by Robin Sloan
Published: October 2012
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything—instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.
Clay starts out as a young man just looking for a job after being let go after his work shut down. After much newspaper browsing and window shopping, he finds Mr. Penumbra’s store and applies. After a few days on the job, he finds the place more curious than he at first thought. What follows is a fun, quirky, not-too-serious adventure that spans from San Francisco to New York.
I enjoyed the side characters more than I did the main character, Clay. I liked his roommate, Mat, who works as a set designer at a studio, and his billionaire friend, Neel Shah who he has known since sixth grade, when the series, The Dragon-Song Chronicles, brought them together. They had quirks to them that made them interesting.
I enjoyed reading this book. It was a fun mysterious, sarcastic read about secret societies and bookstores. It was a sort of a commentary on the evolution of books from the printing press to the modern age and Google. It was a nice, light read that did not (to me at least) take itself too seriously.The writing was done in such a way, that it was a little hard to connect with the characters, though it did not fail to keep me reading to the end.