Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

In a desperate act, an unemployed professional takes a job night-clerking in a weird old bookstore. Customers are rare - most visitors instead stop to borrow from an immense and mysterious not-for-purchase collection shelved in the store. Then Clay's customer-less boredom and his attempt to impress a cute girl-hacker cause him to bumble upon the answer to a puzzle he didn't even know he was solving - and the start of an epic quest.

This book is like Dan Brown's stories ... but replace the religious iconography with book nerds and typography: old-school books versus new-fangled computers, a secret underground library, a shadow sect, and the ultimate search for truth in a coded codex vitae. Intrigue, suspense and a secret book club!

But I'm being unnecessarily flippant about it: this is actually a good book that I enjoyed immensely. Despite the unlikely trajectory of the story, it's not cheesy and the characters are all very true to life. Clay's biggest asset is the same as that of any good librarian: he doesn't have to know everything, he just has to know how (or with whom) to find it. Facilitation as super-strength!

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