Serial Bookseller

Because all of life is stories.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

I’ve been looking at this at work for a long time now. Yesterday morning I stopped and bought it in between classes. A few minutes before my night class was about to start, I finished it. Now, it could probably be said that that is because the book weighs in just shy of 300 pages, so it’s not the Jordanian epic I’ve been immersed in lately. But holy hell what a 300 pages it is.

I’ll get the nitpicky bad parts out of the way first. The book is self-aware just a little bit too often. There are a lot of jokes that are made as if to say, “Haha hey! Look at me! Google! Wi-fi! Jargon! I’m cool!” And by the end of the book it runs old being told the many different ways denizens of the old world of books pronounce Google, and how many syllables they use to do it.

It’s also true that not many of the characters get massive development over the course of the novel. The people they were at the beginning is the people they were at then end. They all learn a valuable lesson, but it doesn’t seem to effect much change in…well…anyone.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way let me get this fan moment out of the way:


Alright, now that we’ve gotten over that, let me continue.

This is the book I want to write. Not the plot, not the characters, not the style of writing necessarily, but the emotion it invokes. Now maybe I felt this more than other people did because I work at a bookstore, and can apply my own experience to these characters who are so in love with literature. Then again, maybe not. Have you ever sat down in an overstuffed chair and just sank a foot deep into it? Or walked into the sun the first warm day after winter and felt yourself instantly inhale the new spring air? That’s the same feeling I get from this book. It’s like an old friend, it understands something that we don’t have to vocalize to know we both get. It understands that stupid, self-aware humor is funny so deal with it. It understands the feeling of running your hands over the spines of books crammed tightly on a shelf. It understands the smell of books and the feel of books and the convenience of eReaders. It doesn’t judge or hate you for reading a kids book in college.

It just nods politely and thinks, yep, that’s cool.

Is the book a little obvious at times? Yes.

Is it silly? Of course.

But that’s its charm.

If this review seems like it isn’t actually a review, then maybe you won’t like this book. Lord knows there are others to choose from. But if you get where I’m coming from, if you get reading just one more chapter before bed and then finishing the book four hours later, if you get a warm fuzzy feeling from just walking into a bookstore, and if you geek out about a particularly clever line of C# and the wonderful feeling that comes with FINALLY not seeing that damn error code after a 9 hour codejam, then maybe you get this book.

It probably won’t win a Pulitzer, and it probably won’t be stuck on many high school reading lists as a literary masterpiece, and it won’t be hailed as the second coming of Thomas Pynchon (Yes I know he isn’t dead). But it’s a damned entertaining read, and it hits all the right notes at all the right times. Sloan has crafted the ultimate read that is fun for fun’s sake, and still manages to grab a slice of the immortality that its characters so desperately crave. I can’t wait for his next novel. And I applaud him for showing what can be so wonderful about books better than I ever could.



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This entry was posted on March 29, 2013 by in Fiction and tagged .
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