Books. A Mystery. A Secret Society. A Font. Technology. The Singularity. Friends.
Yesterday was my official “be nice to Kata day.” I drank a white chocolate latte, ate a chocolate croissant, and read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Life was very, very good: long, contented sigh. Mr. Penumbra was the perfect book for the day. It falls into many of my favorite categories: “I get by with a little help from my friends,” “Helps you forget your troubles for an afternoon.” “Quirky but likeable characters,” “Down on his luck rises to the occasion,” and “Some things to make you think.” It is a novel with a mystery element to it. The juxtaposition of 15th Century printing with 21st Century technology makes the novel fresh and interesting. It is a novel that was easy to fall into, but when I was done I wasn’t hyper from an adrenaline rush.
Clay is a down on his luck geek who takes a job at a 24-hour bookstore, where he works the nightshift. His job has some odd responsibilities. He is required to keep a detailed log with descriptions of the bookstore visitors. He waits on odd visitors, members of a secret organization to which Mr. Penumbra belongs, who check out books that are written in code. The bookstore has very few actual customers. Clay decides to enlist the help of technology savvy friends to find out what is really going on. His actions change the lives of his friends, Mr. Penumbra, and members of the secret club, as well as Clay himself.
I feel like Goldilocks in the Three Bears: this novel is just right. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is thought-provoking without being too deep. It is interesting without making me pine for a sequel. The book is quirky without being overly silly or being “adult-rated.” It contains a bit of menace without having any real violence. It contains images that dance in my head but don’t haunt me. I guess the big drawback for me is that I don’t know a lot of people who share the same quirky set of interests that I do, who would share my delight in the book. Maybe I need to add still another category for novels, “technology with a big a heart,” so that some geeks can more easily find this book