JOPLIN, Mo. —
There's magic in books.
It's the kind of magic that can pull you into a story so completely that the real world fades, and you realize that not only have you lost track of time as you tear through the book's pages, but you wouldn't want that time back for anything.
And so it is with Robin Sloan's 2012 novel "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore."
A slim, fast-paced read, the book is nevertheless able to create a world designed to grab readers by the lapels and yank them inside.
Clay Jannon is a San Francisco web developer without a job, and he's finding no help in browsing the help-wanted ads.
Passing a hole-in-the-wall 24-hour bookstore, he spies at "help wanted" sign and inquires about the job. The store is run by the enigmatic Ajax Penumbra, a wizened old man who stocks a few titles that might qualify as best-sellers but primarily caters to a clientele who are mainly interested in the strange books that fill shelves that are three stories high.
Hired on for the overnight shift, Penumbra gives Clay three simple rules to follow:
"One: You must always be here from ten p.m. to six a.m. exactly. You must not be late. You cannot leave early. Two: You may not browse, read, or otherwise inspect the shelved volumes ... (and third) You must keep precise records of all transactions. The time. The customer's appearance. His state of mind. How he asks for the book. How he receives it ... and so on."
The reader immediately knows one thing: Clay's going to open one of these strange tomes, written by authors he's never heard of and comprised entirely of jumbled letters.
To say much about the plot would be a disservice, because it's a book about discovery -- think of it as a lighthearted "Da Vinci Code" for bibliophiles. But I will say that Clay's adventure takes him from one coast to the other; into the world of a secret society known as the Unbroken Spine; and straight to the heart of the Google brain trust.
Sloan has created a world that will appeal to a wide cross section of readers who have an interest in old books, new technology, computer programming, code breaking, role playing, typefaces, fantasy literature and characters who wear their eccentricities on their sleeve.
It would be easy for an author to take such a mixture and get lost in the weeds, but Sloan has a deft touch with the characters and situations. Even someone with little knowledge or interest in some of the above will find themselves captivated by his blend of old knowledge preserved in the musty pages of ancient texts and the dazzling possibilities of the digital age.
Ultimately, Clay's adventure becomes the reader's as well. At its heart, "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" is all about the magic that happens when someone picks up "the right book exactly, at exactly the right time."
JOPLIN, Mo. —
There's magic in books.
Stretching out: Whiskey Dick's can do more in a bigger downtown location
For the Whiskey Dick's owners, it isn't a matter of what's in a name but more of a place where everybody knows your name.
Livewire's new video debuts on Billboard (w/VIDEO)
The song is currently on Billboard's Top 40 charts for Texas Music and Texas Regional Radio Report. It is the latest release since the band's first full-length album, "Livin'," which was released in 2012 with Way Out West Records.
Benji Tunnell: Great CGI, solid writing make 'Apes' a near-perfect blockbuster
A couple of weeks ago, we saw "Transformers 4," a big, computer-driven blockbuster film that was symbolic of all that is wrong with filmmaking today.
Marta Churchwell: New Mexico marimba group returns for concert Sunday
They're back. Polyphony Marimba, the Santa Fe, New Mexico, band that wowed the crowd with African music during a Downtown Joplin Third Thursday last summer, received such a response to that performance that they're coming back on Sunday.
Dave Woods: Nevada regatta makes for a birthday escape
In just three weeks, I'll spend my 50th birthday floating down the Colorado River with 35,000 of my closest friends.
New festival focuses on short independent films
As Jack Truman saw his films play in festivals around the world, one lingering thought persisted: He wished that such festivals existed in his hometown area.
Glory Days Music to resume weekly in-store concerts
The staff at Glory Days Music have been working their business as usual. Musicians demonstrate guitars, drums and other instruments. Music is sold; lessons are taught. But something has been missing.
Joe Hadsall: All the hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video
I sincerely believe the "Word Crimes" video will become the most important song in history, and the most mandatory-to-watch video in schools across the country.
Globe Phone Test: Concept is clever, but transitions tricky with Asus PadFone X
It's kind of embarrassing to point this out, but "Candy Crush Saga" is one of the best ways to illustrate how well the Asus PadFone X, a smartphone and tablet combo really works.
Anyone who has more than one device will understand this situation completely: Let's say a player fires up "Candy Crush" on his tablet computer and really digs the game. A lot. So much so that he downloads it to his smartphone.
Only there's one problem: All the progress made on the tablet is stuck on the tablet. The smartphone has a completely separate path of progress, meaning the player has to play each level twice. This makes progress through the game twice as long. (This problem can be fixed by signing up for the game on Facebook, but no one really wants their Facebook friends to know they spend so much time crushin' candy.)
The Asus PadFone X is the dream solution to this nightmare of a problem.
Available exclusively from AT&T, the device is actually two devices. A standalone smartphone can be plugged into a tablet computer, meaning the owner can take his pick of how he wants to play the game, and all the progress he makes is saved on one device's hard drive.
AT&T loaned us a device that we tested for more than two weeks -- didn't like having to send it back -- and we found a lot of its qualities and quirks.
Tantric tours in support of latest studio album
"37 Channels," the latest album from Hugo Ferreira's band, features a lineup of guests including Hinder's Austin Winkler, Shooter Jennings, 3 Doors Down drummer Greg Upchurch, Uncle Kracker guitarist Kevin McCreery, Saving Abel guitarist Scott Bartlett and Leif Garrettt.
- More Enjoy Headlines
- Stretching out: Whiskey Dick's can do more in a bigger downtown location