Post by Mark T. Locker.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane.
I’ve been reading a disproportionate number of grown-up books these day. That’s not a bad thing; I’m just so accustomed to picture books and young adult literature! I’d been told of this book a couple years ago, but I’m pretty slow on the draw. I’d say this book is worth a read. Clay Jannon was a silicon valley graphic designer who was among the many victims of the Great Recession. After a lengthy unemployment, he happens across a San Francisco bookstore that is hiring for the night shift. It is immediately apparent that Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is not your typical bookstore. For one thing, most of the selection is a series of mysterious books which Jannon is forbidden to even look at. They take up a huge, 3-story shelf. The customers who request these books are eccentric, often disheveled, and frantic for the next edition. Jannon is required to record every detail of his encounters in the old leather-bound log books. When coaxed by a friend, he takes a look at one of the books and discovers it’s an entire volume written in code. As his curiosity deepens, he begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding this strange bookstore and its mysterious owner.
It’s a very interesting read, though the dialogues about technology versus old knowledge are a little overdone; one would almost think that Google paid a sum to have their products featured so prominently. Also, despite being somewhat ordinary in his skill set, the narrator has only incredible people in his life: the Google programmer; the skilled sculptor who works at ILM; the millionaire digital rendering master. It’s all just a little too convenient. The other half of the story, however, addresses the life of Aldus Manutius, an influential 16th-century printer and publisher, whose legacy surrounds the mysteries of the bookstore. That bit was a lot of fun. Overall it’s an intriguing story about old and new and an inquiry into if and how modern technology and the much-loved print medium might coexist.
Also: the cover glows in the dark! You can’t discover THAT in a digital format!