"What do you seek in these shelves?"

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan has been mentioned here before, but I enjoyed it so much, I wanted to give it another spotlight.


When I first placed a hold on it, I had a vague notion of what it would be, somehow thinking it would be along the lines of the charming Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson. Instead, I found it to be more like Shadow of the Wind meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with a generous sprinkling of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain. Kind of a younger, hipper Da Vinci Code. And I mean that in a good way!
Clay is an out of work sort-of web designer in San Francisco when he happens upon a help wanted sign on a 24-hour bookstore tucked in next to a not-so-savory bar called Booty’s. Other than a few dusty shelves of books for sale, however, this is like no other bookstore Clay has ever seen. It is tall and narrow, filled with mysteriously coded tomes that are not available for sale, only to borrow by an eccentric and select few. As Clay spends more time at the bookstore, and with Mr. Penumbra himself, his curiosity grows, and he applies his tech skills to tackling the ancient secret of the store.
Clay draws on the strengths of his friends, including childhood pal Neel, now the head of a software company specializing in digitally rendering female anatomy, new girlfriend Kat, a genius from nearby Google, and his artist roommate Mat, to bring Mr. Penumbra and his associates into the 21st century. Ultimately, it's not the answer to the puzzle that is most important, but the journey, of course. 

It’s got a dash of romance, a lot of good old fashioned friendship, almost too-good-to-be-true technology, and a quest; it doffs its cap to fantasy adventure without giving up its hold on reality. There's plenty to discuss in a book group (you can find a reading guide here), and it would be fun to read with friends and family from high school up - the intergenerational friendships here could spark a good conversation. Delightful is really the word for it!

1 comment:

Cara said...

In looking at your comparisons, I have read only Shadow of the Wind, but this does sound like an interesting read. Thanks for the rec!

~ Cara