Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
E-book or paper?
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a snapshot of today’s book business, with some thriller and adventure thrown in. Clay Jannon is a young, west coast web designer and victim of the recession. Laid off, he takes a night shift job at Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore and tries to put his tech savvy side to work for his new bibliophile boss. Clay soon discovers the book shop isn’t the antiquarian mecca he thinks it is. He stumbles onto the puzzle Mr. Penumbra’s customers have spent lifetimes trying to solve, and with the help of some tech friends and Google, quickly figures out the mystery. The last third of the book is the most exciting. Read for plot as the characters have only the qualities and actions needed for the story. There are no subplots or diversions, and you won’t miss them.
Sloan’s unique novel offers an intelligent and thought-provoking commentary on the changing book business and the digital revolution. It is a new twist on the new versus old, progress versus tradition dilemna. Kudos to his effective format–using a mystery instead of an essay or speech to weigh the value of our digital existence versus traditional books. At the heart of the novel is Sloan’s message: “embracing modern digital technology does not mean giving up the values of the past.” Well worth the read!