Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore cover

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore mixes books and research with romance and friendship to make a fun, light story. Pop culture references make this book feel a bit like Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, but the prevalence of Google and ereaders ground the story in the present.

Robin Sloan's narrator, Clay, is an employed designer, thanks to the most recent market bubble bursting. Desperate for a job and passing a narrow, tall bookstore with a hiring sign, he pops in and speaks with the owner, Mr. Penumbra. He gets the job, but wonders at the small selection of books that are for sale and would appeal to the general public versus the more obscure books that are borrowed by members. How does the store stay afloat if they sell so little?

Another fortuitous event, aside from employment, occurs at the bookstore. Clay meets Kat, an ambitious designer and programmer at Google, who found one of his ecoupons and is cute and may be interested in him. Not many new visitors came as a result of his coupons, but Clay talks up the place to his friends and roommates in order to get some of their business. These friends are unique and make great characters to fill out a cast of what eventually becomes something of a small adventure.

I'm being vague to avoid spoiling anything. I can safely say, however, that fans of the fore-mentioned Ready Player One or Douglas Coupland's JPod will likely enjoy Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Like those books, Penumbra presents a young male protagonist and the relationships and friends that keep him afloat. Honestly, though, I'd recommend this to any fiction reader.

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