Friday, April 05, 2013

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

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

Clay Jannon was laid off as a designer from NewBagel, which had engineered the perfect bagel. Looking for a new job, he walks past a bookstore called Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore with a help wanted sign in front. On a whim, Clay walks in and asks for a job and soon finds himself working the night shift of this always-open bookstore. Clay is asked to take specific notes about each customer that comes in, although some of the customers are not typical bookstore customers. It seems like Mr. Penumbra also has a lending library, as some of his clientele will come in (at any time of day or night) and exchange one book for the next. The books all have weird names and Clay can't help but look in these books even though he's explicitly been told not to. Everything in the books are in code. Clay can't figure out what this book store is but when a young Google employee walks in to his store he wonders if she can help out.

This book is incredibly charming. Whenever Mr. Penumbra is in a scene and calls Clay "my boy" or they describe him smiling, you can't help but be endeared to him. All of the characters in this book are well written. Each is quite unique and serves a very important purpose to the story. Sloan does a fantastic job of bringing in elements of the story that are required for major plot lines further without making it feel unnatural or forced. I found the plot almost graceful from this stand point.

There's a geeky thread to this book that reminded me of Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, another book which I really enjoyed. Google and its employees play a big part in this book and there's a lot of talk about coding and algorithms which, being a computer science graduate, I quite enjoyed. The entire story has an upbeat feeling to it which is rather unusual these days.

First line: "Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder."


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