Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Ironically, I bought this at Powell’s.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore takes place near City Lights; I think it might be a fictionalized version of it. The locations and people in this novel are described lovingly and with uncanny accuracy. It’s almost as good for immersing yourself as strolling through the area.

Graphic designer protagonist Clay Jannon finds himself working in said bookstore, a tall building in which the shelves extend to the very top and the books are ancient, encoded, and off-limits for him to read. Unable to stop his curiosity, Clay begins to pick apart the code, with help from slightly surreal but recognizable locals: the loaded tech imaging specialist dedicated to accuracy, the neat-freak perfectionist roommate and the sloppy artist roommate who quickly wind up together, the Googler.

The code-cracking plot is about as airtight as they get. Sloan throws in what feel like a few red herrings, but they all resolve in surprising, effective, and ultimately necessary ways. There is not a single word wasted or out of place. I actively seek this kind of craftsmanship in books; happily, this one fits this site’s theme, but I would definitely recommended it regardless.

Show Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore some love for a feeling like a long walk down Broadway.

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