I had a vague recollection that “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” was on my to-read list, so I picked it up at the library without expecting too much. I’m thankful that I did, as by the time I’d finished the first few chapters, I was completely in love with it.
“Penumbra” is a quest story for a modern generation. It explores the fascinating intersection between physical and digital knowledge in a way that is nothing less than joyful. In fact, one of the things that I adored most about it was that it is an emphatically cheerful text. This is not a book for people who fear the Singularity, or who bemoan the fact that e-books are ruining the industry and that nothing can possibly compare. This is a book for people who don’t care what form their books come in as long as there are books. For twenty-somethings who devoured fantasy novels as a kid and have spent their ENTIRE LIVES waiting to step through a magic door and begin an adventure.
Clay is a graphic designer with an underdeveloped portfolio and no real world skills– until the day he takes a job at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Like every bookstore of quality, it is full of mysteries, with a decidedly odd collection of customers. Like all of us who grew up on D&D and Tolkien, Harry Potter and Heinlein, Clay is determined to figure out what’s Really Going On. To do so, he’ll use all the resources at his disposal; after all, every quest needs a wizard, a warrior, and a rogue. He’ll find the place where books meet e-books, where brilliance and innovation go hand in hand with tradition.
There’s such an incredible sense of wonder, here- a joy that transcends arguments over physical vs. digital. I would offer this to people who love their Kindles, and to people who are afraid to love them. It’s all going to be okay; we can meet in the middle.