Review – Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Cover of Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin SloanMr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan

You’d think this book would be one about sheer love of books, being set in a bookstore. Like, say, The Collected Works of A.J. Fikrywhich has a similar setting (persnickety little bookshop) but a vastly more personal plot. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookshop is much more of a paean to technology: the wonders of ereaders, ebooks, writing code, visualising stuff using simulations, and most of all, Google. You can kinda tell why people accuse this book of being a shill for Google: almost every chapter mentions it; the Google characters are so cool and quirky; Google is run in such an interesting way, is in such a cool building, etc, etc.

Then again, the characterisation of the main Google character isn’t exactly appealing. She’s a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and when things don’t go her way, she blames the main character for it. You’re half the reason he even went through with trying to decode this massive conspiracy, girl; it’s you that decided to commit resources, you that insisted the end would be worth it. I really wasn’t impressed with her. A lot of it seemed to be trying too hard: Mr Penumbra, for example, is too much of a twinkly old man.

It’s fun enough, but I didn’t take it very seriously or get very absorbed in it. I’ve read plenty of conspiracy stories of this sort, and though in a way it doesn’t take itself too seriously on that front, I just wasn’t caught up by it. I did sort of anticipate the ultimate solution, if not how to come to that solution.

I found it particularly funny that I was reading this book on a Kobo when I got to the bit where it disses Kobos.

Rating: 3/5

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