Robin Sloan, 2012
Ajax Penumbra is a bookseller with a secret – a big secret, shared by a select few around the world. The secret is a question and a quest, and Mr. Penumbra is initially as shadowy as his name.
Clay, our protagonist and 1st-peson narrator, is a master collaborator. In his quest to help Mr. Penumbra, he solicits help from his friends who contribute their skills, resources, and contacts; collaboration is the name of the game for most of this story.
To say more about the shadowy secrect society to which Mr. Penumbra belongs, or about Clay & Co.’s self-appointed mission in the face of strong opposition (after all, what’s an adventure story without an adversary?) would mean spoilers, so I’ll stop here with the details.
Because I perceived the goal of the quest as becoming muddy and confusing as the story progressed, and because of my dissatisfaction with the ending (which, regardless, does make sense given the collaborative theme of the book), I can’t give this even four stars. Three stars would be a respectable rating, but I’m rating 3.5 stars because the prose is a pleasure, in spite of the drawbacks I experienced.