Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

mr_penumbras_24_hour_bookstoreOkay, seriously.  Was I the only guy growing up in the ’80s and ’90s who wasn’t playing Dungeons and Dragons?  Seriously?!?!?!?!?!?!  Other than that…

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is the most fun I’ve had with a book in a long time.  Pure fun from start to finish.  A bibliophile’s dream come true.  I loved it!

I hate the term “easy read,” and don’t think it’s any kind of compliment (though I’m sure I’ve been guilty of using the term in describing books), but this book was extremely easy to read.  Not because it was overly simple, lacking plot or depth in its characters.  It was easy because it was fun and imaginative and full of the awe and wonder that those of us who love books ascribe to reading and learning and mystery and books and old book stores.  Who hasn’t fantasized about working in a bookstore?  Who hasn’t fantasized about sharing her love of books with everyone?  Who hasn’t dreamed of solving a mystery?  Or belonging to a secret society?

The book also deals, cleverly but not pedantically, with the interplay between books and technology.  Sloan envisions a modern world, not full of doom and gloom, but where readers and seekers and lovers of information can coexist in harmony and mutually appreciative bliss.  I like this.  Very much.  I often find myself falling in the crotchety, change-fearing group, running around like Chicken Little screaming that the novel is dead, readers are dead, the robots and reality television are taking over!  (I actually still believe this to some degree; Sloan has not assuaged all my fears just yet).  But he proposes that maybe kids these days, with their new-fangled contraptions and tech savvy and e-readers aren’t right or wrong, but simply different.  And that’s okay.  Everything is going to be okay.

I got a kick out of the romance.  Got a kick out of the nerdiness of it.    The part where he describes his limbic system and drunk feeling with even the most casual hint of contact with a beautiful, brainy girl.  Classic!

I also identified with Clay, the “hero” if you can call him that, struggling to find meaning and purpose in a technological world he is intrigued by but not adept at or even particularly interested in finding a productive place in (that sentence was awful; so be it).  Like Clay, you could stop me at the train station and talk me into anything (you’ll have to read the book to get the complete context, but this part spoke to me more than any other part of the book).

At times, the book did come close to getting a little bit too “magicky” for me.  Almost.  Like I said, I didn’t play D&D, and I don’t particularly dig on fantasy, but it stayed just enough this side of the line without going over.  And while it wasn’t pedantic, it came close, and exhibited a little bit too much love for the tech side for my personal taste.  Don’t get me wrong, I love and use the internet just like everybody else.  But I do love the smell and feel of actual books.  I can’t stand e-readers.  I love Barnes & Noble, but if there ever comes a day when there are no more independent bookstores, I will mourn that loss.  Newer and faster and “tech-ier” is not always better.

If you need something fresh and fun, if you are feeling down, if you are stuck in a reading rut, pick up a copy of Sloan’s book.  You’ll be glad you did.  It’s like chicken soup for the book lover’s soul!


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