Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

"Penumbra sells used books, and they are in such uniformly excellent condition that they might as well be new. he buys them during the day - you can only sell to the man with his name on the windows - and he must be a tough customer. He doesn't seem to pay much attention to the bestseller lists. His inventory is eclectic; there's no evidence of pattern or purpose other than, I suppose, his own personal taste. So, no teenage wizards, no vampire police here. That's a shame, because this is exactly the kind of store that makes you want to buy a book about a teenage wizard. This is the kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard."

"...'You have to be an optimist to believe in the Singularity,' she says, 'and that's harder than it seems. Have you ever played Maximum Happy Imagination?'
'Sounds like a Japanese game show.'
Kat straightens her shoulders. 'Okay, we're going to play. To start, imagine the future. The good future. No nuclear bombs. Pretend you're a science fiction writer.'
Okay: 'World government... no cancer... hover-boards.'
'Go further. What's the good future after that?'
'Spaceships. Party on Mars.'
'Star Trek. Transporters. You can go anywhere.'
I pause a moment, then realize: 'I can't.'
Kat shakes her head. 'It's really hard. And that's, what, a thousand years? What comes after that? What could possibly come after that? Imagination runs out. But it makes sense, right? We probably just imagine things based on what we already know, and we run out of analogies in the thirty-first century.'..."

"...'I did not know people your age still read books,' Penumbra says. He raises an eyebrow. 'I was under the impression they read everything on their mobile phones.'
'Not everyone. There are plenty of people who, you know - people who like the smell of books'.
'The smell!' Penumbra repeats. 'You know you are finished when people start talking about the smell.' He smiles at that - then something occurs to him, and he narrows his eyes. 'I do not suppose you have a... Kindle?'..."

"...'Rosemary, why do you love books so much?'
And I said, 'Well, I don't know.' She's animated, almost girlish now: 'I suppose I love them because they're quiet, and I can take them to the park.' She narrows her eyes. He watched me and he didn't say a word. So then I said, 'Well, actually, I love books because books are my best friends.' Then he smiled - he has a wonderful smile - and he walked over and got on that ladder, and climbed higher than I'd ever seen him climb..."

"...There's a stack of books on the table and a metal cup with pointy pencils that smell fresh and sharp. In the stack, there are copies of Moby Dick, Ulysses, The Invisible Man - this is a bar for bibliophiles.
There's a pale beer stain on the back cover of The Invisible Man, and inside, the margins are mobbed with pencil marks. It's so dense you can barely see the paper behind it - there are dozens of different people's marginalia jostling for space here. I flip through the book; it's jam-packed. Some of the notes are about the text, but more are directed at one another. The margins tend to devolve into arguments, but there are other interactions, too. Some are inscrutable: just numbers back and forth. There's encrypted graffiti: 

6HV8SQ was here..."

Atlantic Books, London 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment