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
Fantasy, technology, and mystery
Unexpected, charming little fantasy/adventure story set in high-tech San Francisco. It's a curious mix of reality, cutting edge technology, and then fantasy lurking hidden around every corner. It's hard sometimes to tell where reality stops and fantasy starts.
During the recession in San Francisco Clay, an unemployed designer, gets a job at Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore and is soon trying to figure out how it can even stay in business, and what the second, hidden business of the bookshop actually is. Soon the story involves his special effect artist housemate, various Google technology and Google people, his startup-owning best friend from primary school, and lots of references to a beloved fantasy series (the Dragonsong Chronicles) that all manage to tie together into a D&D styled quest to find out the truth and help Mr. Penumbra and solve the mystery of the bookstore for good.
Crossing between reality and fantasy, modern technology and historical mystery, it's hard to describe this book. I felt the ending was a bit abrupt and the "quest" could have ended more impactfully, but it was a sweet and enjoyable light read with some likeable characters and lots of interesting detail.
I tend not to geek out about books...or listen to them again until the story has faded enough in my memory that cracking it open again feels like a new adventure. But as soon as I was done with this book, I texted everyone I knew who mildly enjoys books to download, read, buy! And then started the book all over again with my not-that-enthusiastic-about-books-in-general husband (he lives a sad life) and we devoured it with gusto. We laughed, a lot, and were so engaged in the story, we're buying a print copy for the kids we don't even have yet. Here here, Robin Sloan. Masterfully crafted.
This was a good title to listen to on my commute, it was entertaining without being so involved that I would lose my place while changing lanes.
The Characters were fun and their adventures were not always believable but hey, it's fiction so just go with it.
No, it was amusing, light, entertainment.
Definitely worth a listen if you want a light selection.
Fun, interesting, forward-looking
The story is exciting and moves quickly, that said, I found the ending a little over idealistic.
I don't think I've listened to any other performances by this reader, but this one was quite pleasant.
I did not have any extreme emotional responses to the book but I did find many of the ideas it talked about quite interesting, though somewhat technologically inaccurate.
Great story and characters. Kept my attention riveted from start to finish! What a lucky find. And it would be appropriate for teenagers as well as adults.
Very good story. Very good narration voice.
Several areas of the audio book were not in the actual printed book. I was following along in my Kindle App and suddenly the audio version is yet reading but the read text was not in my Kindle book? At least 2 occasions. Likely more, as I listened without reading more than doing both.
Great narration. The story moves along at a great pace.
I am thoroughly impressed with this author's ability to create such a web of depth to the plot in such a tight narrative.
Well Done By All.
At first I really enjoyed the mystery of this novel. I wanted to figure out what the secret behind the bookstore was. But I felt that once the book revealed the big secret, it was a huge letdown. For comparison, I felt the "big reveal" in The Florentine Deception (another techno-themed adventure) was much more plausible and thought-provoking. That said, The Florentine Deception is a bit more hard boiled than this book (at least in its second half), so I'm not sure it's a perfect comparison.
I wished the "big reveal" was a much better thought out and more substantial/plausible. It's like we were waiting for this really interesting mystery to be revealed and it turned out to be a bunch of techno-babble.
I enjoyed the narrator - he brought a good energy to the book.
No. This was a self-contained story, and given the cheesy conclusion, I wouldn't be interested in a follow-up.
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