Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Robin Sloan

Well written, fun, fascinating and yet disappointing.

I read the book cover to cover in 8 days. I was expecting magical realism. The book implied a TARDIS-like bookstore. The mystery seemed huge and sinister. I loved the elements of history, the utter love Sloan has of books, and the acceptance of technology. I loved that Kat seemed like a real person she had her own life, her own ambitions, she was intelligent, skilled, but not perfect.

Every character was real. There seemed to be almost no stock characters. Even Deckle who seems so minor has a life and ambition all his own.

So why disappointing. At the end of the story, it all seemed so banal. I expected more. Repeatedly the book seems to be building to something sinister that never comes.

My biggest criticism of the book otherwise is the portrayal of Google. The company plays a major role in the second half of the novel. The portrayal is bizarre. It makes us sound more like elves in Lothlorien than a company in Mountain View. On one hand: I'm sure that is what outsiders think; on the other hand: do some research beyond what tech journalists say.

The epilogue of the book feels like an afterthought and fake. I don't really believe that was what happened in the end and I feel like Jannon is lying to us.

I wish I had more to say but the story is pretty short and a very fast read. In the end the message is, well, kind of mundane further adding to the disappointment.

I think I'll have to read some real magical realism now.


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