Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My grandma recommended this book to me after she borrowed it from a friend of hers. She told me it had lots of references to coding and technologies she didn’t understand, but she said I might enjoy it. I did, thoroughly. With qualitative depictions of programming languages like Ruby, websites like Hacker News, and a web designer for a main character, the book is a testament to Sloan’s knowledge of hacker culture during the recession. My own limited knowledge cannot vet all of it, but the parts I knew felt authentic and fun. It was thrilling to read such a well-researched novel, and for me, its accuracy was its biggest draw.
The plot was generally enjoyable but sometimes felt slow-moving and predictable (sometimes Sloan drops just a few too many hints). Additionally, although the book sometimes reads like a mystery or detective novel, (and this might be minor spoiler, so beware), it isn’t totally possible to predict the ending. While I could predict what story’s big resolution would be, I could not have predicted the all-important details of the resolution. This (minor) deus ex machina frustrated me, and I felt a little cheated. After the main resolution, the rest of the story falls into place predictably.
Overall, this novel is a fun and easy read, and its biggest merit is how well-researched its technology is and how relatable the main character can feel. I haven’t read another book that so accurately depicts hacker culture, so I am looking forward to reading Sloan’s other novel in the same universe.