Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin SloanMr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

byRobin Sloan

Paperback | September 24, 2012

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"

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 have 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 gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he has embarked on a complex analysis of the customers'behaviour and roped his friends into helping him figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the secrets extend far beyond the walls of the bookstore.

With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the 21st 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 Bookstoreis 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 what the time of day.

"
ROBIN SLOAN grew up in Michigan and now splits his time betweenSan Francisco and the Internet.WEB:robinsloan.com
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Title:Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreFormat:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6.3 × 0.82 inPublished:September 24, 2012Publisher:HarperCollins Publishers LtdLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1443415782

ISBN - 13:9781443415781

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved this book A beautifully written novel. Perfect for fans of books about books.
Date published: 2017-07-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A fun read! I was captivated from the moment the bookstore was described. The mystery behind it all made it that much better. The narration is clever and humorous combined with a pretty great story line. I recommend!
Date published: 2017-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An adventure about books... When I started this book, I thought it was a dud. But by the end, I was in love. I hesitate to quote any of the beautiful passages, for fear of spoiling the unexpected nature of the whole thing. Sloan mixes an Indiana Jones-like adventure with our world of technobabble that fully demonstrates the beauty of both.
Date published: 2017-05-12
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Unusual This is a quick, pretty entertaining read for bookworms and geeks alike. It's about books and passion for knowledge and solving mysteries; it's also about the power and limitations of the Internet and technology. The writing is nothing spectacular, a bit dry, but the story unfolds quickly and keeps you interested
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore Strange and entertaining read.
Date published: 2017-01-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mr. Penumbra This is a story about books, technology, typography, all the things modern technology can do and the little things that it can't. A very refreshing and nice read!
Date published: 2017-01-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really interesting! Different than any other book I've read
Date published: 2017-01-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from MR. PENUMBRA'S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE I have very mixed feelings about this book. I liked the overall story and adventure feel, however I find some parts were dragging out. Recommended if you like mystery/adventure novels!
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! If you love books, then this is definitely the book for you! I love books about books! Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore is a very modern-day story that brings together books and technology with very interesting characters in order to solve an ancient mystery. This book was a very fun read and I would definitely recommend it, particularly to people who love books!
Date published: 2016-11-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An old-fashioned quest tale! Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is an old-fashioned quest story, with a merry band of friends and acquaintances pulling together to solve a mystery and is a love song to both the printed word and new technology. At times it can read almost as YA, resolving neatly at the end. However, in our current climate of cynicism and bad news at every corner, this book comes as breath of fresh air.
Date published: 2016-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It has everything I want This book found a way to incorporate all the things I love into one book. I'm a huge font-typography nerd, my BROTHER'S NAME is Neel Shah (the protag's bff), they harness the forces of Google, and also a secret society. The prose is just delightful. The protag has a light funny voice to bring you along on his adventure. Would recommend to anyone who likes: codes-puzzles, technology, history, typography, books (esp. weird old book stores).
Date published: 2015-07-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great mix of modern and magic Enjoyed this book and think it will appeal to old and young. Mystery, Magic and technology. The characters were unique, I don't know any techies, but it seemd authentic. The book also was funny as well as suspenseful. It was a book I wanted to get back to and find out what happened next and how it would all end. I enjoy a book that keeps me wanting to read ever evening until I'm finished.
Date published: 2015-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Captivating, Quirky Mystery " Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" a quirky, science-fiction blend with magical undertones begins with an economic collapse that has Clay Jannon, a laid off web designer taking the late shift at a mysterious bookstore owned by Ajax Penumbra. With little business, few customers and an eclectic stock, the bookstore seems more like a library with its strange assortment of clients who borrow obscure volumes. But this mysterious bookshop holds secrets that will have Clay and his friends scrambling to unravel complex codes from ancient tomes hidden in a cave-like basement of an international secret society. This is a story where the past meets the present, where inexplicable puzzles in archaic volumes are untangled by modern-day internet gurus. The plot heats up when Clay Jannon solves the Founder's Puzzle only to have Mr. Penumbra close the store and disappear. With clever investigative skills and an unquenchable curiosity Clay enlists the aid of quiet, paranoid Oliver Grone to search for clues to the disappearance in Ajax's room above the bookstore. What he finds takes Clay and his friends -Kate and Neel- on a trip to New York to find the elusive owner, only to discover a mysterious Fellowship looking for the secret of immortality within the pages of an ancient book. Cleverly Robin Sloan in a plot filled with witty banter and amusing dialogue slowly builds tension and suspense as events unfold that send Clay and his friends on a quest to not only unravel the mystery of Penumbra's disappearance, but to unravel secrets hundreds of years old. Although not as long as many novels in the same genre it's smoothly paced in an atmosphere that speaks to friendship in a world filled with curiosity and wonder. The characters are highly intelligent and warm-hearted geeks who stir the imagination, giving the illusion of magic in the reality of a modern-day mystery. Clay Jannon the unemployed web designer turned bookstore clerk is smart, kind-hearted, resourceful and a quick study. There's an immediate amity between Clay and Ajax Penumbra, the mysterious gnomic dreamer who's overly confident, impatient and a delightful schemer. When Mr. Penumbra mysteriously disappears Clay enlists the help of the ambitious and driven computer genius Kate Potente; his loyal childhood friend Neel Shah, a rich entrepreneur; and Mathew Mittlebrand a zealous special effects artist with a big imagination. Marcus Corvina, the highly-conservative, stubborn, unbendable but magnetic First Reader and CEO of the Festina Lente Company like all the characters adds energy, drama and spice to this captivating and entertaining tale. I thoroughly enjoyed "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" with its colourful Google geeks, ancient mystery and intriguing secret society. Fascinating from the first page to the last, I couldn't put it down and highly recommend it.
Date published: 2015-04-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Different interesting read I really liked this odd book and thought the characters were done up nicely Was a quick read that held my interest I would read more from this author.
Date published: 2015-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Utterly Morish! It's like rummaging through an old antique shop, bookstore, hardware store to find objects and ideas oddly strange and familiar. What's old is new in re-discovery and re-acquaintance. More indeed.....
Date published: 2015-04-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Drawn out and uncaptivating Flat boring characters. Plot is drawn out and a bit cliche. Points for intertwining new tech culture with old world mystery.
Date published: 2015-01-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fun but Trite Fun read but the driving mystery is thin and leaves the rest of the book feeling like nothing more than trite literary fanboyism.
Date published: 2014-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic, exciting This book was a bit of a surprise. I wasn't expecting the high levels of excitement found in this story -- there's a genuine thriller to be found in what at first seems like a quiet tale about an unusual bookstore. Recommended for readers of all kinds, there's something in here for any lover of books.
Date published: 2014-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down! Within the first chapter, this book had me hooked with its rickety bookstore ladders, unforgiving San Francisco hills, and promise of conspiracy theories. It's about the intersection of books and technology, but the author avoids implying that computers are going to erase print books and instead crafts a narrative that shows how the digital can enhance the physical and vice versa. Nerdy and charming, this book rewards readers with references to typography, Latin, literature, role-playing games and more. I loved it!
Date published: 2014-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from new favourite! This book is absolutely amazing! A book about books, codes, google, and a mystery = perfection!
Date published: 2014-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just fantastic. Just exactly what I have been struggling with "to kobo or to actual book". Give in to electronics or not. Thanks to this book I realize it doesn't matter, as long as you read the book.
Date published: 2014-08-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Mr Penumbra S 24 hour bookstore This book is a waste of money and time
Date published: 2014-07-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Charming! Books and codes and eternal life... oh my! A truly charming book that brings together 15th century printers, aged self published books, IT moguls, secret codes and ciphers, and Google. Not to mention fascinating characters and a high fantasy trilogy I wish I could read. Lovely. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2014-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Charming and perfect A simple yet stunning tale of what people can accomplish
Date published: 2014-04-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Best read to date One of my favorite reads to date! The way Sloan introduces you to all the different characters, and makes you fall in love with them all, is simply ingenious.
Date published: 2014-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nothing short of brilliant! Recent victim of the country’s weakened economy, Clay Jannon found himself unemployed and with little to no prospects. When he stumbled upon a bookstore that doesn't close, he wasn’t prepared for the world that he would walk into: tall, narrow shelves as high as his eyes can see and volumes of tomes unlike anything he’s ever seen before. After a while, he begins to notice and question some things: how does the bookstore keep afloat when he rarely sells any books? Why does he have to keep track of the customers’ idiosyncrasies and behavior in a log book? When his curiosity gets the best of him, he goes on a quest to solve the most complex of puzzles and discover the mysteries lurking in every niches of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I’ve read quite a few reviews of this novel. The general consensus is that it’s about technology, Google, and books. And yes, it’s about all of those things but I’m walking away with a little bit more understanding and appreciation for immortality. How does one live forever without having to subject your physical body to cryogenic? How do the heroes and villains of the past live way beyond what they have done in the history of the world? This book completely took me by surprise. For something that was infused with a lot of “nerdy” references, it kept me entertained and involved. The tour of the Google compound was certainly a delight. It’s like another world in its own. But those are not the only things that I love about this book. It has a secret society whose members have spent their entire lives trying to break a code hundreds of years in existence. It’s about the limits of advance technology and a novelist whose thought processes digested information far more efficiently than Google’s “big box”. It’s about a bookstore that rarely ever closes with just a handful of customers who doesn’t buy books but borrows them. And it’s about the books written in codes that only a few could decipher. It was a fantasy novel, in a way. It has a token rogue, wizard and warrior but without the fire-spitting dragon to slay. Though they slayed a different dragon entirely. The incongruity of this seemingly ancient bookstore in a city where techies thrive had me revisiting my initial abhorrence of e-readers. I was Corvina, resisting against the current of technology; I was Penumbra, easily swayed by the convenience of holding the entire library in my hands. This was basically the theme of the novel: the dwindling traditional way of life battling against the more aggressive technological advancements of the present. While it would’ve been far too easy for the author to write that Google solved the puzzle, I loved how the author didn’t resort to the easy way out. You’ll have to read the book and follow the wonderful ways in which Clay deciphered the codes. This book has a lot of quirky, memorable characters; and witty, sharp dialogues. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny but the subtle humor makes for an amusing and pleasurable read. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore made my top ten reads of 2013; geeky, yes. Bookish? Oh hell yes. It truly is for those passionate about books, libraries and bookstores. Book lovers and techies alike should have this book on their bookshelves.
Date published: 2013-09-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Geeky fun Clay Jannon was a web-designer when he lost his job during the latest recession. Looking for a job brought him to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore where he is hired as the night clerk. The store is a combination of very small regular bookstore and a monolithic amount of very strange and odd books. Clay must learn to use the library ladders to climb large stacks to retrieve these other books. Clay is given the night shift and soon learns that the obscure books are for borrowing from an odd set of characters. He must detail their every book and demeanor in an logbook. Clay has been told to never look inside these books. But who could resist and he is puzzled about their contents. When a Google employee enters the store he requests her help and they soon learn the meaning and first step of decoding the books. This is a charming and extremely likable book. The reader can not help but like the characters and is caught up with the infectious nature in finding out the truth.
Date published: 2013-08-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun Summer Reading Sometimes I just need to immerse myself in a book that is pure fun...and this is one of those books. Mix together the tradition of books on paper with the technology of today...and you get a blend of exciting adventure. I love reading books that have a puzzle...or a secret society that is doing something I want to be doing...or if there is a bookstore there in the story, even better. Well, "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" has it all. This book is part fantasy, part mystery, part reality, and 100% a page turner. An ideal summer book.
Date published: 2013-08-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It was good. 3.5 stars When Clay starts a new job at a used bookstore that's open 24 hours per day, there are rules about him not looking at the books. Most of the books in the store are old and don't seem appealing, but the majority of the clientele come in for these books. Clay is trying to figure out what the deal is with these books and this odd little bookstore, in general. It was good. I liked the store and the books, and I found Clay's personal life interesting, as well. I did get a bit bored with a lot of the parts of the book that dealt with more technology. Some of it was ok, but too much technology got to be too much for me, and I'd lose a bit of interest at those points.
Date published: 2013-07-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun and sheds some light on the old versus the new Let me tell you something: writing your Twitter profile in 140 characters or less. I don't know about you, but I am a lot of things but here is what I've concluded: Traveller of book realms and fangirl of too many things: tennis, comics and cartoons to name a few. I plan to grow up one day. This is the best I can do and it doesn't begin to tell people that I: - love to watch cooking shows (perhaps because I, myself, cannot cook. - love to listen to jazz and classical music because the bookstore I use to visit often played those type of music. - have an obsession with the GONE, Chaos Walking series, Graceling and the Seven Realms series because their words string together to encase me in feels. - like to occasionally watch football (soccer) and can often be seen cheering for teams with good looking guys on them. And most importantly, I love too many things to figure out what I want to do with my life. I am a science student. But I also enjoy art, history, computers and books. Shoot me right? This book was a lot of things. An artsy-farty book at times and other times, it's completely icky-geeky (I'm lying. It's not icky at all. I'm just trying to make it rhyme). The book covers topics from typography to a secret cult, from a herd of Googlers to book pirates, and from hackers to boob simulators. Just to name a few. I really enjoyed that fact. For a girl who likes a lot of things, reading a book about a lot of things was great. It intrigued me and I related to the characters. I liked how the characters were all multi-dimensional, all so resourceful and all great problem solvers. Characters like The Rogue, The Magician and The Warrior who turned out to be more than their own class designation. The book showed that the rogue can be the magician and the warrior when needed and vice versa for the other two. It showed they were dynamic and the all fitted into the story perfectly. I also really enjoyed how humourous this book was. Robin Sloan littered the book with witty one-liners and references to real published books. And he even made some books up all by himself. The Dragon-Song Chronicles by Steven I can't help it! Clark Moffat sounds like a series I would love to read. It was classic epic fantasy and oooh how I wished I could join the Half-Blood and the scholarly dwarf on their adventure. This book's main purpose, as I see it, is to merge Old Knowledge with New Knowledge, what is written on classic paper vs. what is printed in e-ink. (I won't get into which I like better because that would break the 20,000 characters per review limit on Goodreads). I like how there was a cast of younger, more hip characters and a more ancient, old-school group. Props to Mr. Penumbra and some of the rest of these oldies for being secretly-hip. They are like a group of Betty Whites, kicking all of the look-at-me-I-am-so-hipster people's butts. What made me feel like this book deserved one less star from perfection was how convenient everything was. - Needed money? No problem; I know a guy. - Need a way to access Google? I know a girl. - I can say no more or the Spoiler Assassins will be on to me. The convenience of everything made it almost a middle-grade kind of read. Ever hopped on a bus and magically, you get to where you are going without hassles? Yeah, this book was like that. I understand how things got from Point A to Point B is not the point (heh heh) of the story. But I like adventure novels, I like epic fantasy novels with an even more epic quest. The length of this book could have easily became 600 pages + but obviously, this is not that type of book. I wish the book could have been 100 pages longer; I wish things were written in more detail and things weren't always that easy. But none the less, I enjoyed this book. Set in San Francisco (one of the places I really want to visit. That is another thing I want to write in my Twitter bio.), about a mysterious bookstore with artsy-fartsy and icky-geeky (still not really icky) people is a book you would want to pick up. Festina Lente. Book club (February, 2013).
Date published: 2013-05-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A truly unique tale for booklovers The Good Stuff A truly unique (in a good way) tale that was totally unexpected as I had a different idea of what the book was about It deals with secret libraries and bookstores - um - hello, you can see why this one intrigued me I don't want to give away spoilers but one of the settings was AWESOME - please take me to a place like that A love story to the written word - no matter what the form Lots of intrigue and mystery Tons of Geeky humour Makes you think The Not So Good Stuff the characters were almost archetypical - I felt no emotional attachment to them as they didn't come across as real. A little too slow paced Favorite Quotes/Passages "I realize that the books I love most are like open cities, with all sorts of ways to wander in." "A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time." "We need James Bond with a library science degree." Who Should/Shouldn't Read This would be a fabulous book for a book club or just to talk about over coffee or a glass of wine. Fans of Douglas Copeland or Christopher Moore will feel a connection to this tale. Librarians will especially feel for this book as it deals with keeping the old yet embracing the new. The knowledge that technology will not destroy the written word. The two can and will work together You love books/bookstores - this one is for you 4 Dewey's I purchased this from Chapters Shawnessy because my HarperCollins reps waxed so poetically about it
Date published: 2013-05-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from When the Old joins the New This book already had my vote when I first bought it. I mean let’s face it: this is a book about books and the mysteries and secrets they may hold. If you are obsessed by books as much as I sometimes may be, you are bound to find something interesting in it. Although the story line, humanity’s everlasting search for immortality, is nothing new, the simple fact that the characters, especially the “Average Joe” Clay Jannon, show some sort of self-deprecation brings humor to this complex story plot. By this process, the author shows that the story doesn't take itself too seriously bringing in some welcome lightness. As Robin Sloan allies all you normally need to make a good book (a good story plot full of twists and complexities with realistic characters), the author makes this important point: it is and will always be possible to have a balance in-between the Old and the New and this balance might forever coexist. His point is frequently repeated in this book as the characters will have to use both modern technology as well as old books to crack this 500 years old mystery. Throughout the book, he also makes a point of showing that both vectors have their advantages and limitations, reinforcing his point of view about the cohabitation of these two information mediums. And yet, as every person has its flaws so does every book, this one being no exception. The technical jargon about computer programming and the programming techniques described in this novel were a little complicated to understand and the concepts of their use difficult to grasp. Moreover, the fast paced story plot made it at times feel as if all this puzzle solving and mystery cracking was a tad bit too easy for the characters. The struggles they had didn't seem as convincing as they should have. This feeling is further reinforced through the too perfect ending; which is why the book ended up feeling a little flat to me, hence its rating. This being said, even though this book doesn't end up being as memorable to me as I first thought it would be, it remains a good book that showcases an interesting point of view about the future and the preservation of the old and new knowledge. For more on this book and others, please come visit my blog at : ladybugandotherbookworms.blogspot.com
Date published: 2013-04-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very fun read for book lovers This book is no end of fun. It starts with a love for books and continues with secret societies, breaking ancient codes, Google, writing computer codes, museums, friends and lovers, nerds and geeks, rock climbing, underground libraries, lots of dust. Clay Jannon is on a quest and you, reader, will want to tag along for sure.
Date published: 2013-03-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun read for book lovers Is it possible to fall in love with a fictional character? Because I may be in love with Clay Jannon. Seriously. He works at a book store, he codes things for fun, he loves fantasy novels and makes great references to all sorts of nerdy stuff. Plus he’s socially awkward and random. Love him. I would marry him (shhh don’t tell my boyfriend) Characters like Clay Jannon are one of the reasons I love reading so much. You can’t help but fall for them. Become invested in them. And hang onto their every word. It was Clay that hooked me into the dazzling story that is Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, but it was the ultimately the mystery that got me to stay. It’s so intriguing. And the idea of a secret society that revolves around books is just too good to pass up. As someone who loves to read and talk about what their reading, the idea of following clues hidden in writing is very appealing. I think it’s an idea that would be appealing to all book lovers. We all know what it’s like to become obsessed with books. When I was done reading/listening to this book, the idea that really stuck with me was how Robin Sloane presented the new technology (Google and all it’s gadgets) and old (books). I loved that they worked together for a common goal, rather than against one another. I think this book is a wonderful example of how we don’t have to choose one over the other. I can have my e-reader and my bookshelf full of print books and there’s nothing wrong with that. New and old technology can co-exist. It doesn’t have to be a fight to the death. Recommendation: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is a quick, fun read with lovable characters, and intriguing plot. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet still manages to say something important about our society. This is definitely a book for book lovers. This and other reviews at More Than Just Magic (http://morethanjustmagic.org)
Date published: 2013-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved It! This book is pure entertainment. It is everything you want from a book about books, relationships and mysteries! It kept a smile on my face for days. The characters are quirky and memorable. This book will definitely not fade in my mind, in fact, it has just joined my "5 year read list," along with the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I will pull it out like an old friend and enjoy it all over again.
Date published: 2013-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! This book was a pleasure to read, a great combination of current culture and dusty arcanea (maybe a made-up word but it conveys what I mean!). There's a little mystery, a little romance, and a lot of fascinating characters and plot twists. Highly recommend. It's a quick rollicking read and you'll feel right up to date with "kids these days". ; )
Date published: 2013-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Flashlight book This book reminded me what it felt like to stay up way past bedtime, hiding under the covers, reading with a flashlight, because I just had to know if the hero would win. It gave me hope for the future of great stories, and whatever vessel they will be carried in. Quirky and kind, a warm hug of a book, even for cynics. Especially for cynics.
Date published: 2013-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from ITS A CHARMING BOOK As so many people in this day and age Clay Jannon must give up doing what he loves (web design) and go out and find a job that pays a little more regularly. Problem is there are not that many jobs out there that would “fit”. Happenstance leads him through the door of Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore and when his accepts the slightly unorthodox position (night clerk) he has no idea that he is about to embark on a quest. Clay notices immediately that the store has few customers but that they seem to come back regularly. When he starts getting a little bored with his night shift he cannot help but snoop around a little and he discovers that this bookstore hides many secrets and, is in fact, one of many doorways for members of a secret society t pass messages. Through circumstances and curiosity it falls to Clay to find not only the key to the secret code, but maybe to eternal life. I enjoyed the story and thought parts were unique and fresh. I really enjoyed the concept of mega computer giant “Google” playing off against good old-fashioned detective work to solve the puzzle. I loved the insight into books and their importance whether paper or digital. I even liked Clay and his friends. This book has received rave reviews everywhere. I wish I could rah-rah for five stars as well but I can honestly only eke out four.
Date published: 2013-01-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore "I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules." Mr. Penumbra's exotic and extraordinary bookstore never closes. Smelling of oak and old books, the bookstore is a relic from old in the middle of modern San Francisco. The carved wooden shelves stretch so high into the vertical space that the newest employee, Clay Jannon, feels certain there are bats up there. But bats aren't the only concern for Clay. A few days into his new night shift job at the store, his spidey senses tell him there's much more going on at Mr. Penumbra's than can be seen by peering past the golden letters on the window glass. After all, how long can a book store that loans more books than it sells stay in business? The long stretches of time between customers, or borrowers, give Clay plenty of opportunity to speculate and to begin to investigate the mystery. Each new piece of information he uncovers creates more questions than it answers. Each new development leads him to ask even louder: "Just who is Mr. Penumbra, and what is he up to?" This is a fun book to read. I laughed out loud from time to time. Sloan tells the story from the entertaining point of view of Clay Jannon. Jannon sees himself as an Ordinary Joe, so it is easy to identify with him and his foibles—even when he's doing things Ordinary Joes would never manage. Don't be fooled by Robin Sloan's easy, engaging style though. There's plenty to think about and learn from in this book. Scratch the surface of his topics (and by that I mean Google them) and you will learn things about the earth and typefaces and dolphins and anchors you never would have thought of. Google plays a major role in this book, both in a marvelous way, ("How can you stay interested in anything—or anyone—for long when the whole world is your canvas?") and a not-infallible way ("I used Google to translate this from Latin, so bear with me if I get some of the details wrong.") Sloan explores two main themes: (1) immortality and humanity's relentless search for it, and (2) the balance of new and old. In a series of events that only sometimes feel contrived and often have a James Bond-ian feel about them, the characters use Google, or old leather-bound books to solve the mystery. They create art with pixels, or with glue and paint. They learn new things through through computer searches, or through instinct and word of mouth. ". . . some things have an aura. Others don't." Sloan both lauds Google and realistically assesses its failures. He both lauds books and realistically assesses their limitations. He honours both the old and the new and demonstrates our need for a balance of both. And as for immortality, well, even a bookstore that never closes cannot achieve immortality. Or at least not in the same physical form. Although . . . now that Robin Sloan has penned this book, Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore will live forever.
Date published: 2012-11-07