Lost in a Bookstore

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

If J.J. Abrams had a book store it would be Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore, a quirky place that really has no interest in selling any books. There are a few books that the general populous might like but all of them are used and none of them are current. Instead there is a large section of beautiful bound books all written in code and a secret society of people that come in at random times and borrow one of the said books.

“...this is exactly the kind of store that makes you want to buy a book about a teenage wizard. This is the kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard.”

The M.C. Clay finds most things about the bookstore odd including the enigmatic owner of the shop Mr. Penumbra. He rarely sells anything and wonders how the bookstore could possibly stay in business after taking the graveyard shift of the store. Clay gets drawn into the mystery of the coded books and with the help of Kat a girl he meet who works at Google and Neel his childhood friend they go on a quest of sorts to solve the mystery of the secret society.

“Why does the typical adventuring group consist of a wizard, a warrior, and a rogue, anyway? It should really be a wizard, a warrior, and a rich guy. Otherwise who's going to pay for all the swords and spells and hotel rooms?”

I was drawn into the quirky mystery of the story right away. I love puzzles and codes and everything about this story drew me in a little more. There is also a cute little romance between Clay and Kat. Clay is kinda a geeky programmer and Kat is a Googler their interactions are extremely cute but not overly romantic like the beginning of a real relationship.

“Then: I google "time-series visualization" and start work on a new version of my model, thinking that maybe I can impress her with a prototype. I am really into the kind of girl you can impress with a prototype.”

I enjoyed the dialog of the entire book and really liked Clay and all of his friends. I would say that the only weak point in the entire story is the wrap up of the mystery. After everyone else failed, the secret society and an entire team at Google, Clay figures it all out all by himself. But all and all this is entertaining, fun and different than many of the other things I’ve read lately. I totally liked the epilogue though that thoroughly lets us know what happens to all the characters in the book in the future.

This is one of the better stand-alone books I’ve read. So if you are looking for something that is quick, fun, interesting and you don’t have to commit to 3-7 books to get through I would totally recommend checking it out.