Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: The perfect nerdish fantasy
Robin Sloan's Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is one of those instant geek classics that gets right into the romance and magic of high-tech, a book akin to Cryptonomicon or Microserfs.
Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is one of those instant geek classics that gets right into the romance and magic of high-tech, a book akin to Cryptonomicon or Microserfs. It's the story of Clay Jannon, a broke ex-high-tech worker who gets a night-shift job in poky, weird bookstore whose highest shelves are stocked with curious ancient volumes, These books are only ever requested by furtive, weird customers who come in the middle of the night and request them by name, and it's Clay's job ot scale the rolling ladders that run the length of the shelves to retrieve them.
Thus begins the setup of a book that explores cryptic codes (the books are filled with odd, incomprehensible type), the awesome might of parallel computation (Clay's girlfriend, a Googler, helps him recruit untold computing power to put to work on deciphering the mystery of the books and the customers), secret societies (the furtive customers who come in the night), and the quest for immortality through the ages (a subject I can't write much about without getting into major spoiler territory).
This is what a book like The DaVinci Code could be if its author loved the world, rather than resenting it. This is a geek's love poem to the twenty-first century, to design, to networks, and to the delightful world of problems with chewy, crunchy solutions. Every page is filled with sweet humor and delightful, dorktastic people who are nerding out in the very best way about the stuff that matters to them.
Mr Penumbra is, at the end, a book about passion -- for books, for history, for the future. It's full of (often made-up) technological details that nevertheless ring true, the kind of stuff that nerds fantasize about doing a lot, and get to do a lucky once in a while. It's the perfect nerdish fantasy, full of secrets behind bookstore shelves, unimaginable computational power, and deep geekery about RPGs, dataviz, narrow-targetted mobile ads, and typography. There is nothing in this book that I didn't love.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel
On March 19, Tor Books will release my next book, Radicalized, whose four novellas are the angry, hopeful stories I wrote as part of my attempt to make sense of life in our current moment.
Visual Disturbances: what eye-tracking and 187 unlicensed clips reveal about change blindness and our perception of films
My most recent essay film, Visual Disturbances, premiered in the open access journal [in]Transition yesterday. This open access journal features peer reviewed academic video essays and showcases a wide variety of film and media analysis. Visual Disturbances uses some cutting-edge eye tracking visualizations to explore how film audiences both perceive and mis-perceive movies.
Electronic Grenade's "'Computer' Mouse" project fits a fully functional computer into a fully functional, 3D printed mouse; the computer is a Raspberry Pi Zero W, with a teeeny leeetle flip out keyboard and a tiny little itsy bitsy flip-out screen. (via Motherboard)
It’s a rude awakening for that rookie vacationer abroad when they try to plug in their gear for the night. Veteran jet-setters know that outlet shapes can vary wildly from country to country, which necessitates that most boring must-have for any world-traveler: A sackful of clunky power adapters. Awkward problem, elegant solution: The Twist Plus […]
Looking for a career in music behind the boards, either as a music producer or DJ? It’s a good bet that you’re going to be working with Ableton Live. Each new iteration of this powerful workstation gives the user more tools to create, and it’s just as well suited for the task of meticulous track […]
The graveyard of failed startups is littered with concepts that just got lost in translation. At its core, that’s what great front-end design is about: Making an app or website usable, translating its best ideas smoothly to the user. It’s a skill so broad there might be no one book or course that covers it […]