Thursday, August 22, 2013

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

A young job seeker, an eccentric old man, and a bookstore with middle-of-the-night customers who don't pay for their books...this only scratches the surface of the genius work of fiction that is Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.

When Clay Jannon takes takes a job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, he soon realizes there's more to be curious about than the store's odd hours. For example: the repeat customers who "check out" obscure volumes from the dark corners of the high shelves - volumes which Clay is not supposed to read. But curiosity is a strong force and soon Clay finds himself analyzing the customers - and even the store itself - dragging a handful of close friends along in an effort to discover if he has, in fact, stumbled upon some sort of cult, or at the very least an elaborate front for...something. But when Clay and his friends bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, he reveals a decades-old story with a mystery that will take them on an enthralling quest far outside the walls of the tiny bookstore.

It's always a happy day when I discover a book that genuinely thrills me with a fresh, can't-put-it-down story that makes me want to go right back to chapter one when I've finished. The perfect mix of brains and beauty in book form, Penumbra quickly skyrocketed into my top-ten list of favorites with its unique take on the conflict between tradition and technology in the world of books. Each chapter brought a new bit of awesomeness and my inner nerd gave many a fist pump at Sloan's inclusion of things like Industrial Light and Magic, Google, and the art of typography. The mystery of a secret literary society is wonderfully crafted and intricately woven alongside technical details of super cool things like code writing, super computers, and cardboard book scanners (which are all described in a perfectly fascinating, non-boring way, in case you were wondering). The story, characters and environment are so well written, that it's easy to imagine every word is real and true and possible (and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that much of it is). I gushed about this book to my husband, who read it as soon as I finished. His words when he closed the book on the final page: "That was amazing." I couldn't agree more. I loved everything about this book. And whether you're a proud e-book reader, or an avid defender of the paperback, I think you'll find a lot to love, too.

P.S. Once you've read the book, be sure to visit robinsloan.com to read the short story (and tweet) that started it all!

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