Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan
A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, 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 “checking out” 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’ behavior 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.
This book was another recommendation from Flavorwire (really, go read it now - though I kinda hate their new layout), and yet again, they did not steer me wrong!
The story centers around Clay Jannon, a guy who is out of luck in this modern-day recession. He happens to come across a Help Wanted sign in the window of Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour bookstore and finds himself with a peculiar job. He sells books, sometimes, and loans out mysteries books from the way-back to curious members of what first appears like a cult. Clay's own curiosity leads him into an adventure with many of his friends, each who also have their own special talents.
I loved this book. First of all, it is difficult to find a book about books - and this book is most certainly about a book. Sorry about that sentence, but it's true. It made me really think about how society looks at technology and the printed word. It is a detailed adventure that leads Clay from the narrow bookstore that is Penumbra's to an underground secret that has been quiet for so long...until now.
And the funny thing is? The message...it's so simple. Right in front of our eyes.
But I won't tell you what that message is because this, my dear readers, is a spoiler-free blog. If you like fantasy, bookstores and books (which, dear heavens, I hope you do!), you will most definitely enjoy this book.