Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore: A Novel

mr penumbraMr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan, 4/5

This book is like a cookiecutter shark: it’s exciting, difficult to put down once picked up and it glows in the dark (thus automatically raising its score by an entire point).  The story is suspenseful, creative and entertaining, but the plot curve is weighted heavily towards the beginning, building tension up to an inevitably unsatisfying climax that takes place a mere 10 pages from the end of the book.  No one had to tell me that this is Sloan’s first novel, but fortunately, its weaknesses seem to stem more from a lack of experience than a lack of skill.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore is noteworthy for being the most “modern” in tone of any novel I have ever read.  For example, one of the characters works at Google and a fictionalised version of the company plays a huge role in the story.  Topics that I am unfamiliar coming across in works of fiction, such as e-book piracy, computer programming and role-playing games, surprised me at every turn.  There was even a reference to the webcomic xkcd.

Overall, Sloan does a great job of creating a believably current alternate reality but I suspect this book will not age gracefully.  Who knows, though, perhaps I am wrong and in twenty years time it will have gained an added aura of nostalgia.


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