I’ve once seen a list of recommended books that are hilarious, guaranteed to have us laughing. “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore“ definitely falls under the hilarious category. Of course, it wasn’t as if I rolled on the floor laughing, but the book promises quite a bit of chuckles! Robin Sloan is talented in making metaphoric connections between random things – the one that left an especially big impression on me being the following line: …the emotive equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND. You read it, you get it, you laugh.
“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore“ is written in a nonchalant style, not trying to overwhelm the readers by the impressive traits such as novelty or graveness. This was the part that made me, as a reader, feel comfortable follow the story easily. (I know, of course, that this kind of fictions are perceived by some avid readers as too easy and too un-challenging, but I find that they play a big role in the bigger society of readers.)
Besides, the descriptions of places in particular were almost graphic so that I have quite a clear image of the bookstore, the Reading Room and the Con U. Though, honestly, I personally believe that I have seen quite a number of writers with such good writing styles, so I wouldn’t dare say that his is the best I’ve ever read.
The Story – It’s quite mind-blowing. Really original. Characters with well-established personal traits, too. Plus I thought, okay Mr. Writer, I clearly see you love books and what they hold. Books about books and bookstores are mysterious in themselves for some reasons unknown – maybe books just are? Plus a secret society? There’s no argument about the attraction. Particularly the setting about the fictional character Moffat was so intriguing.
Of course I knew that it was a fictional work from the beginning, yet I couldn’t help going ‘wait a sec, is this..? Does this really..?‘ It sounds like one of those hard-to-believe but believable stories that make it to the national teli. Even though it only provides weak realistic proof!
The only thing that I would have liked to have better was that the unraveling was short and hurried. Had it been a tad bit more slow-tempoed, the reader would have had enough time to ride out each of the surprises.
The Symbols – Towards the end of the story, I felt more and more convinced that this whole story symbolises the controversy around the so-called digital revolution.
Corvina being at the conservative end and Kat being at the young and pro-change end, the tension seems to grow ever deeper as Clay engages himself more with the Unbroken Spine. And then, at one point, it looks as if it’s tipped against Corvina, but of course Mautinus was unbreakable. The key hiding in plain sight – while we are blinded by the complexity and often imagine the most complex of the scenarios.
Doesn’t this seem familiar? Books, newspapers, journals and pretty much all of the conventional media being challenged, struggling to find a way to survive and to adapt themselves to the new landscape. Both have their own edges, yet one cannot completely beat the other in every possible way. As a reader, I believe I have the freedom of interpretation – so I would dare say it’s not only about coding and decoding. It’s just going to be this way for all new, high-tech stuff that will come along in the future.
It was a good read, and I’ve already bought the other book by Robin Sloan. I would give 4 stars out of 5, largely for the creativity and originality of the story. ★★★★