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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

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (2523 )
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  •  
    Ron Basehor, KS, United States 12-28-12
    Ron Basehor, KS, United States 12-28-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fun read. High tech meets ancient mysteries."

    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.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ilinca Romania 02-27-13
    Ilinca Romania 02-27-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    84
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    47
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    Story
    "ummm..."

    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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori United States 02-20-13
    Lori United States 02-20-13 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Overated!"

    I am 36 years old and enjoy a good conspiracy adventure and even a fantasy every now and then. I am therefore baffled at the great review's this book has received.
    I almost quit around chapter 17 but endured on to the end. I was not rewarded for my faithfulness. I gave this book 3 stars because it was not the worst book I have read lately. The concept was good. The characters had promise but in the end fell flat, I was not really invested in any of them.
    The narrator read way to fast, this book should have been 10 hours not 7+.
    This reminds me of the book "14" that was also on my recommendation list and I also disliked, and also was baffled at the great reviews?
    Maybe its an age thing, I don't know...
    I will just give you an idea of the books I have enjoyed recently so you can compare and decide if this is worth you downloading:
    Sweet tooth by Ian McEwan
    You're next by Gregg Hurwitz
    Garden Spells by Addison Allen
    Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
    Beautiful Ruins By Jess Walter
    House at Riverton By Kate Morton
    Dublin murder squad series by Tana French
    The Leopard by Jo Nesbo

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Kingston, ON, Canada 10-22-12
    James Kingston, ON, Canada 10-22-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Ready Player One meets Da Vinci Code"

    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.

    10 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Celia Topanga, CA, United States 11-22-12
    Celia Topanga, CA, United States 11-22-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very, very light listening"

    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.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SHELDON Thornhill, ON, Canada 10-22-12
    SHELDON Thornhill, ON, Canada 10-22-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Really a book for teens...."

    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.

    18 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RueRue Orange County, CA 05-13-14
    RueRue Orange County, CA 05-13-14 Member Since 2013

    RueRue

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    "Worth the listen for the great narration"
    Would you try another book from Robin Sloan and/or Ari Fliakos?

    Definitely to Ari Fliakos, maybe to Robin Sloan. The story was a little too fantasy-geek for me, but the excellent narration kept me marginally interested.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lee Chapel Hill, NC, United States 10-27-13
    Lee Chapel Hill, NC, United States 10-27-13 Member Since 2007
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    "So Over-rated!"

    The leading user review compares this book to the Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern). This is grossly unfair to the Night Circus. Penumbra has enough ideas for a really good short story. The characters are mostly interesting types, although fairly static and undeveloped. The lead character is boring, and the most interesting character, Penumbra, is not "on stage" nearly enough. I would compare this more to a watered down "14" (Peter Clines) which was much more interesting. I found that even at the most climactic parts of the book, I really didn't care that much. I finished the book mainly because it was only about 8 hours long. The Night Circus, on the Other hand, is about 100x more dense with ideas, imagination, character development, and dramatic tension. All that is not to say this book is bad; it is good enough that I think it could have been better. If you want a hip, fun, modern, weird mystery book, try 14 instead.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joan Chester, VA, United States 10-17-12
    Joan Chester, VA, United States 10-17-12

    Reader

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Smart, Quirky and Satisfying"
    If you could sum up Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore in three words, what would they be?

    See my title.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The story never let go of me.


    What about Ari Fliakos’s performance did you like?

    His reading was just delightful. I believe he enjoyed the book as much as I did.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Delight; extreme delight.


    Any additional comments?

    I've read a lot of books in my 64 years. I'm now nearly blind and depend upon audiobooks. This book comes close to making up for the differences between reading a book and listening to a book.

    I found it very satisfying to listen to this particular reader tell this particular tale. It's an absorbing story that combines old knowledge and new knowledge, books and technology with the interests and the needs of the young and the old.

    Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is one of my current favorites, and, if it stands up to a few re-readings, it might be a candidate for my list of lifetime favorites

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darlene Hunt Valley, MD United States 10-23-12
    Darlene Hunt Valley, MD United States 10-23-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    22
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    "Should have been subtitled I Love Google"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Couldn't even make it to the end on this one. Why? Because I gave up caring about halfway through how it turned out. The characters turn into such caricatures that you just can't get invested in what they are doing or how the whole thing ends up. It would have to get a serious rewrite to get to 4 stars. This started as a short story and then somehow it got made into a book. It's painfully obvious that it was a short story originally as the characters just peter out after the first couple chapters. There's nothing else to them. They don't develop, they don't change- they are fully done within the chapter they are introduced in. The author clearly doesn't have enough in him to flesh out a book.

    I have to wonder how old the folks giving this 4-5 stars are. Unless you're a teenager or college student who thinks name-dropping gadgets or tech companies every couple paragraphs and referring to things in the context of role-playing adventures constantly is good plot building, this book is not for you. Google and a macbook are pretty much main characters by chapter 10. The authors likes to prominently mention he used to work at twitter in all his interviews and blurbs and after making it even partway through this mess, you just want to mentally asterisk that with "* But I really really wish I'd landed a job at Google."


    Has Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore turned you off from other books in this genre?

    I'm not sure this book even has a genre- bad tech stories?


    How could the performance have been better?

    The reader has a fairly limited range - stereotypical cali, stereotypical sorta surfer and old guy. You couldn't always distinguish who was speaking. Performance didn't really lend anything to the book.


    What character would you cut from Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore?

    Google! The author seems to believe it's a magical place where everyone is happy and everyone is a genius. Knowing someone who works there will in fact solve all your problems. He actually refers to people as Googlers and non-Googlers. It's idiotic.


    12 of 16 people found this review helpful
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