MR. PENUMBRA’S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE
by Robin Sloan
Ms. Hen came to read this book because it is a featured book in her town’s library and there are events that surround it, such as discussions, film screenings, dinners and other fun things. There were about forty copies at her local library and they were all out! Ms. Hen thought that it was exciting that people in her town were actually reading a book, and they were reading the same book, so she went to a library in the big city nearby and checked it out.
At first Ms. Hen liked the book because she really wanted to like it. But then she got into it and she just wanted it to be over. It wasn’t the plot or the characters; it was the writing. The writing is juvenile, and Ms. Hen is a Hen with high standards. It’s a plot driven novel, and she continued to read it because she wanted to find out what happened at the end, which is the purpose of a plot driven novel.
The protagonist is Clay, a young man who gets laid off from his job doing marketing for a bagel company, and in desperation, applies for a job and gets hired at Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore doing the overnight shift. A lot of strange people come into the store in the middle of the night and check out books from the Wayback List, which is a type of library. Mr. Penumbra tells him not to look at those books under any circumstances. Of course Clay does, and finds the books are in a type of code.
What ensues is a type of adventure surrounding books, which includes employees at Google, a secret underground library in New York, and a robotic storage facility in Nevada. The story is not anything revolutionary, but it does pose some good questions about the future of books, old knowledge, robots and where the human race will be in one or two thousand years.
When Ms. Hen started reading this novel, it reminded her of THE ABORTION by Richard Brautigan, and she thought they would be similar, but they were not. That novel is about a strange library where people bring in self-written books, which are the only copy in existence. There was also a touch of THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. Ms. Hen thought MR. PENUMBRA’S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE could be considered Harry Potter for 25 years olds who don’t know much about literature.
Ms. Hen wonders how such a large amount of books like this could be published. It’s true that not many people read these days, but with books like this, it’s a wonder where the future of the written word is headed. Ms. Hen is considering going to one of two of these events to see who these people are in her town who have all read this book and to hear what they have to say. Hopefully there is at least one person who has standards as high as Ms. Hen’s. There must be someone in this town who knows quality as well as she.