Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

penumbraMr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a story narrated by Clay Jannon, an unemployed web-designer desperately needing a job. To keep himself focused in actually finding one, he prints out ads and goes out to walk around San Francisco while reading them. On one of this walks he stumbles upon a small bookstore and before he knew it he was Penumbra’s new night clerk.

The floor of the bookstore is far below me, the surface of a planet I’ve left behind.

At first glance this seems like a book for book lovers, but if you bother to read it you’ll realize that it’s about so much more. It’s about human curiosity, the human need to always know what comes next, what came before and how it all connects together to form history, which is actually someone’s description of life so far. It’s really hard to talk about all the things I loved in this book without giving anything away, so I’ll try my best to keep to the spoiler free zones.

Our friendship is a nebula.

First: the characters. This book had all the nerds in it, the computer nerd (many of those, in many different areas), the book nerd, the history nerd, the art nerd and a bunch of others I can’t remember now. Which is brilliant, they’re my kind of crowd after all. But there are also some lost people – people who don’t know what to do with their lives and try to tag along with others in hopes of finding out. If they do or not depends on how important you think Griffo Gerritszoon’s final message is.

The Unbroken Spine. It sounds like a band of assassins, not a bunch of book lovers.

Second: the plot. This is a very intricate plot and Clay’s not really in the know for half of the book (maybe more) so we figure out what he figures out. And solving the mystery beforehand is kind of impossible (and cheating, right Clay?), at least I didn’t guess. Well, I did guess a couple of things, but others just flew over my head. Although I have to admit, because I want to be completely honest here, that the reason this is not a five star book for me is that there were some parts that had me yawning, especially in the first part. The pace really picked up by the second part though, so hang in there people.

Books used to be pretty high-tech, back in the day. Not anymore.

Third: books. Because despite that gloomy quote this is a book about books. About the meaning of them and that in the end no matter how evolved our technology gets there are certain kinds of knowledge that only come from living human lives (they might also be cyborg or android or alien lives, but you get my point). Why else would there be bookstore in the title if this wasn’t going to involve some amazing books?

Penumbra says, and produces another e-reader – it’s a Nook. Then another one, a Sony. Another one, marked KOBO. Really? Who has a Kobo?

Fourth: I resent that Robin Sloan (or Clay, but whatever, he didn’t write the book). I own a Kobo and I’m proud of it. I actually read this e-book in it, so yes, people do have Kobos. And I realize this is not one of the reasons I loved the book, but it needed to be said.

Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.

And Finally: Thanks Aldrag the Wyrm-Father. And Moffat (not Steven, no).