Robin Sloan: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Overall I really liked Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Precisely observed details of the sort of tech culture I’m well-qualified to comment on the realism of are juxtaposed with a surreal shadow conspiracy, a dash of derring-do, and a hefty, but not overbearing, dose of the metaphysical. The novel explicitly acknowledges the influence of the likes of Murakami by including their works in the titular store, which I thought was a very appropriate touch. The novel sets up a situation that I thought would be difficult to satisfactorily resolve — a sort of is it/isn’t it puzzle where either answer seemed fraught with the risk of cliché, but I thought Sloan really pulled it off.

I do have a few picayune quibbles with the representation of Google. I see several Google employees on a regular basis, enough to know that its portrayal of the company is in important respects less accurate than in the (pretty dreadful) Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson vehicle The Internship. Being “unGoogly” is one of the harshest criticisms Google employees level at one another, and taking food home from the free cafeterias, as one of Sloan’s characters does, is almost a canonical example of “unGoogliness.” It, and a few similarly off notes, really jarred me, although it’s probably of little importance to anyone who doesn’t work there or know people who do.

Also worth mentioning: even beyond the gimmicky but fun use of phosphorescent ink, the book jacket design of the hardcover edition is astoundingly appropriate.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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