Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan (Book Review)

20733840

This book was recommended to me as it was compared to a book my I had previously enjoyed; The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry:

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything; instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends, but when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

I will start off by saying that I didn’t see the comparison: they are very different books. The only link I saw was the setting of a bookstore being a large feature of the narrative. That aside we have very different story-lines.

That being said, I really enjoyed this book regardless! The book follows the tale of Clay as he begins working the night-time shift at a mysterious, quiet bookstore. Clay has learned a degree of programming, and so begins to try and modernise the store, through which he uncovers it’s hidden secret – a link to a cult set on translating a book rumoured to contain the key to eternal life.

The cult becomes torn between using traditional or modern methods to find the key to this work, as all involved pursue to solve the 500 year old puzzle.

The book is written in a very comedic way and many one-off lines were genuinely funny. It is all fairly light-hearted – even the villains are comic ultimately, and the story follows a tale which I got the impression had no intention of being taken seriously.

It was interesting trying to unpick what the author was attempting – perhaps a consideration between the traditional and the modern. Paper books vs. e-books. Either way, there was something unique about this book that caught my attention and I finished it fairly quickly as a result.

I wouldn’t recommend this to as many people as I do The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, but that is due to perhaps a more direcitonal story-line that not everyone will appreciate. I’m glad to have read it though and will certainly read more of Robin Sloan should he continue to write other novels.

Advertisements

Sourcery – Terry Pratchett (Book Review)

20493841

The fifth of Pratchett Discworld series: Sourcery – one which people correct me on when I told them what I was reading (“Sour-cery”, “Sorcery”?)…

There was an eighth son of an eighth son. He was, quite naturally, a wizard. And there it should have ended. However (for reasons we’d better not go into), he had seven sons. And then he had an eighth son … a wizard squared … a source of magic … a Sourcerer. Sourcery sees the return of Rincewind and the Luggage as the Discworld faces its greatest – and funniest – challenge yet.

The book brings us back to Rincewind in Ankh Morpork as a new member joins the university – a ten-year-old boy with seemingly unlimited magic potential, set on the goal of immediately achieving the highest rank in the university.

With the danger apparent, Rincewind escapes with the Arch-Chancellors magic hat, and travels abroad led by the voices of the late arch-chancellors. With the wizards blinded by power led into declaring supremacy over the land, the end of the world nears (with the 4 horsemen drinking at a bar in preparation, led by Death of course).

The book as a whole reads a lot better than some of the previous books by Pratchett: it just seems to flow a lot better and generally be better thought out. The humour too seems a lot less forced and more on level than before, and some lines were genius in the setting.

The ending is satisfying too, and I didn’t find myself rushing to the last page. A criticism perhaps though is that quick introduction of the sorcerer, who even to the last I felt like I hardly knew despite, in a manner, being the main antagonist.

I will be reading the next shortly, as I continue to make way through War & Peace at the same time!

Kings of the Wyld – Nicholas Eames (Book Review)

30841984

I was interested in this book when I first heard about, though never actually got around to buying it until recently, and am I glad I did!

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. 

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

The book follows a group of mercenaries, who were once regarded as the greatest band of fighters, coming out of retirement for one last mission: to rescue their leaders daughter from a city under siege.

Gabriel, once “Golden Gabe” is now a nervous, middle-aged man and seeks the help of his friends for what is essentially regarded as a suicide mission. Clay “Slowhand” has since settled down and has a young daughter; Moog the magician has retired to his tower to search for a cure of a disease regarded as incurable; and Matrick, their former rogue has become an over-weight king. Ganelon, they assume, hates them all. Gabe sets out to recruit the team again and cross thousands of miles of treacherous terrain to return his daughter home.

The book contains all sorts of great fantasy tropes and nods to popular series, and the “band” dynamic of mercenaries, though strange, works really well!

There are parts in this which are genuinely hilarious and I found myself re-reading paragraphs that were so great. The characters are all unique and I wish we had access to their old adventures often alluded to as well. There are also some moving parts of the book which, intertwined with the comedy, works seamlessly, making it hard to believe that this is Eames first published book; and well deserved it is!

The next book in this series is due for release this year and I for one can’t wait for it to be published – a book I’m very likely to re-read; a genuine pleasure.

If you are a fan of fantasy books or games, then this book is definitely worth your time. Eames writes like someone who knows how to make you laugh and pull your heart-strings too, and seemingly effortlessly draws out a story which makes finishing the novel sad for the reader.

Mort – Terry Pratchett (Book Review)

18908825

The fourth in the Discworld series which I began earlier in the year:

It is known as the Discworld. It is a flat planet, supported on the backs of four elephants, who in turn stand on the back of the great turtle A’Tuin as it swims majestically through space. And it is quite possibly the funniest place in all of creation…

Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort, he offered him a job.

After being assured that being dead was not compulsory, Mort accepted. However, he soon found that romantic longings did not mix easily with the responsibilities of being Death’s apprentice.

The book centers around a young man named Mort who has found that he has little to recommend him in many professions often undertook by people of his age. After unsuccessfully waiting in the market to be offered an apprenticeship, Death arrives at midnight and invites him to work in his unique profession – ushering people into the afterlife.

Mort accepts and begins learning the profession, and exploring much of what lies beyond mortal understanding in the afterlife.

Death, finding himself with some free time, also begins exploring new avenues, and finding himself quite apt at being a chef, begins working in a kitchen in Ankh Morpork

The book contains much of the comedy as the other books but feels a lot more structured, which is a good thing. That being said, the storyline is still very simplistic, and though identifiable, it isn’t particularly captivating.

Another positive though is that the comedy in this book feels a little bit less forced than it does in the previous one: the jokes seem to fit the context a lot better, and often simply wordplay on the situation is employed.

I will continue to read the series, however, finding them a good “light” read in-between other books. They are certainly worth a read for fantasy fans looking for something other than the typical high fantasy doorstop books.

Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde (Book Review)

7739723

Though never reading any of his books previously, I am aware of Jasper Fforde. This book was recommended by a friend strongly enough to persuade me to buy it:

Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour.

Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane – a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed.

For Eddie, it’s love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey . . .

This book is a dystopian fututre where society has been divided into classes based upon the individual’s colour perception: from Purples at the top, to greys at the bottom considered little more than savages. Relationships are determined almost exclusively by who will benefit your hue, with strong blues and reds looking to marry for the purpose of a purple child, leading them into a higher social standing.

Eddie is sent with his dad to a small town where corruption is evident in what is known as ‘loopholery’; still adherence to the rules, though a questionably one.

As it becomes clear that not everything people are told is true, Eddie strays dangerously close to Rule-breaking to seek the truth.

This book is bizarre to describe but incredible to read – it is a book that is certainly difficult to put down. With so many hidden secrets and unsolved questions, the reader is lured into the solution as much as the characters – hoping for a more emotive society than what is currently there.

I haven’t read many dystopian future books, and this is certainly a great introduction to them – thankfully it is also a series so I look forward to the release of the next volume!

Highly recommended – the humour is spot-on on the plot fascinating.

Post Office – Charles Bukowski (Book Review)

5974453

I’m a bit of a fan of Bukowski’s poetry, though finding books of his is somewhat of a rarity. I stumbled across this in the ‘cult fiction’ section of my local bookshop.

Henry Chinaski is a low life loser with a hand-to-mouth existence. His menial Post Office day job supports a life of beer, one-night stands and racetracks.

Jumping from one relationship to the next, and dropping work on a whim, Chinaski lives day-by-day life.

The novel itself is short, and a very quick read. There are lots of points throughout the book which are very funny too, with Chinaski’s cynical attitude towards the authority figures in his life, and the lack of love he shows to the women in his life.

The book is void of hope for consistency for Chinaski, but he doesn’t seek it either. His bosses annoy him; and sooner or later, his lovers do too. He wants to live a life of ease, without pressure, and where he can simply drink and bet on horses.

I would recommend the book to people who enjoy things from the beat generation where this definitely belongs, and those who are fans of Bukowski. His down-to-earth attitude to writing, often with brute honesty, is something we sometimes need reminded of.