Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"The pulse of the post-strip-club shopping crowd"

I took the opportunity this past summer to take my kids here. Rather than finding it intriguing, they were spooked. I have not doubts they would have found Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore equally spooky.

Clay, an out of work web designer, begins working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s. Of his job search he says, “At first I had insisted I would only work at a company with a mission that I believed in…After that I decided it just couldn’t be evil. Now I was carefully delineating my personal definition of evil.” Eventually it is not evil but boredom that drives Clay to begin investigating the customers. Rather than buy books, these characters check out titles from the mysterious multistoried collection in the back of the store. He goes through the log of book loans and maps the patterns of their borrowing. In doing so, he begins unraveling the mystery in weeks that most customers have spent lifetimes solving.  

Sloan manages, in the course of these events, to bring a little romance into Clay’s life. Clay falls in love with a Googler who attempts to help him to crack the mysterious code. “Books: boring. Codes: awesome. These are the people who are running the Internet.” But ultimately the romance fails since he and his other friends have a more romantic view of the world: “I have waited my whole life to walk through a secret passage built into a bookshelf.”

I shudder to think which side my kids would choose.