Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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

I took this at the bookstore...
I want a hard copy so bad :/

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane
Published October 2nd 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux


"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."


I want to start off by saying that I was so heartbroken by this book. Not that there's extremely sad subject matter. In fact, this was SO fun to read. It broke my tender little heart because every good book has to come to it's conclusion. I finished this book. I held my breath on the last page before finally closing the cover and exhaling. I wasn't sure what to do with myself after that. I think this is what love feels like. 

This book is the man I want in my life. Appeals to my geeky side; the girl who laughs at cat memes on reddit, the artsy side; the side that studied typography in her first year of college and of course, since this book is about a bookstore, the bookish side of me. That one is self-explanatory. There are all these humble little elements that give this book such a vibrant and youthful personality. The flow of the writing and language is quirky and uplifting. This book almost made me shout in the middle of a coffee shop: "WAS THAT A STAR WARS REFERENCE?! THAT WAS A STAR WARS REFERENCE. OHMYGODITWASASTARWARSREFERENCE!" In fact, this book, being only released last year is laced with the loveliest of pop culture references and odes to the most prolific technological empires of our time (Google, Apple.)

I think one of the best parts about Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore was how the characters were really easily relatable. In fact, I'm pretty sure I know my real-life equivalent to Mat.

Something to note about this book is how subtle the themes are. You don't really notice as you might be having too much fun trying to figure out things about mysterious books and symbols. You're trying to think of who the heck some of these characters are. But the themes are there. How do we immortalize ourselves? The purpose of design and language. Is technology and our internet overlords making our old crafts, like printing and publishing, obsolete? Or are we working the old and the new into something bigger, better and more harmonious? Don't think too deeply on these subjects, however, as this book is about having fun; it's about having a great adventure, solving mysteries and doing it with our oddball friends.

I want to make mention that the cover was designed by my favourite cover designer, Rodrigo Corral, who you might know for designing the covers for a
uthors like John Green and Chuck Palahniuk. Apparently this particular cover... it glows in the dark. Apparently I was an idiot and bought this book for my Kobo - I think I'll need to get my hands on a hard copy of this book. I wish I had more money.

If I would recommend this to anyone I feel as if it would be a great read for anyone interested in design and who are interested in the direction technology is growing. It's a great casual read for those who are more prone to sticking to the Teen/YA section of the bookstore and who want to dive into something that's still youthful but maybe not entirely focused on a coming-of-age story. This book is so lighthearted and an absolute joy to read and it would make a great companion if you're up in the air or on the road.

Last but not least, on my personal Twitter account, I posted about how upset I was about finishing such a lovely book - so much so I almost could cry. Robin Sloan tweeted me back. I might have been hyperventilating as it was the most unexpected thing to read and it made my experience with this book even more fulfilling. I didn't even think that was possible!

Rating: 5/5 Bookworms

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