Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a literary mystery framing a book that’s really about our relationship with technology. The characters are post dot-com stereotypes, and the central mystery often takes a back seat to humorous digs at the pretensions of both luddites and technology evangelizers. That’s another way of saying that Sloan is writing to the high-tech “in” crowd, and some readers may feel a bit alienated. The sentiment, however, is as optimistic as it gets: in the conflict between high-tech and low, both sides can live happily ever after.
Mr. Penumbras… is similar to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, which sets a mystery in the world of video game geekdom, and to Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE, which mixes a similar technophilia with an action-movie plot. The slackers-on-holiday aspect will probably appeal to fans of Douglas Coupland as well.