Wednesday, January 9, 2013

'Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore'

You'd expect that on a mild Winter day such as this I would be out walking the granddog and enjoying the first rain-free moment of the hour.  I would be, of course, if I hadn't found the most marvelous, entertaining, and puzzling book yesterday at the library.

Booksellers will be enchanted, especially serious booksellers.  Publishers (especially the independents), too, will find something to adore.  And those who enjoy a good mystery might get a kick out of it.  But it's serious; a bit mildewy and medieval, a lot technological and modern.  It's a love story, it's a journey, it's a puzzle, all rolled into one.

I speak of 'Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore', written by Robin Sloan.

It is not a book for those wanting a certain something to entertain them for an hour.  It's a deep, big-hearted love letter to booksellers and book printers, alike.  You must devote yourself to the story or you might miss something.  

Clay Jannon is a web-designer and he has lost his job.  While walking on the streets of San Francisco, he spots a Help Wanted sign in the window of an odd bookstore, and, out of sheer curiosity, goes in and applies for a bookseller position.  But it becomes more than that.  With the ability to climb the ladders like a monkey, and the good sense to be discreet, he discovers a mystery, one that goes back for centuries.  The few customers that come in never really buy anything; they are there to borrow obscure titles from the owner, Mr. Penumbra, a gnome of a man who has the mind of a puzzle-master.  Clay soon feels that something else is going on, and enlists the aid of his friends; in particular, a woman with whom he is enchanted.  She works for Google, and with her help, they all work together to solve the mystery.  They find that the answers they seek stretch out farther than they thought...all the way to New York and beyond, and back many, many years.

Robin Sloan has given us all a great gift of fine writing, clever clues (not to speak of the wonderful names of some of his characters), and interesting information dealing with our current technology.  His characters are old and wise, young and brash.  

This book truly 'spoke' to me, and once I thought I had it all figured out, I was happily proven wrong.

Take a chance.  Try to solve the mystery.

And pray that Robin Sloan's next book will be just as wonderful.

No comments: