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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 Ratings

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  • Story

Captivating, Entertaining, Fresh, New...

Now this should be a critic's choice! Only this is one smart book that doesn't hold any presumptions. Many thanks to the Oberlin, Kansas reviewer. This is one I may not have given a second glance, had it not been for her review.

On the other hand i think most of us who love books are drawn to any title having to do with mysterious bookstores. And It doesn't get any more mysterious than Mr. Penumbra's bookstore. What is better than a genuine mystery with fascinating characters all revolving around books?

Ari Fliakos is as talented a narrator as I have encountered.

This is fun and fast read!

20 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • Lee
  • Chapel Hill, NC, United States
  • 10-27-13

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.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Ron
  • Basehor, KS, United States
  • 12-28-12

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.

14 of 19 people found this review helpful

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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.

23 of 32 people found this review helpful

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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

14 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • Lili
  • West Coast
  • 09-15-17

How come nobody told me this book was so good?

Any additional comments?

This is what a book of fiction should be...an enthralling journey into an imaginary world that also gives you insight and a new perspective on the real world. And as an added bonus sparks a curiosity of various points of interest that were little known to you before you read the book.

I bought this book a full year ago, and then promptly ignored it. Only came to read it recently because the author's new book Sourdough is being heavily promoted and reading some of those reviews this book was mentioned repeatedly. I finished it in three days.

This book and one of the Fredrik Backman books...my two favorite fiction books of 2017.

Hardly know where to start. The narrator takes the reader on a journey through vivid images of a mysterious bookstore, a fanciful version of San Francisco, and a bit of a sinister underground stone vault under New York City. These images are interspersed with trips to the high tech Google Campus, a tech start-up, and a very modern gourmet food court.

The characters, both male and female, are skillfully voiced, and there are even excerpts from an imaginary audio book within this audio book that they really make sound like it's an old audio CD from 1987.

After the book ended I found myself googling information about 14th century book publishers in Venice, the history of typography, and whether or not there really is a gourmet food court located in a six story mall in San Francisco, (there is).

The narrator Ari Fliakos...one of the very best I have ever heard, masterful.

This book may be a bit Lord of the Rings meets The Da Vinci Code but really stands on its own as something singular and special, and if you're looking for a page turner to distract you from the day to day, this book could be for you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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.

11 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Fun Read, but Scary

The generation of video game players and other techno-beasts is aging. Whether they are becoming adults, as in reality-based productive citizens remains to be seen. Corporate-based cults like Google-ites tend to scare me as the charm and super-reality presumed by the cultist of this religion-like fervor, can lead it's minion down a rosy path to nowhere. Meanwhile, Google and their ilk are soaking up information on all of us, from our buying patterns to our political affiliations, and using them to who knows what end. The characters that control this data (and its eventual impact on our lives) are controlled by whom exactly? They are rich beyond having normal tethers to reality, and powerful enough to effect QOL issues for EVERYONE!

And that makes me more than a bit uncomfortable. The General Motors and General Electrics of the past simply wanted to monopolize their markets and control the political decision makers via Lobbyi$t$, while making ungodly amounts of cash. But at least they made some helpful things along the way. Now the world is controlled by a class of wealthy game players, that discussed their thievery as 'investment vehicles' that benefit a small few, while making exactly nothing useful.

Now we have the notion of 'belonging' to something as meaningless as a cult or religion, that pays us very well to do who knows what for who knows whom. All this brainpower would be better exploited in science and medicine, aimed at improving the quality of our lives without disturbing the natural environment in which we survive.

Penumbra's tale is an old one, but the setting here is not a creepy little bookstore. It is a masterful manipulation of many of our brightest young minds, a story from which we get very little, if anything.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Should be categorized as teen lit

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Maybe....it was a fun story at first, but about half way through I got very bored. It's definitely a teen lit-type book. If I had that expectation going into it I may have enjoyed it more, but maybe not. It got a bit annoying at times.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Better suited 4 teen audience.NOT Ready Player One

I know I have been spoiled by the likes of Connelly, Deaver, Lippman, French, Child and others. This book is kind of juvenile in its plot and pacing. I think my 12 year old would love it. However, it is NOT Ready Player One (RPO). RPO is a well-polished narrative with clearly thought out characters. It moves neither too fast nor too slow. I adored it. This book has a bit of fantasy in it but it doesn't seem to fit with the non-fantasy parts. Characters are very one dimensional and predictable - almost like cartoons at times, especially Mr. Penumbra himself.
This book comes across like someone just sat down and typed it up with no effort to edit, polish or improve it after the fact. It's not awful, simply unsophisticated.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful