Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This one had me at "24-Hour Bookstore" :) And, indeed, the magic of this book lies in this namesake bookstore itself.
The novel opens with Clay, an unemployed website techie, who finds himself working the late shift at an all-night bookstore in San Francisco. But this is no ordinary bookstore. The shelves are stocked not with ordinary books but bound puzzles (of sorts), and the "customers" aren't customers at all. I won't go into the details so as not to spoil anything. Suffice it to say, that while this book is a clever page-turner that follows Clay on his quest to uncover the secrets of a mysterious book and the underground society dedicated to its preservation and the cracking of its code, it is also an interesting commentary on the place of books in a digital age and the unique possibilities of how this chasm might be bridged.
The only disappointment for me was the rapid-fire ending, as well as the slight let down I felt when the riddle was solved (so much build up, it would have been nearly impossible to fulfill whatever expectations I had). But this book is really fun, and very, very clever.