Mar 202013
 
Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Published by HarperCollins on Oct 2, 2012
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Format: ARC from Publisher
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
Rating: five-stars

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 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 what the time of day.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Without a doubt, this was a booklover’s book. I want to visit Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore so badly. It sounds so unique and visually pleasing, and I wouldn’t mind catching a glimpse of some of the eccentric and fun regular customers either.

There is a great juxatposition of new and old in the story. Google and secret societies. Old pen and pencil problem solvers teamed with young computer hackers. Handmade books catalogued by 3D software. It mixes everything into one delightfully complex, and yet very simple, story. It reminds me that just because something is old, it doesn’t mean it is irrevelant or useless, and just because something is new, it doesn’t make it better.

Overall, this was a fun adventure story that is told in a relaxed tone. It seems tailor made for readers, which makes it seem very special. Reading about books and other readers is always fun, and it feels almost like an inside joke. This is a story that every book blogger should read, and one that should be shared with anyone who loves books in general.

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