Monday, July 18, 2016

Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore: a Book Review

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.

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."
Okay, to tell you, I picked up this book because my sister-in-law recommended it.  But you need to know that she's a high school English teacher.  Who in their right mind, picks up a book recommended by a high school English teacher?

But I'm so glad that I did!

This book was so well written and enjoyable that I keep finding myself recommending it to others.  It sounds like you wouldn't enjoy it, but it's such a suprising story with such fun dialog going on inside Clay's mind.

I mean, I could just post my favorite quotes from the book and you could see what a fun read this is, but Mr Penumbra's bookstore is so much more.

"Neel takes a sharp breath and I know exactly what it means. It means: I have waited my whole life to walk through a secret passage built into a bookshelf."

Clay has the most interesting friends in this novel that it makes his journey so enjoyable.  He's friends with a geeky multi-millionaire, a super brainy Google employee, a mysterious sneaky hacker, and so many other unique characters.  These characters know what an amazing bookstore they've entered and help Clay to be able to discover the secrets hidden within the bookshelves.

Even Mr Penumbra himself, while a background character to some degree, is so delightful.  He makes you want to scour San Fransisco for his bookstore and sit down to have a cup of tea with the old man to hear about his life and adventures.

"Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines--it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits."

 As a dedicated book lover myself, I would love to be able to discover the secrets behind The Unbroken Spine.  (Seriuosly, who souldn't want to be a part of a group called that?)  Clay is not a believer, but accidently stumbles upon their secrets and how to decode a centuries old mystery.

Each of the books in Mr Penumbra's bookstore have secrets to tell and the end secret is a surprise to all.  Without spoiling the Unbroken Spine's secret, I did enjoy what I took out of Clay's journey through the stacks, Mr Penumbra's bookstore and enthusiasm, and the Unbroken Spine's starting duo.  After all, it's the friendships in life that matter the most and bring us immortality and happiness.

"Some of them are working hard indeed. What are they doing? My Boy! He said, eyebrows raised. As if nothing could be more obvious: They are reading."