Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

mr. penumbra

Sloan, Robin. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

(I’m annoyed that Word Press no longer automatically converts my smiley faces, so I’m moving to asterisks to rate books, which are close enough substitutes for stars.) <fixed>

This one has been making the rounds via word-of-mouth more than anything. Because I’m often contrary about such things, I put off reading it. Then my sister suggested it to me, and well, she’s never led me astray, so I decided, finally, to read it.

I loved it! It’s a great read for us geeky, bookish types who are always bemoaning the digital age while also lapping up those things about it that we like: “The digital age is killing the book… Oh, wait a minute, I can renew my library books without setting foot outside my house? Sweet! Online renewal, here I come!” Sloan strikes a very nice balance here between digital geeks and print geeks, poking fun at both of us. A great example of his teasing the latter is his description of why books will never die, which is because readers love the way they smell. Meanwhile, his sendup of the Google campus and its cafeteria is a riot.

Clay Jannon, our erstwhile 20-something, caught between the print and digital ages is a well-drawn, endearing character. He’s a dude whose curiosity (well, and also the fact he’s been laid off from his tech job and needs to earn money) leads him to work in a very odd (but delicious-sounding) bookstore. That curiosity and his attachment to the people he meets on the job eventually lead him on a quest, an ancient and familiar one: the quest for immortality. He doesn’t quite believe in this quest, but by the time he realizes what it is, he’s in too deep to turn back.

“Light”, “fun”, “funny” are all words that can be used to describe the book. What I like about it, though, is that there’s depth to it, too. The reader finds herself asking questions like, “Are we going too far and too fast with our digital knowledge, and if so, what will the consequences be?” and “Is there merit to preserving old ways and techniques that reaches beyond appreciation for the historic?” and “Will bookstores really die?” (I always maintain that the answer to that last question is “no”. Print books and digital books will just happily live alongside each other, the same way television and radio do). I enjoyed pondering such questions — briefly. I didn’t have too much time to spend on them as I quickly turned pages to find out what happened next.

Oh, and while we’re discussing how this book has everything, there’s also romance. Sloan gives us the romance of love, the romance of friendship, the romance of a city, the romance of a good book or story, no matter its format. It’s all here. If you love romance and fantasy with a little cynical urban humor, this book is sure to please.