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Robin Sloan – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore


“The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest.  The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything; instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends, but when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. “


Mr.Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

I read this during one of the periods a lot of electricity load shedding was happening. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. After reading plenty of historical fiction for a long while, it wasn’t hard to get into this modern fantasy fiction. Not only did the quirky title capture my attention but the story line kept me intrigued

One of the themes I found when reading, was the battle of technology versus “the old way of doing things” (paper & pen). The protagonist – Clay Jannon appeared to be a preservationist of some of the older ways, which made him an even more likable character to me, as I often feel that I myself am one (only because I like reading from an actual book instead of a kindle 😁).

The programming language (Ruby) Clay uses to solve the Founder’s Puzzle – I’m an aspiring software developer and I found this made the novel more relatable because in some obscure parallel universe created by Robin Sloane, I could see myself doing the same thing in order to solve the puzzle 🙈.

Mr. Penumbra is a lovable character. It’s so endearing how he embraces change and stands up for what he believes when it comes to digitizing the methods of the Fellowship of the Unbroken Spine.

The manner in which Google HQ is portrayed as this utilitarian utopia is fascinating. Yes the secret society members are strange but they also bring humor to the novel. The way in which their features were described and their peculiar ways had me rereading the descriptions so that I can remember the hilarious characters!

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