Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2012, 288 pp
Reading this novel was pure fun with just enough meat in the story to keep me happy. In fact it was a refreshing break from all those thick tomes and challenging worldviews I have been plowing through since January in preparation for the Tournament of Books.
Robin Sloan does challenge a current worldview: is the rapid takeover of internet and computing technology ruining the world for book lovers and book readers?
When Clay Jannon, young web designer, loses his job in the Silicone Valley economic meltdown, he gets himself hired at Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore only to find that in addition to his paltry wage he has gone through a portal. The bookstore has just a few odd customers who arrive during his graveyard shift. They don't buy books; they "check out" obscure volumes from the shelves of books that Clay has been forbidden to read.
Everyone (except possibly Mr Penumbra) knows when you tell a person in his early 20s that something is forbidden, he will look at it. Clay does and falls into a secret society searching for the key to immortality.
Besides being savvy in all things concerning digital marketing, Clay has equally cool friends doing equally modern things. Together they invade Mr Penumbra's world, run up against an evil cult-like leader, and do their best to force a singularity moment.
Somehow the author pulls off a feat that has crossed genres and age groups. His book appeals to reading groups, fantasy geeks, as well as the iPod and Google generation. What do you know? We all like books and bookstores and story telling. We are all human!
I'm not saying this will happen for everyone who reads Mr Penumbra, but I had a revelation. Yes, the internet and Google and handheld devices can distract us, can invade our privacy, can contain false information, and turn us into victims of sophisticated marketing techniques, but you know what? This is the world we live in now and it is still up to each of us to decide how to use these tools. For fun, for profit, for nefarious purposes, for the rapid exchange of ideas, for whatever the user decides.
Me, I joined Twitter. LOL!!
(Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is available in paperback on the shelves at Once Upon A Time Bookstore. It is also available in hardcover and eBook by order.)