Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, by Robin Sloan

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Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore starts with a young unemployed web designer that gets hired to do the night shift at a 24-hour bookstore. That bookstore has normal books, but most people come to borrow some weird books… What is their purpose?

I had the same problem with this book as I had with The Martian. They are both good books, but their main focus is something technical that their author is passionate about and really wants to share with the world.

In The Martian that was space, chemistry and engineering. In Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookstore it is Google and programming.

Let me first make clear that my job involves daily programming. It is not like I don’t like “that kind of stuff”. Or maybe that is the problem: I was not impressed with what the author was describing. I know Google can do all these things he said they did in the book, I know you can program a website the way the main character did etc.

The book started very nice, but then the message became “Look how cool Google is! And everyone working there is not only a genius, but also very cool. And did you know that we can do all that stuff with computers now?” Yes, yes, I know we can do them. Am I supposed to be impressed?

The characters of the book had no depth, especially the main character’s friends: they existed only to help him achieve his goal, so all we learned about them was on a need-to-know basis.

Over all it is a good book, I give it three stars, but those things I mentioned above annoyed me. However, I think many people will like it. Apart from Google and computers, the book also deals with more matters: secret societies, fantasy books, art, typography… but he tries to analyze all these matters in one book, which makes it look like a non-fictional demonstration of the author’s knowledge.

 

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