Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store
In a break from the seeming never ending midterms season here at Dartmouth, a few weeks ago I picked up Robin Sloan's 2012 novel Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store. It was a delightful read filled of mystery, love of books, and a touch of science fiction. The protagonist, Clay, is hired as a night clerk at Mr. Penumbra's bookstore, and notices a mysterious set of customers who borrow and return books from a back room. The story moves along quickly, and challenges are quickly overcome with the joys of technology. The plot places a lot on the ~*~*magic*~*~ of technology, which feels a bit cop-out to me. Or I just don't know computers that well, and maybe it is super feasible. I am not one to complain about a happily-ever-after, but I wish there had been a bit more tension driving the plot. It was also a bit bro-y; I always long for more female characters. Or more realistic female ones. Overall, an engaging read for book-lovers that crumbles a bit when you read too closely. The characters felt a bit one-dimensional at points (the elusive, secretive boss; eccentric, artist roommate; the lover-of-video games, wealthy friend; the dream girl who works at Google), but the story was engrossing enough to suck me in. Also, the writing was so *smart* at times. Like -- "So I guess you could say Neel owes me a few favors, except that so many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty. Our friendship is a nebula" (34) or "You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules." (253) Sloan does a lovely job of capturing a cult of books. It makes me want to read more.