Monday, September 1, 2014

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

Mr. Penumbra's 24 - Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan
3 stars - fun and quirky
ALR Blue - no animals

I belong to the data scientist community at work. Yeah, they let me in, even though I'm still in the kindergarten stage of my data scientist training. Mr. Penumbra's 24 - Hour Bookstore received a mention and several reviews from others in the group. Why? Well, because early in the book, there are scenes involving data visualization and a few instances where large scale data analytics provide very interesting clues central to the ultimate secret of the novel.

The book is a first person narrative by Clay Jannon, a web designer who finds himself unemployed. While wandering about San Francisco he stumbles across Mr. Penumbra's 24 - Hour bookstore, complete with "Help Wanted" sign in the window. A 24 hour bookstore? Indeed. Clay is assigned the overnight shift, from 10PM until 6AM. The store has only three employees, one per shift. Not many visitors. Yet it does feature three uninterrupted stories of gigantic, unheard of books. Yes, there are a few more modern novels up front, but most of the customers (and they are few and far between) come to borrow books from the Wayback portion of the store.

Well, our hero, Clay, is a bit befuddled about the whole setup, and with lots of time on his hands, he sets out to explore what's really going on. Along the way he meets a Google employee who readily harnesses the power of Hadoop to do large data analysis of the comings and goings at the store over time. 

The closer they look, the more confounding things become and soon Clay is uncovering ancient mysteries and secret societies.

It's all good fun and a delightful read, but I can't give it more than three stars. It's a tad superficial and the technology scenes, while fun, are a bit heavy handed. The mystery itself is not nearly as fascinating as the earlier bits about the bookstore and the books themselves.

1 comment:

  1. A year or 2 back, I read a Kindle book called The Last Bookstore In America, and I really enjoyed it, too, because it was lighthearted and I loved the book store descriptors. This sounds like one I ought to seek, too.