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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel | [Robin Sloan]

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel

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 has 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....
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Publisher's Summary

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life - mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore.

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 has 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 the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside 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 listener, no matter the time of day.

©2012 Robin Sloan (P)2012 Macmillan Audio

What Members Say

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  •  
    Lauren Austin, TX, United States 12-03-12
    Lauren Austin, TX, United States 12-03-12 Member Since 2004
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    "Possibly best listen ever!"
    Would you listen to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore again? Why?

    Yes, already am listening to it again.


    Any additional comments?

    Absolutely loved this book. Big mystery fan. There's pageturning mystery here but it's also incredibly well written, well performed and a total delight. Great for SF fans, fascinating portrayal of Google and just a magical experience. Immediately went looking for more by this author, but this is the first. Will have to wait.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tiana DES PLAINES, IL, United States 12-02-12
    Tiana DES PLAINES, IL, United States 12-02-12 Member Since 2004
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    "I absolutely love this book"

    I haven't heard this narrator or listened to this author before, but they are both now on my top lists and this book is already in the 'relisten' group. You will not regret it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    susan Port Perry, ON, Canada 12-01-12
    susan Port Perry, ON, Canada 12-01-12 Member Since 2011

    Tell us about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a Pleasant Surprise"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    A nice light read. An odd premise for a story but it works.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore?

    The google compound.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer MILTON, NY, United States 12-01-12
    Amazon Customer MILTON, NY, United States 12-01-12 Member Since 2003
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    40
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    "Every once in a while a mistake IS a good thing"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I accidently purchased this book, and figured, what the heck. I can always delete and move one. With my commute being 90 minutes each way - I use these for my sanity and keep a selection with me.This story started as expected, but twenty minutes in I realized - THIS STORY YOU CAN SEE IN YOUR HEAD. the author gave the details missing in many stories to paint a full picture, but left enough open for the image to be yours. It has a nice balance of charater story, mystery, drama, a touch of romance, real friendship, and the touch that is needed to make the characters into people. You'll notice - I have not said anything of the actual story - so here is a very brief summaryPicture a Internet tech geek, with a artistic streak - caught in a dot com failure. Cannot find work - ends up taking a job in a very old bookstore - but what a store. Very litttle in it for the average reader, but a very odd selection of readers that - actually trade books, but not buying them......How is it staying open? getting money for payroll? Wait it gets odder - a cult? Religion? who are these people coming in and out? Hey, the books are in some code, but each one is just a key to find a part of a larger puzzle.How do they help you keep the interest of the cute "normal" girl you meet who happens to work for google? Put it all together and the ability to value your firends and friendships and you get a very good story.This review from a guy who likes Hobbits, Hammers Slammers, as well as James Herriot and his morning audio newspaperIf you liked Calculating God, you'll love this


    Any additional comments?

    If you're on the fence about getting this book - i suggest you do. It was a very pleasant surprise - enough that a guy like me with several hundred audio books wrote his first real one - for this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lichenyang Williamsburg, VA, United States 11-29-12
    Lichenyang Williamsburg, VA, United States 11-29-12
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    "Just AMAZING! Wonderful listening experience"
    What made the experience of listening to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore the most enjoyable?

    It was such a wonderful experience for me listening to this book that I decided to keep my audible.com account. I have always considered myself as a traditional reader who values books as in physical and visible papers. This book, thought, was meant to be listened, and the narrator did such a fabulous job that I just could not put the book down. Every part of the book was enjoyable! The story line, the modern feeling to it, and the contemporary components that you would rarely find in other books.


    Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

    I literally could not put my headphones down even for one second. I was listening to it when I drive, before I go to bed, or even when I was walking. I finished the book in two days!


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

    Ari Fliakos was amazing when he adds the vocal factor to each of the characters in the book. It brings the book alive. When you listen to it, it feels like that the stories and the characters are floating in front of you, around you. It just feels amazing.


    Any additional comments?

    Highly highly highly recommend. I do not have much of a saying because I just entered this world of audio books, but if you were a traditional reader like me, and you are wondering what on earth can audio book ever bring more value to you, try this book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    alison Samford Valley, Australia 11-24-12
    alison Samford Valley, Australia 11-24-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Everything You Could Ever Wish For In A Book"
    Where does Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This audio book tops my list of favourite titles.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I love books about books, and this one creates the perfect literary cocktail: Put a literary mystery in a quirky bookstore, add a shady secret society and an appreciation of a font; shake well and splice the whole shebang with liberal splashes of current technology. It is creamy, cool, word-nerdy fun.


    Which character – as performed by Ari Fliakos – was your favorite?

    The character of Mr Penumbra was wonderfully rendered. Somehow, Ari Fliakos managed to capture a believable mysteriousness.


    If you could take any character from Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Mr Penumbra, of course. --My new crush.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    M. Seattle, WA, United States 11-23-12
    M. Seattle, WA, United States 11-23-12 Member Since 2011
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    "loved the geeky references, the relationships..."
    What made the experience of listening to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore the most enjoyable?

    First, the cracks about audio books are seriously funnier in this context. The geek references were exactly my cup of tea. The relationships felt like ones I have with people I know, so very authentic (I'm pretty sure I date the protagonist.) Google is a great hero but so are real human beings. The obsessions with books and mysteries are perfect for anyone who has ever wanted to find themselves in the middle of the stories of the jr high fantasy section.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Clay the protagonist is exactly the kind of person I love to hang around with. He's curious, creative and inescapablely optimistic. Failure is not the end, it just means to try something else. He's also goofy and a dreamer. Its his relationships with people that make his life work even our modern internet world.


    What about Ari Fliakos’s performance did you like?

    He had the right 20 something tone for Clay and his voices for other characters are done with the affect of letting you know these are the way Clay sees these people, not the people themselves. It a great rhythm to his reading and it goes by so fast. I immediately started listening to it again as soon as I was done the first time.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Mysterious cults, hacker girls and ILM special effects... All Clay thought he wanted was a job in an all night book store.


    Any additional comments?

    Delightful! Share this one with everyone you know.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melissa NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX, United States 11-20-12
    Melissa NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX, United States 11-20-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Pure fun!!"

    This story was just an absolute delight, beginning to end. The narrator really sounded like a carefree 20-something guy trying to find his place in the world. The wit and silliness of the main character's commentary was fun and just the right touch of humor. I do wonder what the written version of this book looks like, though that might just be the graphic designer in me wanting more visual input. While I had fun imagining what the crazy code books looked like and what the font might be, I do wonder if the printed version provided samples. Other than that, it was definitely an easy, fun listen, and I have recommended this to all my friends!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rachel Tucson, AZ, United States 11-19-12
    Rachel Tucson, AZ, United States 11-19-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    5
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    "Witty, Charming, & Easy to Read"

    I found Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan accidentally on Audible while browsing samples. I laughed out loud so many times through this book during my morning runs I must have looks like a crazy person. The best word I can use to describe this book is witty. But this story isn’t just about books, it adds in the use of modern computer technology with a childhood nostalgia for your favorite cliche book series and – what else could there be but – a secret robed society, called the Unbroken Spine. It is funny, witty, entertaining, and completely unbelievable – but in a good way.

    I identified with the main character in the sense that a) I too love the smell of books, b) I too love the complexities of things like Google, typology, website coding, and super computers, and c) have extremely similar internal monologues.

    This book is the perfect read for all you twenty something-tech savvy-font enthusiast-book lovers who struggle with the concept of ‘book or e-reader?’ who dreamed of finding a hidden code in your favorite book that leads to a secret underground society that has been on a quest for eternal morality for over 500 years. Or, anyone in the mood for a light read, with quality writing.

    In conclusion, there was a truly profound comment in this novel that I bookmarked. However, I removed the audio book from my phone too quickly and lost it. On the upside, this is definitely a book I will add to my library via softcover edition and re-read…and hunt for that quote.

    My Rating: 4 Stars - Memorable, Witty, Laugh-out-Loud, Inventive, Fresh

    (I wanted to but couldn’t give this book 5 stars because it still pales in comparison to my ultimate 5 Star book: Jane Eyre)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nathan Indianapolis, IN, United States 11-16-12
    Nathan Indianapolis, IN, United States 11-16-12 Member Since 2005
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    "A Combination of old and new! Da Vinci Code-ish"

    This book draws you in with the mystery of what is happening and then hooks you with the uncomfortable feeling of doing something you are not supposed to.

    The story starts of pulling you in because you want to understand more. But what I enjoyed was being pulled along with a peppering of getting caught doing something you know you shouldn't but you can't help yourself.

    As a techie I did like the spattering of Google references, fact or fiction it didn't matter there was still a feeling of the contemporary.

    There were shadows of the Da Vinci Code but nonetheless, thoroughly enjoyable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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