Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane

Title: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloane
Format: Hardcover; 288 pages
Published: Oct 2, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 0374214913
Source: Library
Purchase Here:
Barnes and Noble

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that’s rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.


Clay Jannon is down on his luck. Then he ventures into Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore looking for a job… and in it he finds more than he could ever have imagined. During his adventures, Jannon runs into some pretty extraordinary people. Luckily, Jannon is smart enough to recruit these unlikely players in solving an extraordinary puzzle. Of course, there is a secret society that doesn't necessarily want that to happen any time soon…

This book was reminiscent of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, but for book nerds instead of gamers. There were many references to pop culture icons such as Google and the book had instances where you felt like you were "in on the joke." Sloan's writing made me feel like I was listening to a friend tell an amazing story. It really is a gem.

The characters in this world were engaging and I found myself really invested in finding out what happened to them. And I really didn't expect the places this book would go, but it was a wonderful surprise! Another awesome surprise? The cover of Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore GLOWS IN THE DARK!

The following is the first paragraph of
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore...

"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 the planet I've left behind. The tops of the shelves loom high above me, 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."

5 stars to Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore for taking me on a great adventure!

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