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Ajax Penumbra 1969 | [Robin Sloan]

Ajax Penumbra 1969

Young Ajax Penumbra has not arrived in San Francisco looking for free love or a glimpse of the technological future. He is seeking a book: the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. The last record of the book locates it in the San Francisco of more than a century earlier, and on that scant bit of evidence, Penumbra's university has dispatched him west to acquire it for their library.
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Publisher's Summary

From Robin Sloan, author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, the story of Mr. Penumbra’s first trip to San Francisco - and of how he got entangled with the city’s most unusual always-open enterprise….

It is August 1969. The Summer of Love is a fading memory. The streets of San Francisco pulse to the sounds of Led Zeppelin and Marvin Gaye. And of jackhammers: A futuristic pyramid of a skyscraper is rising a few blocks from City Lights bookstore and an unprecedented subway tunnel is being built under the bay. Meanwhile, south of the city, orchards are quickly giving way to a brand-new industry built on silicon.

But young Ajax Penumbra has not arrived in San Francisco looking for free love or a glimpse of the technological future. He is seeking a book: the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. The last record of the book locates it in the San Francisco of more than a century earlier, and on that scant bit of evidence, Penumbra's university has dispatched him west to acquire it for their library. After a few weeks of rigorous hunting, Penumbra feels no closer to his goal than when he started. But late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles across a 24-hour bookstore, and the possibilities before him expand exponentially....

©2013 Robin Sloan (P)2013 Macmillan Audio

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.3 (177 )
5 star
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4.5 (158 )
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  •  
    Bonny Flemington, NJ, United States 10-03-13
    Bonny Flemington, NJ, United States 10-03-13 Member Since 2009

    Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Perfect prequel"

    This is the perfect prequel to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, giving readers a better understanding of who Ajax Penumbra is and how he came to own the 24-hour bookstore. Just as interesting as Mr. Penumbra in this story is how Robin Sloan writes about San Francisco and its history. Sadly, this one was over far too soon; I'm hoping Mr. Sloan will write more about Ajax Penumbra, his life, and his bookstore.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 09-27-13
    Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Durham, NC USA 09-27-13 Member Since 2001

    I'm a voracious audiobibliophile, mainly interested in speculative fiction, with the occasional mimetic fiction or non-fiction title sneaking in.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Reminds me just how much I loved the novel"

    Narrator Fliakos reprises his turn as narrator for Sloan's narrative of dataviz, cryptography, secret societies, and bookstores -- though the tech and approaches and bookstore customers are decidedly 1969 rather than the 2010s of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Instead of Google Maps, we have actual maps. Instead of 3D visualization prototypes, Penumbra has to overlay his data the old fashioned way. But it's still the same grin-inducing voice of discovery and adventure in the story of Penumbra's arrival in San Francisco as I enjoyed in the novel. It's a story that could have slided right into the novel as a flashback narrative and not felt out of place. We see young aspiring psychohistorian Claude Novak, and several other characters from the novel either get name-dropped, slipped into conversation, or play roles nearly as large as young "junior acquisitions" man Penumbra's. "What do you seek in these shelves?" More stories. There still feels like there's plenty that could be told here, and I was delighted to be reminded just how much I enjoyed the audiobook of the novel.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dubi New York, NY, United States 03-06-14
    Dubi New York, NY, United States 03-06-14 Member Since 2011

    People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Penumbra Prequel Is Too Slight"
    Where does Ajax Penumbra 1969 rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Nowhere near the lofty status of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, the full length novel to which this short story/novella serves as a prequel. This story of how young Ajax Penumbra came to San Francisco 35 years earlier and ended up in his bookstore proved interesting enough to me as a fan of 24-Hour Bookstore, but it could not have stood on its own and doesn't rank with its predecessor, which at or near the top my all-time list of audiobooks.


    If you’ve listened to books by Robin Sloan before, how does this one compare?

    The big difference between the original Sloan novel and this prequel is the point of view. 24-Hour Bookstore is narrated in the first person by young Clay Jannon in the present day. His charisma and exuberance and ingenuity really carries the novel. 1969 is in the third person, relating the story of Penumbra's early years, filling in an important part of the story, but without that same sense of wonder and discovery.

    Then there is the collision of the old world and new technology, which is the central theme of both stories. For Clay, the limitless capabilities of modern computing open up doors to relearning "old knowledge" contained in legacy technology like print and literature, marrying the widsom of the ages with the promise of the future.

    In 1969, microcomputing is in its infancy and it does provide a backdrop to Penumbra's journey. But he makes different choices in his youth than Clay makes three decades later. In fact, as likeable of a character as Penumbra is, his one big flaw is his timidity, and 1969 proves that it was indeed his starting point. If Penumbra's world was the real world, it would be amazing to imagine how it might have turned out if he had been as bold and resourceful in 1969 as Clay was in 24-Hour Bookstore.


    What does Ari Fliakos bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Having read 24-Hour Bookstore in print as well as listening to it as an audiobook, I knew already that Ari Fliakos augmented the experience by adding a lively voice to the narrative and good characterizations. He does no less in 1969.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Deflated me was more like it. Avoiding spoilers, I was disappointed when Penumbra made his ultimate choice, which sets the stage for what we see later in 24-Hour Bookstore. I guess if young Penumbra was more like Clay, there would never have been a pretext for 24-Hour Bookstore, so in that meta-post-modern manner, I should be happy.


    Any additional comments?

    Any fan of 24-Hour Bookstore MUST read/listen to this prequel. Chances are I'm being too picky in my critique and most fans will love it as much as the novel. For those who haven't read 24-Hour Bookstore, I would of course recommend reading/listening to that first and then doubling back to 1969. However, I have seen reviews where people read this first and liked it well enough to continue on to 24-Hour Bookstore, so either way, I guess.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melanie Mares Georgia 05-18-14
    Melanie Mares Georgia 05-18-14 Member Since 2008
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    "So glad there is more Mr. Penumbra!!"
    Any additional comments?

    I loved being able to revisit the bookstore and enjoyed the backstory very much! The performance by Fliakos is perfect. His style is just right and listening to him made the story really come to life. I think listening to this audiobook AFTER listening to Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore was important for me, but not necessarily a MUST for all. Just be sure to enjoy to enjoy BOTH of these wonderful books. Makes you feel like you've found a hidden gem and wonder why everyone you know isn't talking about Mr. Penumbra's bookstore.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Whitehall, PA, United States 04-04-14
    Scott Whitehall, PA, United States 04-04-14 Member Since 2012

    Short and sweet reviews, Allentown pa

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    "loving prequels"
    Would you listen to Ajax Penumbra 1969 again? Why?

    sure, this is fun, i am a sucker for back stories
    we get a glimpse of penumbras life and leading to the original 24 hr bookstore


    What did you like best about this story?

    the mystery


    What about Ari Fliakos’s performance did you like?

    he's great, wish he would do more books


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    buy it

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    l Port Saint Lucie, FL, United States 02-18-14
    l Port Saint Lucie, FL, United States 02-18-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Funny sci fi"
    Where does Ajax Penumbra 1969 rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Near the top


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    Mm don't recall


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Ari Fliakos?

    You bet


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes


    Any additional comments?

    I started reading Alex Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore but mixplaced it so was happy to find this audio book. I will probably get the second book now and listen to it as well,very amusing and nicely done.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michele Kingery COLUMBIA, SC, United States 02-08-14
    Michele Kingery COLUMBIA, SC, United States 02-08-14 Member Since 2012

    author of "Starfish"

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    "Treat Yourself"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I'd recommend this to anyone who loves books because it is, among other things, about a mysterious book and the journey to track it down.


    What did you like best about this story?

    This story has some of my favorite elements; a map, a mystery, quirky and likeable characters, an alluring old bookstore, a friendship, and the fun setting of San Francisco in the late 60's.


    What does Ari Fliakos bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Ari Fliakos' lively characterizations make for an enjoyable and entertaining listen.


    If you could take any character from Ajax Penumbra 1969 out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    I would take Ajax out to dinner to find out why he's so interested in a certain book.


    Any additional comments?

    I enjoyed this so much, I ordered the audio novel, "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore". Can't wait to listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ashton Mishima-gun, Japan 10-26-13
    Ashton Mishima-gun, Japan 10-26-13 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "interesting footnote"

    Read after Penumbras bookstore. If you feel like it's too short then that is the sign of a good book not bad writing (in this case).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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