Matt Musselman's Reviews > Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
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Jan 13, 13

bookshelves: status-owned
Read in January, 2013

How to rate a book like this? My reading enjoyment was 4.5 stars, but in terms of it being a great book (with depth, re-readability, and so on) it's maybe a 3.5, so 4 will have to do as its rating.

I really loved reading this book. It's geeky, fun, energetic, and deals with all kinds of topics which really interest me: bookstores, museums, typography, cryptography, secret societies, mysteries.

However, there were some things along the way that kept it from being as good as it could have been: its relentless Google-obsessiveness (the book could seriously be used as a 200+ page ad for Google, Inc.), the way it was occasionally a little too hip in its language and technology, and lastly the kind of careless way it name-dropped specific technology. For example, it went into some detail about how the characters used Hadoop big data technology to solve a problem, and how mind-blowing that is, but in ten years' time, it will sound as dated as a book claiming relational databases will change the world. Same thing with discussions about Ruby, Google Translate, Google Streetview, etc. The author could have told the story just as well using slightly fictionalized companies, technologies, and programming languages (just like he achieved masterfully with his creation of the fictitious Gerritszoon typeface for the story), and I feel the book would have had a little more staying power in the future.

Anyway, don't let that scare you off. If you're able to suspend disbelief and ignore all the silly Google fanboyism, it's a stimulating, fun, exciting read. It's a great followup read after books like Ready Player One, Cryptonomicon, etc.
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