The story is a blend of realism and fantasy that hit really close to home. I can honestly say I’ve never felt that with a contemporary novel before. It’s about the way people my age are, by and large, and what we wish for and the things we need.
Also geeks, geeks of all stripes–book geeks, techno geeks, gaming geeks, Industrial Light and Magic geeks, knitting geeks, history geeks, all drawn with affection and humor. Pretty cool.
The plot is a straightforward one. Clay Jannon, recently unemployed, lands a job at a mysterious 24-hour bookstore in San Fransisco, run by the enigmatic Mr. Penumbra. Soon enough, Clay unearths what seems to be a conspiracy tied to a secret society, and a quest begins to unravel the mystery. It’s a fun, nerdy, bookish romp with a lovely ending.
I really enjoyed the voice and humor–Clay Jannon feels like he’s my contemporary. Like this line, for instance, when he’s describing one of his roommates: “I for one welcome our android overlords.” When I read that, I gave a knowing laugh…and then felt a little bad about myself.
Sloan has a great sense of humor, and some wonderful one-liners. There’s something blog-like and internet-influenced about his voice. “Embracing modern digital technology doesn’t mean giving up the values of the past,” is how NPR describes the central message of the book, and that’s spot-on. There’s a divide, but there’s also a kinship–in the end, we’re all after the same things. Sloan does a great job personifying both sides of this divide, with Google employees on one side and the members of the centuries old Unbroken Spine on the other. And yet, in the end, they all work together.
The quest/mystery element of the story is also fun, and the ending is actually very sweet, which surprised me. There’s a sincerity here that’s wonderful to see, particularly when coming from characters who, as I said, are my contemporaries.
Here’s an author interview with Sloan from NPR. I read and really agree with Michael Schaub’s review of the book , also from NPR. Though I couldn’t help noticing how he calls some of Sloan’s descriptions “too clever by half.” Schaub might as well be commenting on my generation as a whole. It’s a pretty fair assessment of how we see ourselves, at least, even though a lot of our cleverness is recycled Simpsons material.
Worst. Review. Ever.
This post originally appeared on the blog on November 7, 2012