Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan
When Clay unexpectedly loses his job he finds himself taking a position as a night clerk at a 24-hour bookstore. He soon realizes the shop is more unique than he could have guessed. Peculiar individuals come in at all hours of the night and use the store as a library, checking out obscure titles. Clay’s curiosity gets the better of him and he begins to research the history of the store and its quirky owner, Mr. Penumbra.
Sloan does a great job blending an ancient love of books with the world’s progression towards technological dependence. In addition to the San Francisco bookstore, the story is set in a library in New York City and even takes Clay to Google’s headquarters. The supporting cast of characters, made up of Clay’s friends, roommates and employers is a mishmash of oddballs. Clay bonded with his childhood best friend over their shared love of the fictional fantasy series The Dragon-Song Chronicles. He meets and falls for a cute Google employee and he admires his mysterious elderly employer as he gets to know him.
The adventurous book has a lot in common with Ready Player One, which I loved. Both share a playful tone, center around a quest and have the same general nerd outlook on life. The ending of the book is a bit silly, but I can’t imagine how else it would have ended, so it works if you just suspend your cynicism and have fun.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s a really amusing read. The plot is definitely secondary; the focus is on the geeky characters and their love of books and technology. Just let go and enjoy the ride.