Author: Robin Sloan | Publisher: Atlantic Books | Pages: 291 | Source: Bought |
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...
MY THOUGHTS: Where, oh where, to begin? Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is a book that made me giggle with glee. It has a bit of everything for everyone, that's for sure. It deals with technology, coding, puzzles, secrets, odd people who know even odder people, the world of publishing and the life of an unemployed everyman. It's geeky for the simple reason that's it's written by a geek about geeks for geeks and it's unashamedly quirky for the simple fact us bookish people don't care about normality. If anything, the fact you're reading a book review right now is a big enough hint that you'll enjoy this particular book.
The romance was bittersweet and the epilogue almost had me crying at the overwhelming nature of words. It's a slow novel to begin with but it uncurls carefully into a swirl of spontaneity and unpredictability (seriously, if you guess the ending of this novel, you're either telepathic… or work for Google). The use of technology was brilliant and, for once, relevant. Some books offer you predictable solutions to dilemmas, Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore offers you Google HQ and a super computer.
"He has the strangest expression on his face- the emotional equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND."
And the characters, oh, the characters. Despite the eccentricities of the enigmatic Mr Penumbra and the charming everyman protagonist, it's a secondary character that snagged the spot as my favourite. Kat was as wonderful as she was resourceful; she was intelligent (well she had to be, working for Google and all), ace with technology and she had a lovely spark of life within her. Clay himself, was also hilarious, earnest and genuine as could be. Seriously, nerdy characters are (undoubtedly) always the best.
What else can I say? Yes, Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is a tad confusing at points, but the chaos is so utterly endearing. If you love books, then this one will ensure that love never fades.
It's a novel reminiscent of the tinkering bell at a bookshop door: full of hope and promise.