An exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore.
Like Cory Doctorow's Makers, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is filled with ideas and technology that may or may not exist yet but seem mostly plausible ... I loved diving into the world that Sloan created, both the high-tech fantasyland of Google and the ancient analog society. It's packed full of geeky allusions and wonderful characters, and is a celebration of books, whether they're made of dead trees or digits.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, dexterously tackles the intersection between old technologies and new with a novel that is part love letter to books, part technological meditation, part thrilling adventure, part requiem ... Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is eminently enjoyable, full of warmth and intelligence. Sloan balances a strong plot with philosophical questions about technology and books and the power both contain. The prose maintains an engaging pace as Clay, Mr. Penumbra and the quirky constellation of people around them try to determine what matters more — the solution to a problem or how that solution is achieved ... this novel would have been even stronger had some of that intrigue and discomfort seeped more deeply into the prose ... Instead, the book suffers from an excess of convenience — for every problem, a clever solution ... Sloan effortlessly marries new ideas with old without realizing that all too often, the cleverness overwhelms the story.
The narrative voice is what makes these opening pages so engaging: smart, hip and witty, like the shiny surface of a new iPhone. (Sloan used to work for Twitter.) If glib, the narrative is warm, too, and self-effacing, peppered with ironies ... This is a book about systems, both secret and overt, exploring codes, filing, programming and designing. Storytelling has its operating systems, too, and though the author creates a splendid opening and an acceptable resolution, he runs out of steam for the great engine system of the middle. The weakness may be in the development of character. Clay is hardly changed by his experience; and for a book making a large statement about friendship, his friends always come in and out of the story on the basis of utility rather than affection or humanity.