I have been daydreaming for years about a 24-hour bookstore. Which means that as soon as I saw that the title of this book was Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, I was instantly intrigued. I had seen a good, short mini-review of it at the Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog, and so I checked it out from the library and I finished it in two days because it was so. much. fun. It’s only the beginning of 2013, but I have a feeling this is going to end up on my “best of” list for this year.
You probably want to know what it’s actually about, right? Well Clay is an unemployed web designer who is in desperate need of a job, and one day while strolling around San Francisco he sees a “help wanted” sign in the store of a small bookstore, called – you guessed it – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. So he goes in and an old guy named Mr. Penumbra offers Clay to be the nighttime clerk. And then Clay starts working there and he realizes that the store is really odd. It doesn’t carry many popular books, but there are a huge number of old weird books with titles he’s never heard of and that he’s not allowed to touch. And these books are borrowed by a bunch of eccentric customers (except they’re not really customers because they’re borrowing, not paying) and it all seems really weird. So Clay and his super-nerdy friends set out to discover what is really going on, and it leads them on a big literary adventure.
There are so many things I love about this book. First off Clay is cool and good-hearted, and he has some awesome friends. His best friend is Neel, a rich software-type person (I’m not very in on the technology lingo) who for some reason I keep picturing as this guy:
And he has a girly friend named Kat who is also a techy person and she’s kind of awesome. She goes on a really cool speech about optimism and wanting to live forever and limits of the human imagination and yeah, I enjoyed that. He has some random other impressive friends, but these were my faves. Oh and Mr. Penumbra is a cool old guy.
Besides a fun cast of characters, the story was like a joy-ride of bookish love, computer love, and gaming love and it all just made me so happy. The mystery of what exactly is happening at this book shop was interesting and kept me reading and I can’t wait to buy my own copy of this book (which glows in the freaking dark, BTW) and re-read it sometime.
Oh, and I liked the writing a lot. (Kudos, Robin Sloan, I can’t wait to see what you write next.) It was witty and fresh, but there were parts that were also beautiful and I wrote down some quotes as I read, which almost never happens anymore.
“He works with crazy intensity, feeding hours like dry twigs into the fire, just absolutely consuming them, burning them up.”
“… 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.”
And well there were a bunch of others, but I don’t want to give away stuff. Which I probably already have given away too much, so guys please read this so we can talk about how awesome and dorky and lovely it is?
Sarah Says: 5 stars