Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore Review

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


Hey, you guys, this book, it totally glows in the dark. Scared the ever-loving crap out of me when I went to bed with it on my nightstand. It's a good thing it's not a scary book, otherwise it would have gone straight out the window and I'd have slept with the lights on for a month. Also, they've really improved on glow-in-the-dark technology since I was a child. Anywho, that's probably one of the most redeeming features of this book, so let's get into it, shall we?

Clay Jannon is an art school grad which means he's underemployed. After the new bagel company he worked for, so aptly named NewBagel, went under, he finds the only job he can as the overnight clerk at a mysterious 24-bookstore. The bookstore's regulars seem to consist of a few strange people who arrive at all hours, urgently demanding volumes from the tall shelves in the back that appear to be written in some kind of code.

Okay, so this book wasn't terrible, but there were definitely a few things that I take issue with. For one thing everything felt just so very, very contrived. Every event that happened is so perfectly convenient and it felt like there were hardly any real problems at all. The plot seemed lacking in that you've got this secret society and an ages-old code...and yet nothing's really at stake. The most intimidating thing the "antagonist" (for lack of a better word) seems capable of is a menacing phone call from three thousand miles away, and the cost of failure is...ennui. And while it doesn't seem possible that this story could get any more set-up, the ending make little sense, happens way too conveniently, isn't really explained, and happens so fast--like Sloan was running out of time and had to slap something really quick together.

The whole book felt like it was trying to be whimsical, and looking at the plot summary definitely seems like it could have been--that's why I picked it up. But the writing is very bare-bones "I did this. Then this happened. We looked over there." There's nothing clever about the prose or the story (because if it ain't got wit, it ain't got whimsy). Everything all just comes down to technology and ooo! This gizmo is capable of this! Problem solved! Hooray!  And the whole thing about a company that specializes in the animation of boobs? I seemed like it was supposed to come off quirky and cute, but really, that's just creepy.

It's supposed to be an adult book, but the writing level and the plot complexity pegs it at a much more juvenile level. Although, to say that would even be an insult to juvenile literature because A Wrinkle in Time is also  juv lit and it's brilliant. 

This was supposed to be my break from all the depressing books I've been reading this year so far, but I'd prefer sad and well-written to this. 

Actually, now that I've written all that out, this book was kind of terrible.

2/5 Fancies.

Read Instead: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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