I can’t remember how I heard of a new book called Mr Penumbra‘s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, described as a modern day literary mystery. But I heard about it before it was available, reserved it at the library and joined a queue of other computer savvy pre-reservers, which was only fitting given the marriage of physical books and technology in the book.
Meanwhile, I Google-stalked Mr. Sloan and found his delightfully minimalistic website with a great short story of the fable persuasion.
Finally, the long anticipated book arrived at the library and I was a goner from the first chapter.
The writing is just like his website, featuring judicious use of evocative language. The protagonist, Clay, a newly redundant young man, not long out of university ends up working at an old bookstore in a strange part of San Francisco. The description of the bookstore was delicious; being a bookstore lover who recently watched Funny Face (Audrey Hepburn), the sliding ladder reaching up floors tickled me.
The writing is infused with a firm sense of sight, smell & touch; Sloan creates scenes with the sparsest, most beautiful descriptions.
Combining a reverence for books and the stories they transmit, Google, Googlers and much talk of computer code was an ideal way to capture my attention. Mr. Penumbra and his customers are delightfully eccentric and exactly how I would imagine members of a literary cult to be.
Ultimately, the literary mystery was beautifully plotted, though entirely guessable. But imagine if Google actually was working on life-prolonging technologies and held the key for 500-year-old literary mysteries?