Do you like stories whose primary setting is a mysterious building filled with volumes of arcane knowledge and presided over by a “very old” man who is every bit as esoteric as his bookstore, his first words to our hero being, “What do you seek in these shelves?” Do you like code breaking? Conundrum solving? Rooting for thieves? Discovering the secret to immortality? How do you feel about hi-tech? This Hogwarts meets Silicon Valley tale has all that plus a little romance (very little) and a lot to think about, particularly concerning the subject of actual books made of paper that you hold in your hand. (No, they're not gone yet!)
Clay Jannon was a graphic designer for NewBagel, a business which tanked along with the economy, and he now finds himself employed as a night clerk at Mr. Penumbra's establishment a San Francisco hole-in-the-wall-bookstore whose few customers are elderly individuals asking for what Clay calls the “Waybacklist” encoded volumes on the topmost shelves - which they check in and out like library books while sometimes muttering “Festina Lente.”
One patron, however, steals Clay's heart. Her name is Kat, and she enters the bookstore because she had a coupon, thanks to Clay's attempts to generate business. She has many T-shirts exactly the same so she won't have to think about what to wear, and she works at Google! In order to impress Kat, Clay becomes involved in the quest to crack the secrets of the Unbroken Spine, an ancient secret society. With Kat and his roommate in tow, Clay convinces his best friend, Neel, a successful (and filthy rich) creator of simulation software to join their merry band, and they head for New York, first to find Mr. Penumbra and second to crack the code before the members of The Unbroken Spine can.
Author, Robin Sloan, is a former Twitter manager and a student of the nature of our digital future. He shows us that the past and future can work together in a most entertaining manner. The novel boasts, among its other assets, a hero whose aim in life is to find, “...the right book at exactly the right time.” This book is also very useful, it tells you where to find reading material when your Kindle battery dies.
To learn more about this and other books, visit the Boulder City Library at 701 Adams Boulevard, 293-1281, www.bouldercitylibrary.org