Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Robin Sloan's latest novel, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, is a winner. It is not classic literature, it is not a brilliant mystery, it is not a suspenseful thriller.

It is simply fun.

Clay Jannon, looking for work, stumbles into a job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. It doesn't take him long to recognize that this is not your standard bookstore - the stock is limited, the clientele few and far between. This doesn't consider, of course, the unusual books in the back part of the store, and the unusual customers who show up to quickly exchange one unreadable book for another.

Clay is determined to figure out what's up. He calls on his roommate's creative skills and his girlfriend's Google connections. He uses data visualizations and cardboard scanners. He calls in favors from a childhood friend who has become a wealthy entrepreneur. He learns of an ancient fellowship, and meets its quirky members. He turns to an archaeologist and the curator of a knitting museum (!) to locate missing artifacts.

And, with a mix of technology and friendship and books, he solves the puzzle.

There are flaws in some of the logic, and the story requires a few leaps of faith, but this book was a wonderful romp, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The puzzle's solution is lovely - but I don't want to spoil your read, so I'll keep that to myself.

Enjoy! Festina Lente!

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