Wednesday, June 12, 2013

re·view : Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

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


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.

With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that’s rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.


I didn't exactly know what I was getting in to when I picked up this book.
Some people in real life loved it and told me I had to read it. I promptly ignore the advice and kept going with my TBR pile. Little while later I saw some buzz going on around it, and again, ignore it.
You see, all I knew about this one was that it had a cool cover that glows in the dark (witch is awesome, by the way) and that it was a book about books. You know, as the cover implies.. 
I just didn't know, I kept going back and forth about buying it. But let me tell you, only thing I regret about getting this one is how long it took me to bit the bullet. It was SO good! 

The plot is so much more than just a book about a weird library. I would say is more like a mystery novel with a pinch of conspiracy that is set around books. For awhile all I could think of was how it remind me of something Sorcerer Stone-y or Nicholas Flamel -y. 
I would say the best way of going in to this book is really not knowing much of it before you start reading. Also, a quality I really admire in books, is so smart and witty without being preachy or pretentious!

The writing really puts you in the middle of that world, shelfs, leather and people. I really don't know how to explain, it has a quest, dusty feeling to it. I loved how the plot evolved and how everything fit together in the end. 

“Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines -- it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.” 

Really, isn't that beautiful? 

If there is one thing to say about this though, is go in to this book with an open mind and try to face it as a fantasy novel from the beginning. As the characters described, try to see is as an D&D quest. I would say is the best way to go in that world.
I say that because everything is a little too convenient sometimes, ok most times. Our protagonist seems to have all the resources in the world, and I mean ALL of them.
For some people that might be bad, but in the context of the book, I really didn't have a problem with it.

The only thing about this one I really didn't love were the characters. I mean, sometimes, it seems like their only job is to be there when Clay needs a favor. 
When the author try to give them a little more dimension, like with Clay's best friend Niel, he just came out as the bank, he payed for everything Clay needed and when he actually did something where his credit card wasn't required, he just came out as the ex-chubby kid that now, to be accepted, drinks tons of kale juice, avoids pizza and worked out. Not exactly deep.

I love Mr. Penumbra though, can he please open an library conveniently located at walking distance and hire me?

“He paused, then added, "Some of them are working very hard indeed."
"What are they doing?"
"My boy!" he said, eyebrows raised. As if nothing could be more obvious: "They are reading.” 

I would recommend this one to anyone geeky, book loving, mystery oriented people out there. 

He nodded at me and gave me a week wave. 

'what do you seek in these shelves?' 

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