Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan [Book]
January 16, 2014 Leave a comment
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything—instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.I had no real intention of every reading a story like Mr. Panumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store when I found it sitting in the audio book section of the Rota Naval Station library. I also had no intention of falling in love with it. But alas, I did both. Robin Sloan offers up a beautiful slice of life that matches the far too realistic nature of mankind in the age of knowing anything we want in a few on line searches and the mystery of what may lie in the outer surfaces of existence. – AMAZON.COM
The story kicks off with what would seem to be a tired and storied series of events leading to the eventual employment of our main character. An arts major turned web designer who is out of work. Oh, if only we could go back to the early years of this century and let all these people know that it just wasn’t going to work out, imagine the place we would be in now. Thankfully, Sloan doesn’t dwell on this subject too much, and the story starts somewhat quickly, although he does seem to dwell on a few major character quirks that don’t seem to resignate to much need as the story moves forward, but are entertaining nonetheless. The story takes place in the great city of San Francisco, a city that is a character in itself. Google is definitely involved in a triumphant manner, as one would assume. Our hero lands a gig as a bookstore clerk/night watchmen at Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store rather quickly in the tale, but things don’t really start happening until late into Act 2 of the story.
We meet a wide array of characters who would eventually shape the foundation of the story. There is the rich friend, the hot Googler girlfriend (who always wears a read shirt, which I envisioned to be the same as Sheldon Cooper’s in The Big Bang Theory, but envision as you like), the weird model building roommate, the attractive yet robot-like roommate (who doesn’t really need to exist, if I were to be frank), and, of course, Mr. Penumbra, the eccentric book store owner who is a whimsical old fellow who really made the story for me. Although I must admit, I read this book in merely an audible sense, and so much credit must be given to Ari Fliakos who did an amazing job throughout the book, but excelled at capturing just how delightful the character of Mr. Penumbra could be.
The series of events that occur throughout the novel are almost so entirely site specific that I fear that I may give away much of the mystery and detail that shall arise should you decide to go on the adventure yourself. But it is suffice to say that this is a fun little book that genuinely asks the new age old questions like: Do we know too much? Is there any limit to what we as human beings should truly understand? Is it okay that the amount of mystery in our lives is being shrunk to almost nothing? Questions like this may not arise as you are reading this tale about a loss of fortitude in society, and the gaining of the greater knowledge that we will all die one day, and maybe a (failed?) quest for the key to eternal life is not such a bad way to commute through the very life you have already been given even with it’s restrictions of time. But, when you are finished, if these questions do not arise, you might want to see a doctor to ensure that you are indeed a human being after all.
Note: 2014 is the first year for book reviews at Trainwreck’d Society. We will be making a valiant effort to read and review at least 100 books. This is review #1. Be sure to stay in touch and be on the lookout for further reviews throughout 2014. Be sure to let us know if we are falling behind. Enjoy!