Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Recession. Encrypted texts. Google. Unique Typography. Where am I going with this? Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I picked up this book. I know the reception has been fantastic, but sometimes books come out with a bang and fizzle up like a firecracker. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore wasn’t really a bang, but it was very smooth. This is one of those easy reads that keeps you going, but without any whiplash or withdrawal symptoms.

Clay Jannon is our bookstore clerk and hero. Due to the recession, Web designer Clay takes an overnight clerk position at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore. The store carries very little new inventory, but has a huge collection of archaic, encrypted books that Clay refers to as The Waybacklist. The Waybacklist draws some very strange visitors who borrow rather than buy these books. Clay begins to create a digital model of the store complete with data visualization of the order of books that each visitor or member of the bookstore checks out. This is where the fun begins. At almost the same time, Clay becomes involved with Kat—Google employee and fanatic. Between the two of them, a rich friend who creates digital breasts, and a roommate with mean special effects skills, a very old secret struggles to come to light.

The book is a great mix of technology, code breaking, memorable characters, and mystery. I would very highly recommend this to anyone that is looking for a light and entertaining read. A debut novel not entirely overwrought with attempt. Nice work, Robin Sloan.

P.S. As promised, the cover does glow in the dark!

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