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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore - MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE was a book that came recommended by so many people – bloggers, critics, that guy at the bookstore who was a little creepy. It’s a novel of books, of technology, of the world around us. But if it has all my favorite things, why did I fail to connect with it?A LOVE AFFAIR WITH GOOGLEThis book, when all is said and done, boils down to one simple fact – it comes off as a love note to Google. More so than books, than Kindles, than San Francisco, it’s an ode to the wonder that is Google. We follow Clay, a recently laid off graphic designer/web guru who somehow finds himself a job at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore as the overnight clerk. Except at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, the latest Grisham isn’t the main attraction, not when there is shelf after shelf of inexplicable titles lining the walls with indecipherable writing inside.But as I said, this book is not about books as much as it is about Google and what Google can do if you know someone who works at Google. Oh, and it’s also a love affair with the programming language Ruby, except seeing as how I have a basic understanding of Ruby, I don’t think that Ruby could ever be used for anything that Clay uses it for.THE DIGITAL AGE COMPANION TO THE NIGHT CIRCUSIn my mind, MR. PENUMBRA recalls another book that I actually quite liked more than I liked this one – THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern. THE NIGHT CIRCUS was a beautiful book, but it really didn’t have much of a plot. MR. PENUMBRA felt the same way to me for a long while – it was a book about things without actually being about something. The descriptions were amazing, but it simply masked the fact that the plot didn’t show up until more than halfway into the book, and even then it seemed like mostly a way to advertise the power of Google and a Kindle.THE NIGHT CIRCUS succeeded to the extent it did thanks to the beauty of the writing. MR. PENUMBRA is not as successful when it rests on the laurels of its prose. But when I found parts I liked, I REALLY liked them. Descriptions of the bookstore, for instance, or of the headquarters for the secret organization to which Mr. Penumbra (or titular but not starring character) belongs, were intricate and well-crafted. THE MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL STRIKES AGAINIt’s been a few weeks since I finished this book. I know, I know, I am evil here. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the love interest, but I do remember one thing clearly – the manic pixie dream girl is out in force. I don’t think she was supposed to look anything like Zooey Deschanel, but every time she appeared on the screen of my Kindle, I just saw her as clear as day. But other than her, I liked the characters well enough. Clay was dull and boring most of the time (and eerily like me otherwise), but Mr. Penumbra was adorable. Adorably might not be the right word to use, but he was the perfect book-loving grandfather-like figure to me, and by far my favorite character of the bunch. GOOGLE SAVES THE DAYThe problem I had with MR. PENUMBRA was that it just didn’t seem to add up. You’re probably saying, “Megan, you’re giving this book three stars. That’s a good review!” It might seem like I hated this book, but in actuality, I liked it to an extent. It was creative and unique. The cover glows in the dark so I hear! I always tell my mother, “When I publish a book, I want the cover to be so blindingly glow in the dark that you stare at it while you’re going to sleep.”I just wish this book hadn’t been so much about Google. Maybe then – and maybe if it actually had a plot – it would be my new favorite book ever. But alas, BRAVE NEW WORLD retains its title and MR. PENUMBRA will probably be forgotten in a few weeks.VERDICT: An ultimately forgettable but unique story of books, technology, and manic pixie dream girls, MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE was definitely interesting. I’ll give it that.