Friday, February 15, 2019

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (2012)

Clay Jennings is a former tech worker looking for a job, and stumbles across an unusual bookstore that seems to be hiring. It's open 24 hours a day and he has the overnight 10-6 shift. Business is slow, but Clay soon learns that the primary business here isn't selling books, it's lending them out from a part of the store he thinks of as the Waybacklist. It's a tall skinny room with very tall ladders and it comes with a particular clientele. Although the owner, Mr. Penumbra, makes Clay promise not to look at the books, eventually he does and that is where the real mystery begins.

The story turns into something very different than one about a cozy mysterious bookstore and its eccentric mysterious owner. There's a real mystery here, with codes and secret societies, and it's kind of a fun adventure. Clay has a rich, successful friend Neel who he bonded with in sixth grade over a fantasy series they both loved, and that series and its author figured into the story as well.

But this wasn't about the love of books and bookstores and that's where the disappointed lay for me. Technology enters into it a bit, and things went in a direction that that did not give me the happy bookstore feels I was looking for. It's not Robin Sloan's fault that it wasn't the book I wanted it to be, and I still enjoyed reading it, but I liked his other book, Sourdough, quite a bit more. Still, he's a talented author and gifted storyteller and I'll likely read whatever novel he publishes next.

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