Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

Barnes & Noble

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.
But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. 

There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. 

The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

This poor book.  It had the bad luck to be next in line after Eleanor & Park.  So even though I liked the story, my mind kept wandering back to E&P.

A lot of what happens in this book is right up my alley: Hadoop; Big Data; a bar for bibliophiles (!); and fangirling over Google (what I wouldn't give to work there!).  It's definitely a four-star read and will interest fans of Dan Brown and Cory Doctorow.

I just wish I had paid closer attention.

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