Paper vs. Tech: A Review of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore


Technology and writing are always difficult things for me to synthesize. I don’t know why. I’m decent in my expertise with technology. But I hate involving it in my writing. Meaning, I hate writing stories which include characters who are talking on phones, searching on the internet, etc.

As a reader, I am all over the place. From historical fiction, to sci fi, literary fiction and fantasy. I’ll pick up any and everything that strikes my fancy.

I don’t have a problem reading a story that utilizes technology or even a story that is about technology specifically. But for whatever reason, I have a hard time writing about the use of technology. I just don’t enjoy it.

This past week, I came across a really fun book, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore written by Robin Sloan, which expertly synthesizes the world of print and the world of digital and weaves it into a really great story that involves typography, a book store, the history of the printed word, the Great Recession, Google and, if you can believe it, more.

penumbra
Photo Credit: MacMillan Publishers

This book was a great light read and I definitely would recommend it. I read because it was a book club selection which my book club discussed earlier this week. Personally, I love any story lately that involves a book store. Mr. Penumbra’s book store  is quite different from the book store you get from other authors, including one of my all-time favorite writers, Carlos Ruiz Zafon. But that’s the fun of it. A book store is a magical place and it can be so many different things to different people. Just like a book! Thank you post-post modernism.

Currently I now have dreams of writing a story that takes place in a book store in some fashion and I also really want to open my own shop, even though the economic feasibility of such a venture is minimal. At least I have my dreams!

Anyway, one of the things that really caught my writer/reader attention in Mr. Penumbra’s story is the way the writer weaves technology and books together into one tale. You have people who represent either side of the issue and they end up working together to solve a great mystery. Considering the heavy line that is typically drawn in the sand between technology and the paperback, it was quite fun to have a different perspective.

If you’re looking for something new to read, I definitely recommend Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. And I encourage you to purchase the paperback edition. When you turn the light off, the cover glows in the dark!!! Which, after you read about it, will make sense and sort of combines the technology used in the story and brings it to life a little bit. Nice bit of marketing, if you ask me!

Feature Image courtesy of Nathan Pyle/BuzzFeed

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2 thoughts on “Paper vs. Tech: A Review of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

  1. A very fun book. I remain firmly a paper-in-hand Book Booster. Reading is more real for me when I am exercising more senses than touch. I hear the pages turn. I smell the ink. I touch the paper. I stop at munching on books, although I’ve been known to devour a book in one sitting.

    1. I agree. I love the tactile part of reading. Though I do have a Kindle. It’s just so convenient. I go back and forth between it and a paper books.

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