The Seasonal Reading Challenge discussion

GROUP READS > Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore discussion

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message 1: by Sandy (last edited Nov 30, 2012 08:34PM) (new)

Sandy | 12662 comments Mod
If you choose to read Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore for the Group Reads task (or another task for that matter) here's the place to discuss it.

WARNING: This thread may contain spoilers!

message 2: by Sheila (new)

Sheila (SheilaJ) | 2090 comments I thought this was a fantastic book. It was dark and mysterious with ancient books and secret societies and mysterious codes and very strange old people. Plus it was filled with the angst of a young guy trying to capture the heart of the girl that speaks his "language" (computerease). Historical and cutting edge. I really enjoyed the parts of the book that took place at Google. I give it ★★★★'s.

Thank you to whomever nominated this one I would have NEVER read it if I hadn't read it for this task.

I had previously read the other two group read winners.

message 3: by Dlmrose (new)

Dlmrose | 14411 comments Mod
I thought this book was delightful- filled with humor and mystery- and an obvious love of books. I think Sloan might have described my ideal man: "James Bond with a library science degree"(pg 157).
I really liked his comparison between reading and audiobooks.

message 4: by Katrina (new)

Katrina (katrinajt) | 457 comments I really enjoyed this book, I found it a little strange at first but I really found myself getting into the storyline and really enjoyed how the secret society evolved and the ways in which everything played out. I especially liked the incorporation of technology, particularly with the Google element, as technology has such a strong influence on us these days. I wouldn't have normally picked up this book, or probably wouldn't have even heard of it without the SRC, but I'm very glad it was the one I chose. I wasn't even sure which Group read book to read, but a couple of weeks ago when the books were chosen I found this one on my library's ebook website and put it on hold to read on my phone. Very glad I did because it was a quick, fun read! I gave it four stars.

message 5: by Fran (new)

Fran | 736 comments Sheila wrote: "I thought this was a fantastic book. It was dark and mysterious with ancient books and secret societies and mysterious codes and very strange old people. Plus it was filled with the angst of a you..."

I nominated it Sheila! It's the first book I've had the opportunity to nominate that made it to the challenge :)

I'm starting it this week, so glad you enjoyed it.

message 6: by Sheila (last edited Dec 02, 2012 04:00PM) (new)

Sheila (SheilaJ) | 2090 comments Thanks Fran - Great Choice! I am going to suggest it to my local bookclub as well.

message 7: by Donna Jo (new)

Donna Jo Atwood | 3157 comments Fran, Thanks for nominating. I had to read it before the challenge started (due back at the library & couldn't be renewed). I loved the wonderful feel it gave of the old books, and the energies of the new genres--the sly references to Harry Potter, the daVinci Code-like secret society, the feel of the subliminal ticking clock.

message 8: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 6362 comments in case anyone is interested - Robin Sloan is going to be doing a GR video chat next week -

message 9: by Erin (NY) (new)

Erin (NY) (erin_p) | 548 comments This book was a total surprise for me. I picked it because it sounded slightly better than the two other choices, and I am so glad I did! Thanks Fran!!

I am a software engineer, and I studied visualization in grad school as well as 3D graphics and information retrieval, so I could totally relate to the technical aspects in this book. This is probably the only novel I have ever read or will ever read that mentions Hadoop and Mechanical Turck! It made me feel all warm and fuzzy! I plan to recomend it to all of my software engineer friends! !!!

message 10: by Andy (new)

Andy Plonka (plonkaac) | 2400 comments Andy P.
This book reminds me of Jasper Fforde in that it is difficult to describe. Sloan, like Fforde drops lots of literary references and adds a touch of humor. Unlike Fforde, he marries it (or at least allows it to coexist) with technology. I'm sure the more technology minded individual will derive much more from this than I, but it gives me hope that books will still be a viable entity in the future.

message 11: by Kristi (new)

Kristi (KristiLarson) | 336 comments I had high hopes for this book, and I ended up disappointed. I read this expecting a book about books and instead got a book about Google. Even when it was about books, I didn't get a sense of passion. The characters were one-dimensional. It was funny at times, and I can see why some people like it, but I think my expectations led me to be disappointed. I'm about the same age as the main characters, so I feel like I should be able to relate to them and their technological world, but I never became interested in the story.

message 12: by Fran (new)

Fran | 736 comments I enjoyed the book. Most of the high-tech computer jargon went right over my head but I really liked Clay and was invested in his journey. The whole Google universe was interesting, and although I liked Kat, and found the mystery intriguing, Clay's friendship with Neel was my favorite thing about the book.

message 13: by Shawn (new)

Shawn | 188 comments Shawn H.

I have to admit this book was not quite what I expected. However, I found that I absolutely loved it. I feel like the author did a fantastic job of balancing the high tech computer stuff with the old school bibliophile stuff. I found the relationships in this book to be interesting and I really wanted to know how things worked out. I look forward to recommending this book to others.

message 14: by Chaitra (last edited Dec 12, 2012 03:27PM) (new)

Chaitra (Chaitra_Ganesh) | 520 comments I'm going to chime in with Kristi and say Mr P. was a big letdown. I love Google, but I did not want to read a 288-page love letter to it. And that's basically what this boils down to. I tried to, but I didn't see the same undying love for books from the main characters. (view spoiler) Also, the first person present tense needs to die a quick death.

What I did like? Neel and his Anatomix, and the glow in the dark cover. That's about it.

message 15: by Cindy AL (new)

Cindy AL (cangelmd) | 664 comments **Warning Spoilers, I can't do the fancy hide the spoiler thing**

This is probably the only book that I post on for this entire challenge, between the holidays, a big wedding and some personal health issues, I'm taking a quarter off.

Having said that, I read Sheila's review, and I had to get this book and read it, then I felt compelled to post on it.

Yes, this book is actually about Google... and books... and the love of discovery... and just possibly it is about moving to the "after book". I thought the author's parallels were a bit heavy handed, and I kinda doubt Google is working on life extension, but who knows? I thought they were too busy trying to figure out from your internet usage what kind of toilet paper you buy, but who really knows what they can do.

The contrast to me of the 15th and 16th century printers standing at the dawn of an age where information transfer was about to be ramped up exponentially with the Googlers was striking. The Renaissance printers caused a revolution in information handling that eventually changed everything profoundly. One could argue that Google and co. are about to make a similar exponential change in how information is used, and how useful it can be.

I did think though that the author did show an "undying love of books" - reading and rereading a childhood book was the basis of solving the mystery, and despite all mighty computing power of Google and the faith Mr. Penumbra had in them, the artist who had much less computer savvy was the one to solve the mystery. Yeah, Google is definitely the modern corollary of the printers, but the book is still winning in 2012, just as the illuminated manuscript and oral tradition was still winning in 1512.

Fun book, maybe not completely true to the Group Read genre of "Books about Books" but I'm glad I read it, and like Sheila, I probably would not have read it unless it was picked. Thanks Fran.

message 16: by Chaitra (last edited Dec 13, 2012 08:12PM) (new)

Chaitra (Chaitra_Ganesh) | 520 comments Cindy, you make good points, but I'll still disagree with you (with one point). :) But since I didn't bother to mention my reasons for why I didn't feel the undying love for books, I'll do so now. I'll put it under spoiler tags just in case.

(view spoiler)

I hope that explains where I was coming from. It's a subject that I care a lot for, and I was anticipating this book even before it was chosen for Group Read. It's such a terrible letdown.

message 17: by Cindie (last edited Dec 14, 2012 05:00PM) (new)

Cindie Harp | 1369 comments Like so many others, I say, Thank You Fran! I would never have read this if you had not nominated it.

*** Spoiler Alert***

I was also expecting a book about books but Mr P did not disappoint me. So, Hadoop is real? I had heard of Mechanical Turks (pretty much what Cha Cha is or was), but what about the other "facts?" Is there really an Accession Table? Con U? Very Da Vinci Code feeling this book. I love the blur between reality and fantasy. And glad the Epilogue gave us a happy ending for all the characters.

message 18: by Brian (last edited Dec 20, 2012 08:34PM) (new)

Brian | 163 comments Part of the reason I decided to do the challenge this season was because this was a group read. I had heard good things about it and was excited to read it. Like it was mentioned numerous times in here, after about 80 pages it wasn't what I expected it to be. That being said, I still really enjoyed it. It was a fun book.

I do kinda wish I could type this in gerritszoon though. And join a secret book society.

message 19: by KSMary (new)

KSMary | 536 comments Well, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I wasn't sure what to expect and thought that it was delightfully quirky. I also gave it 4 stars. I enjoyed Clay and Neel's relationship - I thought it captured the banter well that only exist between childhood friends. Like Cindie, I also enjoyed the blur between reality and fantasy. I had no idea Hadoop really existed. I'm one of those people that doesn't really question how technology works as long as it works, so the technology parts were kind of interesting to me.

message 20: by mstan (last edited Dec 24, 2012 08:43PM) (new)

mstan | 876 comments This book didn't quite grip me as I thought it would. I agree with Chaitra that the characters' alleged love for reading doesn't strike the reader as being very true. While the discussion on technology is quite interesting in itself, and offers possibilities for extending the lives of books (if not humans!), it all felt too slick for me. Beyond a nostalgic yearning to revisit the fantasy world of one's favourite series during adolescence, nobody in the book professes a love for reading (which I can remember offhand anyway). The other books that exist are books that exist to boost one's ego (the members' codex vitae) and books mentioned in passing by Clay as titles that could boost sales (Murakami, celebrity chef biography...). He did also mention Borges and Hammett but they felt like throwaway references.

I still gave this 3 stars because it's a nice riff on various related ideas. But books shouldn't be seen as codes to be broken.

message 21: by Emma (new)

Emma (Emmalita) | 170 comments I really enjoyed this book. I doubt I would have picked it, if it weren't on the group reads, so I'm really glad it was. I loved that it incorporated books, technology and pop culture. Really fun book!

message 22: by Meagan (new)

Meagan | 129 comments I really enjoyed this book. I don't think that I would have ever read it if it hadn't been one of the group reads, so I'm so pleased that it was. I thought it was a great story and I loved the mix of mystery and humor that the book gave!

message 23: by Alice (new)

Alice (AliceG) | 429 comments I quite enjoyed this book. It was completely different to anything I've read before. I did feel it was a blatant advert for google! It has made me want to own a tall skinny bookshop so that I can climb the ladders!!!!

message 24: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer | 89 comments I wasn't sure if I would like this book, but picked it up because I had heard good things about it. I was pleasantly surprised!! I enjoy it when books are mentioned within books...kinda like running into old friends lol. I didn't mind the Google aspect to this book. Kat's character didn't really grab me though. Can't put my finger on exactly why.

message 25: by Rudy (new)

Rudy Hurley | 116 comments This was an interesting book. I am glad I read it as I typically don't read this type of book. I enjoyed the character development. However, I really did not like the Google and coding aspect of the book

message 26: by Kara (new)

Kara (KaraAyako) Five stars! I completely loved this book. I first heard about it in this Economist article and was super jazzed that it was picked for SRC.

This was my very first book of the year, and it was PERFECT for me. I love bookstores, I love puzzles, I love computers, and I love the Bay Area.

message 27: by Riya (new)

Riya (riyaishere) | 189 comments I finished reading this book last night and I loved it! I don't even read too many mystery type books such as this one but I really enjoyed it.

Like others have already mentionned, there were some parts that were hard to understand ( all the computer Google jargon).

The whole concept of this book was really neat.

message 28: by Bekka (new)

Bekka (froydis) | 507 comments I have to weigh in with those who enjoyed the book. While I can respect where some of the negative comments are coming from, I think this book completely fits the purpose of the "book about books" Group Read. I think its a real ode to the beauty of a physical book, and the wonder of reading. It also is great in that it doesn't downplay the equal importance of technology - ebooks and readers - or of audio books. Any way you're getting the story is fantastic!

As a working librarian who just graduated with my MLIS, I can completely relate to the whole conversation between technology and books, and the relevancy of bookstores and libraries in our new technological age. I thoroughly enjoyed that the solution to the problem was found by a techno-geek with minimal use of technology! And the last paragraph is wonderful: "..the right book exactly, at exactly the right time." Amen to that!

This is a great book, and one that will go on my "go to" list for patron recommendations.

message 29: by Sassafrass (new)

Sassafrass (sass-a-frass) | 896 comments While, I thought this book was funny and enjoyable, I agree with others that I some of the technical stuff went over my head. this is also one of those books that I would have never read in a million years if not for the challenge, but I'm so glad that I did. It also reminded me a bit of Ready Player One in the narrator and the style of the book.

message 30: by Bluemoon (new)

Bluemoon (Bluemoon286) | 1508 comments I just finished this book and I am also one that would not have picked it up if it wasn't for the group. I did enjoy it and am also in the group where the technology was over my head. I also agree with Sassafrass it reminded me of Ready Player One. I think it was the aspect of the quest that did it for me. I gave the book 4 stars.

message 31: by Coralie (new)

Coralie | 1463 comments When I saw this on the group reads poll I thought it sounded like a book I would love, so I immediately reserved it at the library. At first I was a bit disappointed but the turning point came when Mr Penumbra said he knew the logbook was a fake due to its smell. From then on I laughed and laughed. Perhaps it isn't great literature but I felt the concept of modern-day alchemists was well-visualised. And it even included knitting!

message 32: by Kara (new)

Kara (KaraAyako) I thought it was a lot like Ready Player One as well, and that was my favorite book of 2012.

message 33: by LDB (new)

LDB | 110 comments I love books about books, but I will admit this book just didn't do it for me. The evolution of books is both exciting and scary and some of that was captured in this book. But, I am a bit more of a traditionalist when it comes to books and would have liked it better if the book were more about books themselves rather than what technology could do with books and knowledge. It was interesting enough - just not for me. The ultimate message, though, was a good one and I did like that it was not technology but good old sleuthing that ultimate solved the puzzle.

message 34: by Lois (new)

Lois | 1231 comments Though I didn't love this book, I found it surprisingly enjoyable. I wasn't really sure about the genre at the outset and kept expecting awful things to happen, such as in the subterranean library, no cell phone coverage, slightly creepy people in black robes, and a sleuth mission... Usually would be a formula for scary stuff, right? Not my usual type of read. I will enjoy thinking over the themes about books, technology, and knowledge, especially in view of some of the very interesting comments others have made. Thanks very much for the selection of it for the group reads!

message 35: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (Sureshot26) | 771 comments Initially I wasn't quite sure what to make of this, but ultimately I feel like Sloan did a really nice job of capturing what I love about books - not their physicality but the world of ideas they bring to their readers and the connections we forge when ideas get shared. In a way, I find it refreshing to read a book-about-books that's more about where we are right now and where we're going, and not in an I-miss-the-old-days way. Technology is powerful stuff and it's fun to see an author really flex that outside of its normal playground in thrillers and SF.

message 36: by Connie (last edited Jan 24, 2013 08:25PM) (new)

Connie (Connie_G) | 371 comments The book is an intersection between Google decoders in the new world of Information Technology, and the old world of Fifteenth Century printmaking. It's a story about friendship, creativity, challenges, and goals. Best of all, the book is a lot of geeky fun!

message 37: by Donna Jo (new)

Donna Jo Atwood | 3157 comments Connie wrote: "The book is an intersection between Google decoders in the new world of Information Technology, and the old world of Fifteenth Century printmaking. It's a story about friendship, creativity, challe..."

Connie, you stated so well what I delighted in in this book.

message 38: by Paul (new)

Paul | 118 comments The was a delightful book ! I enjoyed the contrast between the world of books and the world of computers. I have recommended this to several people already (with positive responses).

message 39: by Carly (new)

Carly | 242 comments I am giving this book 4 3/4 stars only because I sort of agree with the "bad" guy in the story.

I completely loved this book though. It was like a low key The Da Vinci Code minus the religion and world traveling and the danger. It was bookish and techy all at the same time.

It spoke to my geeky little soul.

It felt sort of like a John Green book, but it was written for adults. Granted, I've only read one John Green book.

This is the kind of book that I usually feel let down by at the end. You've had this spectacular buildup and usually there is no way the author can end it in a satisfying way. But in this story, I didn't find that happening and I think that was because Clay kept telling the readers that he knew that it wasn't going to end the way the secret society thought that it would. He was warning us. So even though I wasn't expecting a big bang of an ending, I thought that the readers were let down easier than usual with this kind of story.

message 40: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (Soelo) | 118 comments This was such a good book. I was afraid it would get annoying or trite with all the references to tech/geek culture. Thankfully the historical mystery kept it from that.

message 41: by Bea (new)

Bea | 2954 comments I was so looking forward to this book, and I did enjoy it. However, either I am a nerd or at least more nerdy than I know, but I was surpriesed that the Google part was so interesting to me and that I understood most of it.

I really liked how Clay grew into a guy who found what he loved. A nice metamorphosis from a loser. I also liked how he found the right friend who could help with the quest. I only wish his love life had worked out but I got why it didn't.

This was a fun read for me.

message 42: by Barbara ★ (last edited Feb 06, 2013 04:48AM) (new)

Barbara ★ | 592 comments Adding a spoiler tag is very simple. It's just like bolding something or italizing. Just put < SPOILER> and the beginning of your comment. And < /SPOILER> at the end. (Without the space of course).

message 43: by Mrs.soule (new)

Mrs.soule (Mrssoule) | 755 comments I'm with Andy P. on this book - it very much reminded me of Jasper Fforde's novels in that it was quirky and almost impossible to describe what it's really truly about. It did lead to some great discussions with my husband on bonding the arcane with modern tech and even future tech. Plus a few rounds of Maximum Happy Imagination. Four stars for the main character and how it bent my brain.

message 44: by Marie-Anne (last edited Feb 10, 2013 07:54AM) (new)

Marie-Anne | 346 comments I was not sure what to expect in this book. And I really enjoyed it from page 1. I never thought I would read within the near future a fiction book where Hadoop would be important in the story (and have it explained so simply and clearly). The story is modern, futuristic and historical, all at the same time. I loved it. I have a technical background and had to look up some of the "technologies" mentioned. As it turned the only ones I did not know where fiction, except for one: I had never heard of Vonnegut diagrams before. For anyone interested on real versus fiction, you might also want the read this review.

message 45: by Barbara ★ (new)

Barbara ★ | 592 comments This definitely wasn't what I expected though I truly have no idea exactly what I did expect as this was a book chosen as a group read not something I, myself would have choose to read. It was surprisingly enjoyable though the ending left a lot to be desired. It was rather rushed and totally anti-climactic. I totally missed Manutius' message. (view spoiler)

The inner workings of google were fascinating though I do wonder if any of that is actually true. I liked the puzzles, the secret societies and even the workings of the bookstore. I liked the characters though I did find myself rolling my eyes at some of their shenanigans.

message 46: by Rebecca NJ (new)

Rebecca NJ (NJReader) | 639 comments I've been trying to process how I feel about this book for the last few days and I think Kristi decribed it best. She wrote in Post #11 I had high hopes for this book, and I ended up disappointed. I read this expecting a book about books and instead got a book about Google. I did enjoy the historical aspect and the inside look into Google which I hope was somewhat accurate but in the end, I felt that I was (and still am) missing something - there was so much more that could have been written. Maybe I need to go and do a few rounds of Maximum Happy Imagination.

Random side note - I loved how the cover of my hardbound copy from the library glowed in the dark!

message 47: by JennRenee (new)

JennRenee (JennReneeRead) | 1328 comments I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I liked the characters and the plot. the only issue I had.. I felt it was slow in parts. but for the most part really enjoyed it. I gave it 3 stars.

message 48: by Sue Q (new)

Sue Q | 45 comments WOW I was not expecting this book. By that, I mean that I chose this book out of the three because it had the shortest wait time at my library - and so I didn't really care much about the book at all except that it fulfilled a requirement (compared to all of the other tasks where I could chose from hundreds of possibilities, thus choosing books that I knew would be familiar and acceptable to my palate).

So I think that's why this book blew me away (in a good way). I loved it!!! Thanks for choosing it as a selection!!

message 49: by Deana (new)

Deana (ablotial) | 284 comments I ended up absolutely loving this book, though I do agree with everyone's comments that it is basically a long advertisement for Google and that aspect was a turn off. At the beginning, I found myself getting really annoyed every time Google was mentioned YET AGAIN. But it turned out the story was good enough to make me love it despite that.

As a nerd who routinely uses Hadoop, OCR, Mechanical Turk, etc in my daily life, I loved how this story incorporated all of this current technology into a novel that also features a historical society obsessed with word puzzles, books, and fonts. I would totally join that book club!

I liked the characters (except Neel... what a creeper) and enjoyed all their shenanigans. Definitely recommending this to some of my friends from work.

My only other real complaint was (view spoiler)

message 50: by Sue Q (new)

Sue Q | 45 comments For Deana:

(view spoiler)

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