Sunday, November 18, 2012
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Clay Jannon, the narrator, is an art school graduate who was learning how to write code and create ads when the bagel-making company he worked for folded. He didn't have the computer skills to compete with other designers for jobs, so when he saw a sign on the door of a 24-hour San Francisco bookstore advertising for the chance to clerk on the late shift, he jumped at the chance. The front of the store was a normal bookstore. But, in the back was the mysterious Waybacklist that brought in unusual customers. Clay was forbidden to read those books, but he had to log the appearance and actions of the customers, who only came in and borrowed the books. It wasn't long before his curiosity and boredom caught up with him. Clay started to create a 3-D model of the bookstore. And, as he searched for answers, he decided the store, those customers, and the manager, Mr. Penumbra, must be involved in something other than books.
Clay's inquiries lead him to gather a few friends including Kat, who works for Google, and Neel, a friend from childhood who is now a successful entrepreneur. It will take all their skills, and Clay's experiences as a gamer to take them into a world of "Old Knowledge", "Traditional Knowledge", and what Clay thinks might be a cult involving coded books. The answers are larger than anyone imagines. Clay just might discover the greatest secret to life.
Robin Sloan's novel is a gem. It's hard to let go of Clay Jannon at the end of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. It's hard to let go of "the right book exactly, at just the right time." Any reader with patience will understand when they get to that last sentence.
Robin Sloan's website is www.robinsloan.com
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2012. ISBN 9780374214913 (hardcover), 304p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.