The world of San Francisco at the beginning of the twenty first century in all its nerdy (but not hipster) fun is the setting for Mr. Penumbra''s 24 Hour Bookstore. And fun it is. Especially if you know the city as Robin Sloan so obviously does and exploits it for maximum effect - from the "Gourmet Grotto" i.e. the Powell Street mall's food court, which is exactly as portrayed, to-the-down at heel section of Broadway, described more innocuously than it actually is.
But even now (in 2013), the book feels both modern and nostalgic at the same time. The obsession with working at Google particularly dates the story to a very specific epoch. My favorite character is Mr. Penumbra. The performance holds up and I will revisit this book in the future, when I'm in the mood to time travel to the halcyon days of San Fran in 2010.
Fabulous book--original, whimsical, well written. Delightful narration.
One of my favorite books ever. I would give it a "10" if I could.
It sounded like a great promise, but it dissolved into nothing much along the way. Three stars for managing to keep me listening; but there wasn't much reward at the end of it. I guess bets of the kind behind Sloan's novella aren't necessarily the best kick-off for great literature.
I really enjoyed this book it reminded me of Ready Player One and The Da Vinci Code. If you liked those books then you will be in for a real treat here. I will have keep an eye out for more books by Robin Sloan. I also really liked this narrator I think he did a great job bring the characters to life.
Dept Q, Harry Hole... where are you?
Now this should be a critic's choice! Only this is one smart book that doesn't hold any presumptions. Many thanks to the Oberlin, Kansas reviewer. This is one I may not have given a second glance, had it not been for her review.
On the other hand i think most of us who love books are drawn to any title having to do with mysterious bookstores. And It doesn't get any more mysterious than Mr. Penumbra's bookstore. What is better than a genuine mystery with fascinating characters all revolving around books?
Ari Fliakos is as talented a narrator as I have encountered.
This is fun and fast read!
Tone reminds me of other books, written by persons of probably a similar age (under 35) - sort of an innocent voice, non-judgmental to the point of utter blandness. Don’t these people have opinions? Reactions? Dark thoughts of injustice and prejudice? I guess not. Political correctness is embedded in their DNA, apparently. Neither do they make mistakes or have setbacks. Maybe it’s wish fulfillment, but it seems like the general attitude of that generation is that things will work out for them just because.
The rest of the book is one big ad for how great Google is, despite every server in their universe not being able to crack a basic substitution code. And despite the massive build-up and the fervid paranoia of the Unbroken Spine, the secret turns out to be not so much after all. Kat takes it hardest which was amusing. Her first ‘no’. She didn’t deal with it very well.
Eh, I don’t know. I wasn’t overly annoyed while reading this book and picked it up for a palate cleanser, but I wasn’t fulfilled by it either. No deep secrets. No big reveal. The plot, on the surface, seemed complex, but wasn’t. Bland characters. No violence or dirty deeds. I guess if you like saltines, you’ll like this.
Based on the first hour or two of this book, I thought I had found something akin to the eerie metafiction of Paul Auster's "Oracle Night" with a bit of SF/Fantasy focus.
Instead, this novel proved itself to be a "Ready Player One"/"Da Vinci Code" mash-up filled with techie references and code-breaking, secret societies.
The initial atmosphere is a nice blend of mysterious, youthful, dot com, near-future economic ennui. But as the story unfolds, everything feels trite.
The plot is serviceable, though the characters (as another reviewer noted) seems like poor caricatures of real people: more overly-optimistic archetypes than real, growing people.
I too was annoyed by the take on Google. Basically, Google (and those perky, unstoppable Googlers) can do no wrong, and their campus is some sort of modern day utopia of enlightenment.
What got me most about this book was the ending. I wish that our author had simply finished the book with the completion of the main narrative arc. Instead, we get a cloying, everything-turned-out-perfectly-for-all-the-main-characters-except-the-villian-who-got-his-comeuppance epilogue.
All my complaints aside, this book was, at least, entertaining. If you like books like "Ready Player One" and don't want to be bogged down in anything even vaguely-related to real life concerns or problems, this one is probably for you.
But less generously: not half as interesting as either. Foucault's Pendulum is much more worth the time.
Not much of a book. I thought it was silly and hardly worth listening too. I finished it, but if you like this kind of book and haven't listened to Ready Player One, it's a better bet. Penumbra's seems like it was plotted out on someone's computer and then written from out from someones writing program. I suppose I just didn't buy it. The narrator, however, was perfect for the story. He redeemed the whole thing.
If I had read this when I was 15 I would have enjoyed it much more. In flavor, flow and content it really seems dedicated to a younger audience. In fact I think the only reason that the main character was in his 20s was so that he could have a girl friend who worked at Google. But it think would have worked better if he were say - 16 - and had a brother, father, etc.who worked at Google,
It was a nice piece of fluff, but to say it was reminiscent of Murakami is like saying that the Adirondacks are reminiscent of the French Alps.