LOST IN THE SHADOWS of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder. I am exactly halfway up. The floor of the bookstore is far below me, the surface of a planet I’ve left behind. The tops of the shelves loom high above, and it’s dark up there—the books are packed in close, and they don’t let any light through. The air might be thinner, too. I think I see a bat.
I am holding on for dear life, one hand on the ladder, the other on the lip of a shelf, fingers pressed white. My eyes trace a line above my knuckles, searching the spines—and there, I spot it. The book I’m looking for.
But let me back up.
A fun and enticing way to begin a book. Like Isabella, I received this one for a Christmas gift, and it proved the playful, goofy, geek-indulgent treat I needed for holiday reading. Where the Force is occasionally channelled, the role playing games of awkward adolescence inform our adult choices, and intelligent forces from both sides of the so-called digital divide alternately spar and join forces over the value of knowledge versus the joy of the quest to acquire it. And the book glows in the dark. But let me back up.
Clay is a young, unemployed web designer who takes a job at a 24-hour bookstore as a matter of financial necessity. The bookstore described above where no one seems to shop but a few select eccentrics arrive periodically to check out books stored at the top of the store, books that Clay has been instructed not to read. But Clay works the night shift at a store where no one shops so of course curiosity gets the better of him and he discovers that the texts in question are all written in code. His roommate who works at Industrial Light and Magic, his childhood best friend who has grown from chubby geek to buff and wealthy geek thanks to the boob-simulation software he has developed, and his genius potential girlfriend from Google all work to decipher the books. When the store owner, Mr. Penumbra, disappears, the team tracks him to New York and the headquarters of a secret society known as the Unbroken Spine. So who will crack this code first? The Luddites (who are not so technologically deficient after all) or the young and tech savvy?
It would be so easy to pick this apart if it were not for the fact that Sloan mocks his own material in a funny and infectious way, and his obvious regard for both tech and print mirrors the feelings of many of us closet geeks. Geeks who he celebrates unabashedly. Do yourself a favor and overlook the flaws. Irresistible quick read.