Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan( 4 out of 5)

What a quick, delightful little book.  I liked this- not as much as Ready Player One, but it reminded me a LOT of Ready Player One. Not enough to get 5 stars, but that explanation is forthcoming.

Our hero of the story is a graphic designer out of a job due to the crummy recession(points for reality).  He charms his way into a job at the local bookstore, which is, in itself, a rare place to shop, as it’s 24 hours. Yes, it never closes. I think that delightful idea was probably why I wanted to read it. Well, that and the Ingram Advance catalog was very kind to it. And the bright yellow cover is very eye-catching(and like any good bookseller, I love a good book cover!). And did I mention that the book cover glows in the dark? GLOWS IN THE DARK.

Sorry, a bit off track there..but you get the reasons I picked up the book. It’s a love letter to the book business. That’s how I viewed it, despite the fact that the dreaded Kindle(any e-reader is dreader when you’re a die-hard hard-copy devotee) makes an appearance several times in it. I love the fact that Penumbra has an ancient computer whizzing in the store. Anyway, Clay gets the job and sets out to figure out the mystery of the store. Why only a few clerks work there, why there is an ancient library card type check out system, why Penumbra is so insistent upon having a log book meticulously kept on all the customers(if the customer wears a new hat, what sort of hat is it? Details make a huge divot in the book.). Clay really thinks something is off here, and enlists several tech-savvy friends of his into doing computer-analysis of the customer clientele and boom! Several pertinent things happen. Secrets suddenly come out of the hallowed walls, like bats out of the belfry. The mysterious Penumbra becomes more involved and vocal, and there’s even a trip to New York City involved and secret societies. It’s not lame like DaVinci Code-style secret society, but the book reads like a love letter- to the book business, to the technological advances we have today, to the joy of picking up a book and smelling the glue and feeling a physical book in your hands, as opposed to a paper-thin computer screen. It goes on endlessly, but it’s quirky, it’s addictive, and the characters are awesome. The end is spectaculuar.

So why only 4 stars out of 5? I don’t know, I still feel like there could have been another chapter or two in there. I think I mostly subtracted a star from the fact that it didn’t go on longer….. but Robin Sloan has written a light, funny read that I will highly recommend to anyone who likes a novel out of the ordinary. That is definitely the case here(and it’s a great thing!).

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~ by generationgbooks on October 26, 2012.

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