Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore"

Ingredients pretty much guaranteed to get me to read a book: a mysterious secret society of bibliophiles, a curious bookstore, a gorgeous subterranean reading room, secret codes, the intersection of technology and the world of books, Aldus Manutius. Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (FSG, 2012) has all those bases covered and more. Sloan, who describes himself as a "media inventor," and who, like many of us, is interested in both books and computers and how the two can play together, has crafted a fun, quest-type story that's sure to find a wide audience.

 Yes, the plot may be a little bit boilerplate, and yes, some of the characters aren't exactly drawn in any great depth. But Sloan's fascination with books and their makers, and how technology is (and is not) reshaping the biblioverse comes through loud and clear. His quick wit and ability to slip with ease from describing programming languages to typography to data visualization make this book thoroughly enjoyable. I don't want to give away much of the plot: just go read it.

 The book itself is also a lovely object, designed by Abby Kagan with a glow-in-the-dark dust jacket by Rodrigo Corral.