“It was paper that saved me”

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

For those who love books about books with a bit of technology thrown in to spice things up, then I welcome you to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.
How it took so long for me to discover this wonderful novel is a mystery to me, but I am happy my bookseller made this recommendation.

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Franciso web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything-instead, they “check out” large obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from is variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the collision of the mysterious books in the bookstore with modern day technology that then led back an ancient mystery needing to be decoded to reveal the secrets held within the pages. Robin Sloan has masterfully created characters, both young and old that have come together to solve a mystery, centuries in the making.

Will modern technology solve the mystery?
Or does the reader need to go further back in history to find the clues to break the code?
Or is the solution something so well hidden that even the best code breakers are left empty handed and closing their laptops?

For those of us who not only live in a world of books but also have come to rely on the technology held in our hands this adventure into Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is one not to be missed.

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