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Young Adult Book Has Hacker Theme

Mr. Penumbra

I am so intrigued by my current read. It is not a mystery, but an enigma. I picked it up, like many of my personal books, while waiting for a plane.

Bookstores in airports will never go out of business, but I picked this read up because of the sweet title, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

I was thinking little white-haired ladies and their crazy attics while petting several cats in a dusty old building, but what I got was a modern day coder falling in love with the local hacker who works for Google.

Maggie Moran

Our hero, Clay Jannon, lost his webmaster position with a start-up in San Francisco and spends his days on craigslist looking for a comparable position. Things are not going well. It is as if the whole world is looking for a job and he is always a step or two late.

Typical of his generation, he takes his cushy pale body away from his laptop and smart phone to hike a couple of San Francisco hills. While admiring the scenery – one can walk the streets and be inundated with large Victorian homes and skyscrapers then all the sudden crest a hill and see nothing but sky and sea – a sharp, red help-wanted sign distracts his eyes.

Clay pops into the dark-stained entrance and is smacked by the smell of old books and burnt coffee. On the walls as far back as his head can tilt are shelves full of books. The ladders are oddly shaped and meander on wheels all around the steep bookcases looking like an Edward Gorey maze.

Mr. Penumbra stands behind the large desk and ask for Clay’s intentions as the neighboring establishment, Booty, makes the walls throb with low bass beats. The two lock eyes and smile. Clay would like to know if he has filled the position.

“Tell me,” Mr. Penumbra quizzes, “about a book you love.”

Clay takes a breath and says, “I love The Dragon-Song Chronicles.”

His smile got a little wider and Clay was staring at a jostle of teeth when Mr. Penumbra then asks, “But can you climb a ladder?”

Author, Robin Sloan, will have you climbing up and down the ladders trying to answer the puzzle located in the bookstore within a bookstore in the back.

Maggie Moran is director of learning resources for Northwest Community College


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