26 February 2019

It's OK: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

This is the kind of book that theoretically has everything to entice readers into buying it. The title alone sounds enchanting. A 24-hour bookstore? Yes, please! Sign me up! Said every book nerd EVER. Unfortunately though all the right ingredients does not immediately make a good book. 

Let’s start with the characters. The protagonist, Clay, is quite forgettable. Maybe he was intentionally made bland because everyone around him had more personality. His nerdy friends and his nerdy girlfriend and his nerdy roommates all sound more vibrant. It’s like they’re hopped up on uppers all the time with how excited they get with their little projects and quests. Even the older customers of the bookstore sounded more interesting. Then again, maybe they were like that on purpose. They’re supposed to sound quirky. Perhaps Clay is plain because he’s the readers’ eyes into the world of weird and wonder... okay I am giving him too much credit. My point is this book has two kinds of characters: it’s either they’re too plain or too vibrant. Polar opposites in characters is okay but it wasn’t really enough for me to rate higher. It wasn’t necessarily a plus. 

I don’t have much to say about the technical side writing. There were sentences that seemed choppy or narration that was too straightforward that it made the scene boring. But I could look past all that. What I mostly had a problem with was how this book turned out to be a huge advertisement for Google and Amazon. I don’t appreciate short ad placements in movies and I definitely don’t like when it’s very present in the entirety of a book. What would this story be if Google and Amazon didn’t exist? The book also makes references to a lot of present day things, other than Google, that I couldn’t get onboard with. Mentioning the use of Facebook and Kindle, for example, just irks me because it robs the story of being timelessness. The author might have deliberately wanted to put a time stamp on his story, I don’t know. But reading a book with so many references wasn’t the least bit enjoyable for me. 

All in all an okay book. I didn’t hate it but I also don’t like it enough to recommend it. The ending was predictable. The characters will grow on you somehow. I couldn’t care less about the others, to be honest, but Mr. Penumbra was quite adorable. I would’ve liked seeing him get a different, perhaps a more magical ending. Everyone else can go back to their normal mundane lives. They did nothing to keep me hooked.

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