Clay Jannon quits his job as a web designer for a bagel shop and takes a job in Mr.Penumbra's mysterious 24-hour bookstore, notable not only for its vast collection of unknown and unreadable books but by the paucity and weirdness of its customers. Clay soon finds the shop is a front for some sort of book-based cult and procedes to crack its code.
Set in contemporary San Francisco, a world where characters talk seriously about The Singularity (the emergence of superintelligence through technology) and are nostalgic for the early models of Kindle, this is the sort of territory that Douglas Coupland has satirised so effectively in books like Microserfs and JPod. Unfortunately, Sloan lacks Coupland's wit and intelligence; what we get is a very lightweight but pleasantly engaging adventure tale. Characters are super-thin and a breathless chirpyness, where nothing really bad happens and everyone seems uncritically in awe of the power of Google, permeates the book. The conclusion not so much disappoints as underlines the banality of the whole venture.
Jannon is an economical writer who is reasonably good at getting the reader to turn the page, but for a story that revolves around the appeal and magic of books, this is a surprisingly insubstantial example.
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