That was a greeting in Latin… In honor of creepy secret societies everywhere, The Others, and, uh, Catholicism prior to Vatican II. I just read Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Spoiler Alert: there’s Latin in it!
A little synopsis for you: Clay is a recently unemployed design school graduate in desperate need of a job. While wandering the streets of San Fransisco one afternoon, Clay stumbles upon a odd little bookstore with a “help wanted” sign. Mr. Penumbra is an eccentric old man and the proprietor of an impossibly narrow three story book store. (One of my favorite things about this book was the description of the sliding ladders. I would LOVE to live in a ginormous house someday with a dedicated library that had sliding ladders!)
Clay is hired and soon realizes that there is no way this book store can stay afloat with the sales figures he’s running. There’s also the business of the oddball patrons who are mostly highly eccentric characters that show up at all hours of the night… Rather than purchasing books, they’re all borrowing from a mysterious collection huddled at the back of the store.
Around this time Clay starts dating a girl who works at Google named Kat Potente. Kat is brilliant and quirky, owning a dozen of the very same t-shirt so she need not fret about her wardrobe. Once Clay discloses some of his insights into the mysterious bookstore, Kat jumps on board with his adventure. Somewhere between the Gertizsoon font and a museum about knitting, Clay, Kat, and his buddy Neel set about uncovering a 500 year old mystery. (I’d like to mention that I loved the way Google’s headquarters were portrayed in this book. It was really fun to compare the fictionally enhanced Google to the way Microsoft was portrayed in Where’d You Go Bernadette.)
Without getting excessively spoiler-ish, this book involves uncovering the mysteries of a secret society. It actually reminded me a LOT of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code (I don’t really care what the literati has to say, I thoroughly enjoyed The DaVinci Code, for reals.) What differentiates this from The DaVinci Code is the whimsy. This book deals with mysteries surrounding a 500 year old publisher and a bunch of bookish weirdos. No matter what their secrets hold, they’re not as potentially earth shattering to civilization as discovering that one of the world’s major religions is based on intentionally misleading information. This allows Sloane’s secret society an element of comedy and charm that the danger and melodrama of The DaVinci Code cannot achieve.
I really enjoyed this book. I found it to be a quick read and it held my interest. In celebration of this work, I started googling to find the Geritzsoon font that was, according to the book, very common and pre-loaded into most computers. Yeah. Griffo Gertiszoon, our mysterious ancient font designer? Fiction. I must admit I was quite disappointed. I like it when my conspiracy books are less easily debunked. All in all though? Still totally worth the read. Knowing the Griffo Gertizsoon is not a real person won’t hamper your enjoyment of the book at all. Look at me! I’m GROWING with not SPOILING everything. SOMEBODY GIVE ME A COOKIE!
So. Bookworms. Mysteries. Do you dig them? Do you despise them? Don’t you want a house with sliding ladders?! (You do. Don’t bother lying.) Tell me about it!