Monday, January 21, 2013

New Release: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore


You've likely already heard of this unique new novel, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, with its glow-in-the-dark cover and its celebration of books. It made a lot of "best of" lists last year and I was very excited to get it for Christmas.

Clay Jannon is an unemployed web designer in San Francisco who happens into a random bookstore, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, that has a "help wanted" sign in the window. Without much effort but, perhaps, a bit of destiny, Clay ends up with the night shift at the bookstore. It's a mysterious place with regular books in the front and towering shelves of strange volumes in the back. What those books are for and what the bizarre customers who come in at all hours are after is for the reader to discover alongside Clay.

I'll be honest and say that I really liked this book but didn't love it. I can't put my finger on it but there was something missing from it. Maybe it was heart? Most of the character interactions were plot-advancing with little character building. I also thought the Google fandom was a bit strong. It reminded me of Microserfs by Douglas Coupland in its attempt to humanize a corporation. But, where Microserfs was able to portray its employees as hard-working, barefoot, Lego-loving nerds, this story gave the impression that Google employees are overworked, obsessive-compulsive misfits who have every moment of every day, down to what nutrients they eat, micromanaged by their employer. It made me a bit sad. While this novel was seemingly meant to celebrate intelligence and individuality--the soul, if you will--it just served to reinforce the loss of such things in today's corporate world, regardless of the outward face they put on. Still, there were some unique and unforgettable characters and events in the book and overall I enjoyed reading it. I just wish it had been a bit, well, more.

Finding the soul of each book,
K

8 comments:

  1. I hadn't heard much about this one but was hoping when I started reading your review that you were going to say this was a MUST-READ because of the fact that it is about, in part, a bookstore. But a book like that has to have heart, has to have soul, it isn't just the books that make it special.

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    1. Exactly. This book had the right elements but didn't put them together in a way that was able to wow me.

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  2. I have this book on hold at the library and it is taking FOREVER to get it. I actually didn't know it had anything to do with Google. I'm even more interested to read it now!

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    1. I'll be interested to hear what you think! Library waitlists are lame though. :)

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  3. I've seen a mixed bag of reviews for this one. I'm still pretty intrigued by the premise, but I definitely need a book with soul right now! It'll go on the wishlist for another day. :)

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    1. I had only seen really positive reviews so I felt bad putting up something less than glowing. I'm glad to know that I wasn't the only one who didn't super lurve it though. And, really, there isn't any reason to not read this one. I just hoped it would have been *more*.

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  4. The cover glows in the dark? COOL!

    And note to self: Never work for Google (although perhaps it will help me lose weight.)

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    1. Yeah it does. By the way, iPhones can't take pictures of something glowing in the dark. I tried for like twenty minutes to supercharge the cover with a flashlight. It never worked. :)

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