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Book Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Rating: 4/5 ⭐️

Warning: Spoilers below

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore is an amusing and intriguing tale concerning a new clerk at a strange bookstore who uncovers the mysteries of his new place of work. Clay (the clerk and main protagonist) discovers a secret society that his employer is a part of, and seeks to bring the mystery to light.

I came into contact with the title via Robin Sloan’s blog for 2019, Year of the Meteor, which I’ve adored. The assortment of links and life commentary has been wonderful all year, and I’m looking forward to Sloan’s next project.

Overall, the book flowed well and moved quickly; I’m not a very fast reader and made it through in around 5 and a half hours total, largely over the course of two days. The writing included a lot of references for a more technical crowd — or, at least, a crowd familiar with the Silicon Valley startup scene. There were a handful of mentions of Google specific technologies, as well as allusions to computing history.

However, I felt the novel was lacking in the department of having a serious antagonist, and a bit too much feeling of Deus ex machina at the end. The novel’s antagonist, Corvina, had essentially no chance of stopping the protagonists from achieving their goal. Meanwhile, when everything seemed lost after a failed attempt at code-breaking with the entirety of Google’s compute power, and the rest of the novel being largely about the protagonist’s ability to bring together his eclectic set of friends’ talents to bear on the mystery at hand, the story is resolved by Clay on his own.

A feel-good ending was somewhat ruined by the quickness of the last third of the book. But still, I was entertained the entire way, and recommend giving it a read.