Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Have you ever known me to read a book containing a dungeon master, programming code and loads of geeky computer stuff. Yes, totally outside my comfort zone, but I picked it up from the library shelf and brought it home to read. You guessed it – I read it because of the title. How cozy to spend a whole book’s reading time in a book store, I thought.

And I was right. I did spend a lot of time in Mr. Penumbra’s quaint little bookstore. However, the bookstore is unlike any other bookstore. First of all, there doesn’t seem to be many customers. It is the Great Recession, but still, the store sits on pricey San Francisco real estate. How is the owner going to pay the rent with just a few customers? The people who do visit the store want the old obscure books, and they seem to be just borrowing them – with permission.

Clay Jannon is a smart young web-designer who lost his job due to budget cuts. To survive he takes a clerk’s job at the bookstore, working the midnight to 8am shift. As you can imagine, Clay has a lot of time on his hands. In addition, he has a very curious mind. He begins to dig into all the obscure books, the  ones he calls “the way back list.” Soon Clay is convinced that the store is a front for some kind of cult.

Clay enlists the help of his friends to help solve the mystery. Fortunately, he has a new girlfriend who works for Google. She has amazing access to technology that was way over my head. With all this help Clay finds himself looking at the customer’s reading habits, ancient books and secret codes dating back 500 years. His quest will lead him to discover that all of this is about more than Mr. Penumbra’s store. It’s world-wide and centuries old.

The audiobook I listened to was read by Ari Fliako. His dramatic reading was so perfect that I was completely entertained, even though what I was listening to was often not clear to me. This is definitely a book for a tech-savvy reader. I know enough about Google to believe they were often making jokes at Google’s expense. I’m not so sure about everything else.

Overall, a good listen. Read it just for the fun of it or suggest it to someone who knows more about technology than I do.

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5 Responses to Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

  1. Ti says:

    I have this one. I am looking forward to it just because of the bookstore element.

  2. I’ve been drawn to this one because of the title as well. I wonder if I would get the jokes.

  3. astrid.lim says:

    I love this book since it talks a lot about the issue of conventional things (like paperback) vs modern technology (like e-book reader or internet). It felt so relevant with current time and I think could even become a classic one day 🙂

  4. Pingback: Lucky No. 14 March Round Up | books to share

  5. Charlie says:

    Fun review, Margot, and although I knew there was some tech in it, I didn’t realise there was so much. You would think it more inclusive, though Astrid has a point there about current time. Well done on What’s In A Name!

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