This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2013 Hub Reading Challenge.
I loved Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan so much that I was telling people about it before I was even 50 pages in. The hilarity! The unexpected twists! The quirky characters! I learned stuff! Plus it glows in the dark!
In his search to find a job, Clay stumbles into a bookstore and lands in a world of dusty mystery. Clay attempts to understand the mystery of the 24-Hour Bookstore using the technological tools with which he is most familiar, which only lead him to more questions. His attempts to unravel the mystery, which has persisted for hundreds of years, also results in backlash from those who have been struggling doggedly while sticking to traditional methods of solving the Founder’s Puzzle. However, Clay and his companions persist in the face of adversity, but you will have to read the book to see what they discover.
This book spoke to me as both a lover of books and technology. Today we often see technology as the solution to everything, as Clay and his friends do in their successive attempts to decode, visualize, and hack the solution to their puzzle. I feel in this case, the persistence of the book itself, in multiple forms, held the heart of the story.
While the references to contemporary technologies and brands helped me to connect to the context of the book, I really don’t think that they will hamper the book’s appeal to future generations as much as others seem to think. One of the most interesting elements of the book to me, the Gerritszoon typeface, and the story behind it, seemed like it just had to be drawn from real life. I had to look it up. But no. If I can be so interested in a fictional typeface and its history, it seems to me that the reader of the future can also be drawn along through this adventure, regardless of the obsolescence of the real technology mentioned. Maybe I’ll give it to a teenager in 15 years and see what happens.
— Amy Wheatley