Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan by Robin Sloan
ISBN: 9780474214913

This was a really fun read.

Combine an old bookstore with current technology, toss in an ancient secret society, mix with young people searching for answers in general and how could it not be fun?

The mysteries aren’t all that deep, even with sub sub basements. The questions on the surface are big, but there really isn’t emotional weight behind them. I didn’t really believe at any point that characters were in serious danger — though perhaps they did. These all sounds like complaints, and with another book, they would be. Here? Well, the characters don’t seem think themselves capable of deep feeling, so I shouldn’t be bothered by not finding any.

The book — and the characters — are clever. It’s funny, playing on old fantasy conventions (why does every quest need a wizard, a warrior and a rogue, anyway?) and current geek preoccupations (designers and fonts, obsessing about Google). Sloan’s preoccupation seems to be combining the best of both worlds (analog and digital) but he never gets annoyingly strident about it. The surprise for me in what he pulls off here is that he manages to write about technology without it sounding immediately, horribly, tin-ear dated.

It reminded me of Microserfs. Not because I loved it that much (I admit my deep affection for that book doesn’t make a lot of sense), but because so much of the territory is the same. Young people + technology + aimlessness + yearning for something more/bigger + belief in technology = some kind of quest with side of zeitgeist.

It isn’t world-changing, but it is page-turning fun.

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