Genre: Fiction, Intrigue, Eclectic Bookstores

Notes: 26/50 Books. This is totally a book for bibliophiles.

Review: I can’t gush over this book enough.  It combines secret societies, mystery, and old dusty bookstores into one hell of a book. People who don’t love books like I do might not understand this, but books are magical.  Sloan understands the magic of books and the secret to immortality locked away in novels (not too much of a spoiler, go cry about it.)

Basically, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hr bookstore operates in San Francisco and stays open around the clock.  (What bookstore stays open 24/7? I must find one!  Although it would probably be a front for a drug or prostitution ring.) Our protagonist, Clay Jannon, works in this interesting bookstore but finds it rather odd that Mr. Penumbra doesn’t stock almost any normal books.  He stocks almost exclusively stocks books in code. Which an assortment of weird people dash into the store in varying states of disarray to buy. You see, these “believers” if you will, believe that the secret to immortality lies within the code if they can only crack it. Not like, I will write a book and live forever Shakespeare immortality, but for real I will never die immortality.  They’re a strange but mostly likeable bunch.

The true coolness of the story (that might make it feel dated in ten years unfortunately) is the marriage of old technology (books) with new technology (Google).  The union of the two different technologies shows how much literature, knowledge, and the way people receive it has changed. Technology and computers and kindle don’t replace literature, but work with it.  In the novel, Google employs their best cryptographers to crack the code in Mr. Penumbra’s books.  It remains elusive.  When I read that, it made me happy because it seemed like too much of an easy answer.  I mean, here are these people devoting their lives to cracking this code and learning as much as possible and for a computer to crack it in an afternoon is almost sacrilege. It felt to me like computers are only worth the person controlling them, they are only a tool. When I say this is a book for bibliophiles, I don’t mean people who have a stick up their butt and won’t even consider any other mediums for literature (Audiobooks, e-books, etc).  I mean people who simply enjoy the written word and a good turn of phrase.  I mean people who want to read every book in the world and dive into a novel and never come up for air.  I mean the people who’ve dreamed about escaping to Hogwarts or Narnia or the Shire. Sloan utilizes every literature medium in his story and paints a more optimistic picture for the future of books and bookstores because there will always be people searching for knowledge and the meaning of life between their pages.

“After that, the book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind. But I hope you will remember this:
A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.” – Robin Sloan

Bottom Line: Definitely worth the read!  One of the most interesting, best, and clever books I’ve read this year. It’s the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.

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