Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour BookstorePosted: May 1, 2014 | |
If I have to describe this using books I’ve read, I would say it’s Cory Doctorov’s Little Brother meets Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind. That may sound weird, but considering this book is about a group of nerds using 21st century technology to uncover the truth behind a centuries-old book cult, that’s the closest comparison I can find for it.
The beginning of the book is awesome. It starts when Clay, our narrator, loses his job as a web designer due to the recession, so he applies for a job as a night clerk at a 24-hour bookstore just to have something to do. His interest is soon piqued by the store’s strange clientele, and using his skills (or, rather, borrowing his friends’ skills) to look into it, Clay gets much more than he expected.
The thing is, this secret of the bookstore only takes up a third of the book. Once this secret is uncovered, the story gets a bit less awesome. There is no sense of urgency anymore. This is unlike in Little Brother where the characters have to fight for their privacy and even their lives, or in The Shadow of the Wind where the main secret also threatens a lot of lives. Here, the worst thing that can happen if Clay and his friends fail in their quest is, to avoid spoiling it, disappointment. That’s it. Some people may lose their legacy, but nothing worse will happen. And that’s my biggest problem with this book: the mystery is cool, but the stakes are not high enough, so as you read on, you find it harder and harder to care. I’m not saying lives have to be endangered for me to care, but the characters need to have more to lose or gain than this.
Still, it’s a really good book, and a quick read, so definitely check it out if you’re a bookworm like me (and I assume you are, otherwise what are you doing reading a book review?)
There are actually several outfits described in the book, from the blue striped shirt + gray cardigan combo worn by Mr. Penumbra himself, to the red graphic T-shirt that Clay’s love interest always wears, but in the end I decided to go with something less literal and more interpretive, something a nerdy, bookish hipster would wear – of course, that means my book necklace and nerd’s glasses (white sneakers would’ve been perfect, but I always hesitate to buy a pair because I know I won’t be able to keep them clean.)
Shirt: local shop, Jeans: Calvin Klein, Necklace: self-made