Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"This is a book that you will loose sleep over, happily," says Mark L.

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that’s rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.

Mark L. says:
"Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is a delightful and surreal fairy tale. All of the magic is technology and belief. Belief in friends, books, traditions, and the worthiness of solving a 500-year old mystery that intimates immortality.

Clay Jannon finds himself shot out of the Net and Web-based world of Bay Area employment into the opposite end of the tech spectrum, a bookstore, narrow and very, very tall. From rubbing elbows with the tech-hip, and edgy crowd, he now finds his companions the gritty, the random and the strange. Who are these people? And why do most of his odd, obsessive customers borrow books from the back portion of the store instead of buying the bright, colorful, new books? Clay discerns a mystery and sets out with the help of equally eccentric friend sand acquaintances to discover it and solve it. But not all goes quite as smoothly as hoped. People who guard old secrets are committed.

The wit of Robin Sloan's writing is marvelous. A mix of tech-edge ambiance, the focusing of his world in the “normal” and not the noir-punk-ish is refreshing and powerful, as it seeps into the reader's own sensibilities. His realization of character is masterful and vivid in very economic strokes of language. Setting and emotion are perfect for the characters as each age he displays.

This is a book that you will loose sleep over, happily."

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