I’ve been seeing all kinds of articles and reviews mentioning Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan popping up all over the place. Since I want to be one of the cool kids, I decided to pick it up. My biggest regret? Not having a physical copy – because it GLOWS IN THE DARK y’all.
The plot for this one…well. I read the book and I’m still not sure how to describe it. Literary fiction? Mystery/thriller? Basically, a guy gets a job at a super mysterious bookstore and accidentally stumbles across a secret society (a literary cult, if you will). If that doesn’t get your radar buzzing, then you and I have extremely different taste in books. It sounds like the perfect premise to me. And while the book definitely has some real fantastic points, my expectations were definitely set a little too high.
The descriptions on the first few pages, you guys. THE DESCRIPTIONS. Whether of the people, the library or the books themselves – it all took me to my reading happy place. Perfect for readers, writers and imaginers of all shapes and sizes – I fell in love with this bookstore/library/breeding ground for literary oddballs from the get-go.
Then things take a turn toward the software programming and writing code and such – and that is where the book started losing me. Computer programming isn’t really my preferred shade of geek. I would have loved Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore infinitely more if it had stayed purely in the realm of the bibliophile. Of course, the plot line would have developed much differently since the point of the story is seeing how technological advances shook the foundation of a group of old-school mysterious puzzle-solving literary dudes. But still. Throwing stuff at me like a “three-dimensional matrix of ink-saturation values?” WHOOSH. (The sound of something flying over my head.)
But, there were some advantages to having the literary and techno geeks collide – awesome lines like this one:
When I was a kid reading fantasy novels, I daydreamed about hot girl wizards. I never thought I’d actually meet one, but that’s only because I didn’t realize wizards were going to walk among us and we’d just call them Googlers.
Also, there is talk of a cloth-bound ereader prototype that only made me drool a little bit. SOMEBODY GET ON MAKING THAT!
Ultimately, even though I did have my issues with it, I think Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is a good read for people that love books. Also – you do have to be patient. It is definitely a slow build without a lot of real action. Think more digging into the mysteries of a secret society and learning things piece by piece then an epic adventure tale. (Besides, when the action comes, awesome things happen. Like a dead drop scheduled with this epic code phrase: “ask for the hogwarts special. hold the shrooms.”)
To Sum It Up:
- Think ancient literary cult meets technology (with an unfortunate lack of sword fighting)
- Even though I had some issues with the execution, I basically felt like I was reading a mystery story made just for bibliophiles
- Guys, I really want an ereader made cloth-bound like a hardback book. And to write a sci-fi novel set more than 1,000 years in the future. And also, I’m a little scared of Google now.