I think, in general, I appreciate books that are based in the same city that the author resides since it gives an "authentic" feel to the book (or sends me searching for information on something I read since it sounds neat). Sloan is from San Francisco, which is where this book is based. Google is often discussed, along with their hierarchy and how working at Google really is. I am not sure if he worked at Google (it doesn't appear to be that way from his website) or knew people who did, but it still has at least a realistic flavor since Google is so well-known for being one of the best places to work. I also recently (in the last three months) visited San Francisco and really enjoyed my stay. But I digress.
Clay is unemployed and happens by Mr. Penumbra's bookstore, where he is hiring for a night clerk. Clay applies and accepts the job, quickly realizing that this bookstore is not like your typical Barnes and Nobel. Instead, it is divided into sections. One section is for normal, albeit mostly outdated/older books. The second section is in the back and Clay is "forbidden" by Mr. Penumbra to look in the books. One night, one of Clay's friends comes into the store and looks in one of the "forbidden" books and finds out that it is all in code. This becomes immensely intriguing since the patronage of the store are...misfits. Clay tries to up the store's presence by offering a very targeted coupon online. A Googler finds it and comes into the store while Clay is working on a 3-D animation of the store. With this animation, he is trying to track what books people are checking out based on the notes that all the clerks are required to take. The Googler, Kat, sees what he is doing and offers the help of her resources at Google to help figure out what is going on since there is a method to the books being checked out. This is only the beginning of a mystery at this store. What do the books say? Why are people checking out only specific ones? Clay quickly finds that this runs deeper than he ever suspected.