Bookish Review: "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore"

, by Zoë Gulliksen

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

As soon as I read the title for this novel, I knew that I had to get my hands on it. It's a good size newly published hardcover with a bright yellow cover and enticing name. Any bookstore open 24 hours a day must have a good story to tell within it's walls, especially at night. And so we meet Clay Johnson, a causality of tech nerd culture in San Francisco, California. Clay is laid off from this poorly executed bagel start up company and is looking for a job he doesn't despise.  Clay finds a position working the nightshift at a queer little store that has book shelves stacked up stories high instead of rows deep. He can mostly do as he pleases but he is not allowed to read inside any of the books, which all happen to be in some sort of code. 

The book from there on follows Clay as he becomes entangled in the crazy world of the people who buy these books (the few and far between) and more importantly, the people who make these books. I was very engrossed from the beginning, wanting to know where Clay's mission end up leading him (thankfully to New York City at some point) and also more about the colorful characters he befriends. 

Namely, we learn more about Mr. Penumbra himself and how he managed to get himself into this mess. Also, we meet Kat: a tech savvy and ambitious Google employee who sparks up Clay's life. I enjoyed this book because the writing is well done, the plot is full and not predictable, and Sloan managed to pull off the present day setting very well.

Often in stories that are set in our present technology filled society miss their mark. I just tried reading a novel titled "The Twitter Diaries" about two females whose friendship unfolds through the social service. The book failed to reach a certain level of literature and ended up resembling too much of an everyday interaction. It was as though the author she copied and pasted her own twitter feed and bound it into a book, which I could have found anywhere online. 

However, "Mr. Penumbra" did not fall into this trap, instead recreating the world of Googlers and coding nerds paired with old school scholars and literary professionals. I recommend this book for the surprising plot to anyone who loves books, the modern technology, and (not kidding) World of Warcraft.

Read up more about Sloan on his website and follow him on Twitter. Drop us both a line if you end up checking out the book!

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