Customer Review

45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Sometimes I feel more like a night watchman than a clerk.", 4 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Hardcover)
From the first pages to the last, this refreshing, original, imaginative, thoughtful - and often humorous - debut novel kept me glued to the chair, completely charmed by the novel's style, an unusual mix of ephemera and cutting edge computer science. I was totally captivated - not just for the excitement of the story itself, but for the ideas it presents and the hints it gives of the future of writing itself. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore may be every serious reader's fantasy, a novel in which an innocent and unsuspecting person takes a night job at a bookstore where he inhabits the world of ancient manuscripts and ancient typefaces.

When Clay Jannon gets hired to work nights in a tiny, but very tall bookstore, he discovers that it is packed with what he calls "the Waybacklist" of ancient, esoteric books, most of them hand-made. He quickly learns that his few customers always arrive carrying one old book which they want to exchange for a different book from the Waybacklist. When they make the exchange, Clay must record each transaction into an old ledger, including the time, the customer's appearance, his state of mind, how he asks for the book, how he receives it, and whether he is injured. On slow nights, Clay amuses himself by creating a computerized model of the bookstore in 3D, using a program of "data visualization." Identifying each of his customers by a different color in this 3D model, he creates a line for each, and when he begins to see a pattern of overlapping colors, he is stunned, convinced that the customers and Penumbra himself are members of a secret cult.

With two computer geek friends, Clay sets out on a quest to learn the carefully kept secrets of the bookstore, using some of Google's cutting edge computer programs and many different kinds of computer languages. Knowledge of the past, as seen in the "Waybacklist" in Penumbra's store, in libraries, and in archives around the world may be interpreted in completely new ways, with new insights for the future, when the awe-inspiring magic of computer programming is applied to them, an interesting take on an old theme.

The mysteries of the bookstore come to life and keep on coming for the next three hundred engrossing pages, carrying the reader along for a wild ride. Do not think, however, that this is a "wizardy" kind of novel with magic and spells - unless you believe that the computer is magic - for this novel is also a kind of homage to the wonders of the computer and the new knowledge it can unlock for those who seek it. Despite all the seemingly arcane languages, computer or otherwise, however, the true emphasis of the novel is on people, and that is where the book's overwhelming charm lies. The characters are young and enthusiastic, and readers will identify with their search for knowledge and connection, even to the point at which they question the very nature of life and death. Even more importantly for readers, the author's own ability to see humor as a very real part of existence is refreshing and life-affirming. Captivating and fun to read, this novel, with all its stimulating detail and its unique twists and turns of plot, left me breathless - and smiling.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Oct 2012 11:28:27 BDT
Mr. D. Head. says:
What a jolly good review, i was thinking of buying the book and after reading the review i am going to buy the book.

Thank you Mary.

ATB Damian216 x

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Oct 2012 18:50:49 BDT
Mary Whipple says:
Hi, Mr. Owen. I sincerely hope that you enjoy this novel as much as I did! It's tied for first place among my Favorites for 2012 on my website. (It shares that rank with THE COWARD'S TALE by Vanessa Gebbie.) Best, Mary
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Review Details

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4.2 out of 5 stars (200 customer reviews)
5 star:
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4 star:
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Reviewer

Mary Whipple
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   

Location: New England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 118