Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

By: Robin Sloane

Rating: 3 stars

Who Should Read This Book: Anyone who has a love for technology and what it means for the world of books. The author plays with the relationship of discovery through the advances in technology and the written word in book form.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
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.

My Thoughts:
My expectations for this book were extremely high. When I read the synopsis for this book on Goodreads I waited on pins and needles to get this from my local library (it's still in hardcover and I'm a baller on a budget) and jump right in. I should also inform you that I am prone to reading too many book reviews before I choose to actually dive into a book, but for some odd reason this time around I did not take that route. I should have. The book was enjoyable enough, and there were definitely some twists and turns that I was not expecting, but overall it fell flat for me. It is hard for me to really explain what went wrong for me in the book without giving away too much of the plot line, but a couple of things that jumped out of me I feel like I can explain without ruining it for others.

One thing I found lacking was character development. The author included a lot of characters that had small parts, but I found myself getting confused on who was who when an individual would reappear. Furthermore, this book made me feel technologically inadequate. Of course, I knew this before I even opened the book, but as I ventured further into the storyline I realized how little I actually knew. This kind of withdrew me from the story because that sort of topic does not hold much interest for me. At one point I almost felt betrayed by how the synopsis portrayed the book. It sounded mystical, which in some ways it definitely came across that way, but the overall theme had me guessing realistically how everything was going to go down in the end. And for the most part, I was correct, which can be disappointing.

With this being said though, as I stated earlier, there were definitely some aspects of the story I really enjoyed. I absolutely loved the protagonist of this adventure. Unlike my belief that some of the smaller characters were lacking in development, I felt the opposite for Clay. He is extremely likable and his curiousness is mutually combined with his compassion for others' differences. He was constantly fighting for Mr. Penumbra and wouldn't give up attempting to help him solve his greatest obstacle. This likability showed through Clay's close friends in the book. They were willing to help him out in all of his endeavors and were supportive, for the most part, with his crazy antics. Secondly, as much as I was not impressed with the entire plot of the story, I give the author kudos for trying to write something different. I can't knock the book in this sense because it really is unlike a lot of books that are being written right now. I fear though that the book may get outdated sooner than later though because of the technology aspect of the book. In a couple of years what was futuristic and ahead of the times will probably be old news. 

Overall, the book was enjoyable, it just didn't leave me with that jaw dropping, I wish I wasn't done, when is it appropriate for me to read this again, feeling. It is a light, fast read though so I wouldn't write the book off. Maybe I just put my hope up too high. Others have loved and raved about this book, so it is highly possible I built this amazing picture up in my head, only to be disappointed in the end.

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