waterstones
RATING: 5 Stars
Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone - and serendipity, coupled with sheer curiosity, has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days, 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 they simply borrow 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' behaviour 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...
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is an absolute dream of a book. I adored it. Imagine yourself finding a job where all you had to do is work the nightshift in a quirky, old bookstore. You don't have to do anything except locate the dusty tomes of desperate cliental. Then imagine that you find out that those cliental are part of a secret society trying to crack a literary code. How awesome is that?! Then bring the story in to the technological world where you can use to computers to try to crack the code - would you do it?
Robin Sloan is probably my idol. It's like he's taken all of the geek out of my head and magicked it up in to a book. I don't quite know where to start. Dungeons and Dragon's style geeking, a nerdy Google girl. You have to suspend your belief in terms of the characters numerative success, just because it allows for a much more fun story. They're ultimate geeks with money - which means they can geek on a much bigger scale. It's ridiculous, interesting and hilarious - and that fact that the geek pisses off the girl is perfect.
“Neel takes a sharp breath and I know exactly what it means. It means: I have waited my whole life to walk through a secret passage built into a bookshelf.”
This book looks at what is quite a sore subject for hardcore readers - where does technology fit into our world? Most readers don't like change. A lot of us are afraid that the Kindle will take away from the experience of reading and everyone has an opinion on it either way. Mr Penumbra is the type of bookshop owner that isn't afraid of technology, and is keen for Google to help solve the Founder's puzzle. I still don't know how I feel about electronic reading. Obviously I have a Kindle because I read this book on it, but I think that we have to be careful that we don't sideline physical books until they become obsolete. Books give us a sense of human history; old editions bought, passed around, enjoyed, donated, lost. It's so much more than just words typed in to a file.
As a bookseller I love my job but if I could run my own bookshop this is exactly what I want. If you love books or technology this is the ultimate indulgence. Read it and then pass it on to a friend, keep the cycle going at the physical book alive.