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

Part fantasy, part
adventure, and total love letter to both old-fashioned typography as well as to
modern-day Google (I think the company’s name is mentioned more times than even
Penumbra’s), this book is an interesting and provocative read that raises a lot
of questions about technology’s impact on humanity and about immortality.

The main character, Clay
Jannon, is a recent art school graduate. He’s an even more recent laid-off web
designer in San Francisco, which is why he takes the graveyard shift at Mr.
Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a shop that’s odd in countless ways. Its shape is
long, narrow, and tall; its customers are few and eccentric; its stock features
books written in code; and its owner—Penumbra—tells Clay, “Prior experience in
the book trade is of little use to you here.”

Although you meet a lot of Clay’s friends, roommates,
and other associates in the book, the story is plot-driven, rather than
character-driven. Everyone Clay seems to know, from his nerdy childhood friend
Neel who has become a software genius, to his new hot-looking, data-loving
crush Kat, has a skill or connection that advances the storyline. The search to
unravel the meaning behind the bookstore’s encrypted books takes Clay, Neel,
and Kat to New York City. There they find a black-robed cult of secret scholars
also looking to crack the secret language of the books in Penumbra’s store.
It’s at this point the story becomes an intriguing cross between Harry Potter
and The Da Vinci Code. But this geek fantasy ends back in San Francisco, where
Clay learns that the true key to everything that’s important is friendship.

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