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“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan

Thu 3rd September 2015

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is an adventure story laden with geek references and an eclectic mix of characters, in which our unsuspecting hero picks up a night shift at a bookstore, through which he meets a few odd customers who lead him to discover an ancient secret society and a code-breaking puzzle that promises the answer to eternal life.

There is an intentional contrasting of the old-and-paper-based versus the new-and-technology-based. This is mostly framed from the perspective of the young, tech-savvy protagonist, so presents the paper-proponents as antiquated Luddites. There is the odd occasion that paper triumphs and the technology geniuses are proven fallible, but you can definitely detect the author’s bias 🙂

I found some of the references to technology to be a bit awkward and simplistic. I was also a bit put off by the huge amount of fawning over Google, without mention of nearly any of the other technology companies located in the Silicon Valley setting. This book is close to challenging The Internship in terms of most gratuitous use of Google in a story; luckily the rest of the book is good enough to excuse this, which is not the case with the aforementioned film!

Overall, this is very well written and a compelling enough mystery to make you want to read just a bit more. The story of infiltrating a secret society with the aim of eternal life is less than original, but the framing within the modern era and the slightly unexpected resolution gives Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore enough freshness to make it an enjoyable read.

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