Friday, March 28, 2014

MR. PENUMBRA'S 24 HOUR BOOKSTORE

What to Wear: The same thing every day, so not to waste brain cycles.
What to Drink: A red eye from Starbucks.


The guy at my local bookstore (which maintains normal hours) had seriously glowing things to say about this book, even after I was in the process of checking out, which is always a good sign. Apparently the author used to work at Twitter, this is his first novel, he's working on a second and during promotion he plans to visit said local bookstore for a reading which I will definitely attend. Because this book rocks. The story deals with OK and NK—old knowledge and new knowledge—and Sloan succeeds beautifully in conveying the benefits, and dangers, of both.

Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore centers on a shop of the same name (located on Broadway in San Francisco, fictionally), where Clay, the protagonist, gets a job after failing to find work in the failing economy. "What do you seek in these shelves?" are some of the first words spoken by the mysterious and enchanting Penumbra, and before Clay knows it he's scaling obscenely tall ladders to retrieve ancient books that he's not allowed to read for a bizarre, late-night clientele of quirky old folk. As Clay begins to unravel the mysteries of the 24-hour bookstore, he meets Kat, who works at Google. Kat is the very definition of NK, which makes her kind of a bug. Plus she's like a Google drone, and her entire life revolves around the company. Certain levels of technology obsession freak me out. Kat goes beyond that. So she bugs me. But Sloan succeeds in using her character to introduce a very modern element to what would otherwise be an OK story (as in Old Knowledge, not like, OK. The story is better than OK). Sidenote: I may have felt a little too tied to my OK-propensity when Sloan, after explaining a super complex coding process said, "If this is confusing to you, you're over 30." I'm 25 and I had no idea what the fuck he was talking about.

I'm all about magical realism. It's my jam. And Sloan's cast of characters, inventive plot and amazing storytelling abilities add a otherworldly feel to a story that could, theoretically, be grounded in reality. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is one of the best modern fantasies I've read in a long time. I can't wait for his next book.

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