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
A mystery was set up, the process was engaging and the ending was as it should be.
The main characters were well fleshed out and likeable.
It was appropriate - not too gaudy.
Why rename it?
Recommend this. If you want fast action you will be disappointed but if you want to be intelligently entertained this is for you.
Did not enjoy this book at all despite a fabulous narrator. Did not understand the computer language or the Si fi references. Did not find it amusing.
I read and review Young Adult lit!
I love books. In fact, I love books so much that I picked up Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore purely because I liked the idea of an actual 24-hour book store so much!
And boy am I glad I did.
Mr Penumbra’s is a love letter to all bibliophiles. It’s for anyone who ever dreamed of finding a real-life mystery in the pages of a book or wished they could go gather a party of their equally geeky friends and embark on an epic quest.
But for all its fantasy origins, Mr Penumbra’s is grounded in modern day San Francisco on the forefront of the digital age. Technology and leather-bound tomes intersect for a fascinating look at the modern mythology of Google.
Audiobooks are often treated as the ugly step-child of literary world so I think fellow audible.com users will especially appreciate the musings about the future of the written world in an increasingly virtual world.
Mr Penumbra’s has transcended genre-preferences amongst my circle of friends so I highly recommend it to readers everywhere!
"Penumbra for President!"
Mr Penumbra has an uncanny ability to spot a likely character! I thought the characterisation in the novel was classic - I loved the descriptions of the Googlers as well as the book stores mysterious clientel. A book set in social networking present day San Fancisco at the same time draws us into an enlightenment world in the early days of printing. Although American - I can't help feeling the Robin Sloan has read a lot of British SF and fantasy authors. His light touch humour and insite is refreshing. I am surprised this polished and entertaining book is a debut for him. I look forward to some more from his pen - or should I say typeface.
This waas wound up with a very easy to listen to telling by Ari Fliakos.
"Weird but intriguing"
A very unusual book but within 20 minutes you are hooked. Well worth a listen.
"Starts well, then get more and more boring"
I think I can honestly say that I've never read a more boring book. The premise is interesting, and the first couple of chapters are good. From then on it's downhill all the way. Just as an example:
at one point the protagonist needs to collect something from a storage facility. After what seems like twenty minutes of boring and irrelevant drivel, completely unconnected with the plot, he finally collects the article, but even then, as he's leaving, he needs to tell us what colour the office computer is. Why?
This is a completely absorbing and realistic fantasy. I love the protagonist, the way it is written and the way it is read. It is a quirky and hard to define book but if you don't read/listen to it you will be missing out. The amazing story of a man that has failed to find his place in the world and how he finds it through the power of a good puzzle, his own resourcefulness, Google, the Internet and most importantly friendship.
"Very likeable characters, funny and engaging"
The main character was immediately very likeable and funny. He reminded me a little of Harry Dresden from the Jim Butcher series if Harry Dresden worked in a book shop and didn't have magical powers. The writing was great - lively, rich and funny.
He's a great narrator and brought the story alive, especially the main character.
Yes, although it took me a few days.
"A decent enough story, but ultimately underdone"
This book gradually builds what you think will be an exciting globe-spanning secret plot. However the ultimate direction the story takes is more mundane. The narrator has a strange way of emphasising the wrong words in sentences, and some sentences run into each other even though there's a significant change between them.
"The stuff dreams are made of!"
Fantastic, enchanting, addictive. The stuff kids dream of but then discover is entirely possible! Couldn't stop listening to it. I wish Mr Penumbra's shop was real.
"gentle nerd wish fulfilment fantasy"
This is one of those books that suddenly seemed to be evey where I looked. The title appealed and what's not to like about a mystery in a bookstore, so I downloaded it.
It is a unique book: a quirky, slightly dizzying, overlaying of Google-led West Coast Techie culture; a centuries old, secretive bibliophile sect with a mission and a real-life analog of a traditional Dungeons and Dragons questing party.
It is told with a light touch, lots of pop culture references, and a self-deprecating charm that make it an easy read.
This is a only a "thriller" if you don't get out much. No body-count. No supernatural beings. Not even car chases and gun fights. The height of excitement is a trip to an old New York basement and a visit to a massive automated warehouse and yet I was happy to keep reading.
This is a book with a message. A fairly anodyne message but one that is passionately told. I won't tell you what it is because that is about the only real surprise in the book.
Whether you enjoy this book may depend on whether you find the central character endearing and resourceful or just naive and lost. "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" made me smile but it was so gentle and so slight that it didn't make a lasting impression. I assume that the ubiquity of the book is attributable to the fact that it has a clever title, is easy to read and envisions a MacBook-wielding, nerdy, website designer as heroic.
Reading "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" was a fine way to pass a couple of idle afternoons but if I'd bought a physical copy rather than an audiobook, it would be on its way to the second-hand bookstore by now.
"As curious as it sounds"
Took a while to get in to the story, but the longer I listened, the more intriguing it got.
Depth to the characters
Do I have your attention...
"Books, cryptography and a noble quest"
A brilliant mixture of reality (Aldus Manutius, Google) and fiction in the search for the answer to a 500-year-old secret. If you love books, web design, fonts or puzzle-solving, it's got something for you.
Beautifully read, with some nice touches too (listening to an audiobook where the character is listening to an audiobook - meta).
You'll want to go to the author's website afterwards too - other Penumbra stories, background info, further reading - it's the kind of book that inspires you to learn more (or change the font you use).
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