Abbey's Reviews > Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
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's review
Jan 05, 2013

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction-mystery

Mild spoilers below - my overall assessment is that I liked this book very much.

I wish there were an Accession Table that listed every item in every museum, and I'd even want it to have an obsolete interface to make the searching more serendipitous. I wish that Gerritszoon typeface existed. I would read "Dragon Song Chronicles" if it existed and held coded secrets. I wish that we had a quirky old vertiginous bookstore in my hometown that was a very difficult 3-D puzzle. I wish that I could wander around a huge warehouse full of priceless museum artifacts (many of them perilously uncrated and un-bubble-wrapped) simply by showing up and having flimsy credentials. Since all these are highly improbable, this fun romp of a book will substitute nicely.

Clay Jannon tends to have very good luck and to know exactly the right people to help solve his mysteries and finance his adventures, but I'll gloss over a lot of that in order to simply enjoy a good story that is aimed squarely at bibliophiles like me. Jannon's quick and easy mastery of the Ruby programming language and the complexities of data visualization are irritating - but it's just fictional jealousy that's making me say that. A real-world consequence of reading this book is that I feel inspired to get back into Ruby on Rails. Now _that_ would be a quixotic quest, indeed.

The four stars rather than five are for leaving loose ends, some of which may have been answered in the book and I just missed them.


Why did the clerk have to describe the physical appearance of the bookstore customers?

If the final code was simple substitution, why couldn't it be broken? Substitutions are the easiest code to break. If it required two substitutions (A becomes D, then D becomes G), it would be harder but still breakable.

Manutius encrypted his autobiography to keep it from damaging his son's business - so why not just keep the book in the family?

Was "festivus lentis" ever defined?

Why did Manutius write in Latin?

This whole cult was financed with licensing fees from a typeface?

The motivation to move from novice to unbound to bound seems to be too weak to sustain that kind of devotion for decades. But then again, people send themselves all sorts of quixotic quests.

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