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
From the summary and from reading reviews, I was expecting this to be (what I’d call) fantasy-lite, by which I mean placed in our world but with dashes of fantasy, like a much lighter Harry Potter or an Off to Be the Wizard. It’s not. It's fiction firmly set in modern America—San Francisco to be exact. The “magic” I wanted quickly became less HP and more Freemason (huge disappointment) and then morphed into little more than a morality tale or parable, if you will.
The set-up was intriguing. I mean a book about a bookstore and loving books: that’s right up my alley! But most of the characters are average, and there never seemed to be anything on the line—no real sacrifice or looming danger. I didn’t really love any of them, I felt just along for the ride. Penumbra was the most likable character but his constant, “My boy,” started off endearing but soon grated on my nerves.
I liked the narrator; he’s easy to listen to and sounds natural. He only gets 3 stars because I found times when I didn’t know if Clay (protagonist) was speaking out loud or was in his own head. Not a problem I’ve had with other audiobooks.
It lacked something, maybe grandeur, but I kept thinking I wanted more. And I can’t quite decide whether to keep it or return it. I haven’t yet listened to the prequel short story, but I keep hoping that it will make this one worth my time.
Set in the present day and told in the present tense, Sloan pulls the reader into the the story by twisting past, present, and possibility together in this fun adventure through a puzzle of books. This is fantasy, of course, so readers will have to play along with the hero of the story, who always happens to have to right resources at his fingertips, but with a little suspension of disbelief and some background in the world of table top role playing fantasy, the story proves a great escape from reality!
The narrator is quick to pick up on the inner voice of the hero, who is witty and a tad self deprecating, but incredibly endearing.
I'm a simple man learning more and more through reading.
Sometimes you just need a simple read that makes you smile and wonder at the same time. I felt like this book did a amazing job of balancing the adventure and puzzles of a classic mystery with the humor and technology expected in novels today.
Excellently read with wit and inflection at just the right times.
I'd highly suggest this!
but was pleasabtly surprised! The narration, in particular, was great. A very enjoyable voice to listen to. The story was well paced with a very satisfying ending!
Excellent story, and truly fantastic narration. As I listened I thought more than once on what a great job the narrator did and what a perfect match his voice was for the main character. One of those where you find yourself looking forward to the next time you get to listen.
It seemed like the whole time reading that this book was for me. From high tech, to rock climbing, to an eloquently constructed story which seemed to fit everything I've looked for in a book..this is hands down my favorite book and I'd recommend it to anyone growing up in the 21st century with an interest in books with a bit of mystery, adventure, Google, weird nerdy outbursts, and ultimately want to hear a fantastic story. If you're not sure give it a sample listen.
what an achievment! totally original, funny, smart and engaging. a mix for geeks who love design, books and cutting edge technology, with a 500 year anigma on top. loved it!
I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. Interesting, intriguing and so creative - well done Robin Sloan! Ari Fliakos' performance was incredible - just the right touch - really added to the experience - thank you.
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