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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....
Regular Price:$17.00
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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 (2425 )
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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
    650
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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
  •  
    Cato Sicklerville, NJ, United States 07-31-13
    Cato Sicklerville, NJ, United States 07-31-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fooled by the Great Synopsis"
    Any additional comments?

    The great story premise and synopsis led me to believe I was getting an urban fantasy with fascinating characters drawn into strange happenings at a mysterious bookstore that is more than it appears to be. Instead I got something like Ready Player One with Google worship and modern technobabble in place of 80s trivia and nerd wish fulfillment ruining what could have been a great plot. I wish the person who wrote the synopsis had also written the novel.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ilinca Romania 02-27-13
    Ilinca Romania 02-27-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    82
    ratings
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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
  •  
    Dennis Washington, DC, United States 11-19-12
    Dennis Washington, DC, United States 11-19-12 Member Since 2002

    Tell us about yourself! I am a former high school history teacher and now, a semi-retired physician assistant.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "From Gothic to Don Quixote to His Girl Friday"

    A creepy bookstore run by a peculiar man inveigles a young man into a web of intrigue which involves a boy-girl investigation into an ancient cult with secret codes by using the tentacles of google to find a needle in a haystack. If you are not into fantasy, many references will be incomprehensible, but you may still enjoy the quest. There is little character development and the plot creates the tension of a well-used rubber band.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Celia Topanga, CA, United States 11-22-12
    Celia Topanga, CA, United States 11-22-12 Member Since 2009
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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
  •  
    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.

    9 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SHELDON Thornhill, ON, Canada 10-22-12
    SHELDON Thornhill, ON, Canada 10-22-12 Member Since 2007
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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

    HELPFUL VOTES
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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
    HELPFUL VOTES
    71
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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
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