This book started out on such a great premise – a premise worthy of Umberto Eco or Neal Stephenson or even William Gibson or some other good conspiracy authors. But Sloan is no Eco or even a Gibson so he couldn’t quite carry it off. Fliakos, using his sweet young male voice, is a great narrator for it – I think he gave it all it deserved, possibly a bit more. ?
As the story starts out our first person narrator, Clay Jannon, is an unemployed computer specialist and website designer who is also a booklover. He “accidentally” finds a job in a bookstore which is … well … rather different. First off, it’s open 24-hours a day. The boss, Penumbra, is a bit weird and then in a very likely one-thing-leads-to-another sequence, Clay notices the odd customers and their strange requests. He invites a friend to check it out and they start to track the customers in the store – the “plot thickens.” (heh),
Jennifer Schuessler of NY Times called it “… a rollicking neo-Borgesian tale about an unemployed San Francisco Web designer who takes a job in a mysterious bookshop only to find himself initiated into the Unbroken Spine, a 500-year-old secret society of bibliophiles on an unexpected collision course with Google.” She must have been in a good mood.
Also see the Newsday review.
And our sweet young man meets a great young woman – they have much in common but Cat is beautiful and a bit geeky, but the kicker is – she works at … where else? … Google! – So it’s fun.
The customers belong to something called the “way back club.” They borrow books from the “way back list” at the bookstore – archaic books. The books have very strange titles. They’re stored on the top-most shelves which Clay accesses via ropes.
Clay visits to Google and meets people, they talk about books and technology – and coding. Books are codes, right? We decode to read. The history of fonts goes way, way back. I won’t go into the plot more than that but I think this effort is rather for juveniles – perhaps boys age 14 or so. An intro to the conspiracy genre? Maybe.