Shadowy Characters

This little time-burner involves a young college grad in San Francisco who gets a job at an all-night bookstore that seems to have more books and shelves than New York’s Strand. Certain preferred and important customers use the store like lending library, bringing and taking “special” books. All transactions must be logged in a secret and sacred journal that goes back years.

The MC, “Clay,” writes a program that maps all the shelves and all the books (with a 3D visualization program no less – he’s a whiz), and discerns a mysterious pattern. I can’t remember now what it was, but it’s mysterious.  Consulting the log book in conjunction with his map, he finds a grand puzzle that he must solve. Why? Because he must.

He recruits the help of a cute female executive from nearby Google and she helps him use their supercomputing capacity to crack the mystery code, which is supposed to reveal the secret of eternal life or some such. Together, they go on the hunt for that secret, and if I recall, they find it, but for the life of me, I can’t recall what it was all about, so it must not have made much of an impression.

The characters are cartoon vehicles for the ideas, which are mildly interesting. The writing is good, with often unexpected details, and the mood is convincing, the dusty old bookstore, especially.  But in the end, without compelling characters, no defined antagonist and basically a silly story, it adds up  to forgettable fluff — just what you might need on an airplane trip.

Sloan, Robin (2013). Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. London: Atlantic Books.


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