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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

Overall

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    3,649
  • 4 Stars
    3,038
  • 3 Stars
    1,371
  • 2 Stars
    319
  • 1 Stars
    132

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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    4,625
  • 4 Stars
    2,282
  • 3 Stars
    677
  • 2 Stars
    118
  • 1 Stars
    66

Story

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
  • 5 Stars
    3,222
  • 4 Stars
    2,633
  • 3 Stars
    1,382
  • 2 Stars
    358
  • 1 Stars
    151
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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Should have been subtitled I Love Google

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Couldn't even make it to the end on this one. Why? Because I gave up caring about halfway through how it turned out. The characters turn into such caricatures that you just can't get invested in what they are doing or how the whole thing ends up. It would have to get a serious rewrite to get to 4 stars. This started as a short story and then somehow it got made into a book. It's painfully obvious that it was a short story originally as the characters just peter out after the first couple chapters. There's nothing else to them. They don't develop, they don't change- they are fully done within the chapter they are introduced in. The author clearly doesn't have enough in him to flesh out a book.

I have to wonder how old the folks giving this 4-5 stars are. Unless you're a teenager or college student who thinks name-dropping gadgets or tech companies every couple paragraphs and referring to things in the context of role-playing adventures constantly is good plot building, this book is not for you. Google and a macbook are pretty much main characters by chapter 10. The authors likes to prominently mention he used to work at twitter in all his interviews and blurbs and after making it even partway through this mess, you just want to mentally asterisk that with "* But I really really wish I'd landed a job at Google."

Has Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore turned you off from other books in this genre?

I'm not sure this book even has a genre- bad tech stories?

How could the performance have been better?

The reader has a fairly limited range - stereotypical cali, stereotypical sorta surfer and old guy. You couldn't always distinguish who was speaking. Performance didn't really lend anything to the book.

What character would you cut from Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore?

Google! The author seems to believe it's a magical place where everyone is happy and everyone is a genius. Knowing someone who works there will in fact solve all your problems. He actually refers to people as Googlers and non-Googlers. It's idiotic.

17 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Geek-Fic

This book reads more like a YA geekfest rather than the novel as it's advertised. The characters are well-drawn - could be archetypes of all the marginal guys (& gals) from my high school days - marginal because they were brainiacs and mathletes and did not participate, either by choice or by expulsion from the "it" group, in the popular cultural elite du jour.

Yes, it's all about an unusual bookstore but not from an adult's perspective of the store nor from the viewpoint of what happens in the neighborhood. I just felt caged in the mind of a precocious and brilliant teenager - even though the protagonist is way older than that - and was really looking for a book for an older demographic. Which is a convoluted way of saying this was not the book for me.

The writing seemed juvenile and I kept thinking I was reading a Harry Potter book with different settings and different characters.

NOT what I expected AT ALL. Another waste of a credit.

43 of 71 people found this review helpful

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Great clean charming and intelligent adventure

Loved it all the characters were interesting and good depth in variety performance was outstanding

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Wonderful and clever

Artfully celebrates human inventions old and new in a story full of lovable characters and a twisty plot. A clever premise that satisfies our curiosity, and uncovers a wide spectrum of human ingenuity. Loved it, and couldn't put it down.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Inoffensive...that's the best I can say

Tone reminds me of other books, written by persons of probably a similar age (under 35) - sort of an innocent voice, non-judgmental to the point of utter blandness. Don’t these people have opinions? Reactions? Dark thoughts of injustice and prejudice? I guess not. Political correctness is embedded in their DNA, apparently. Neither do they make mistakes or have setbacks. Maybe it’s wish fulfillment, but it seems like the general attitude of that generation is that things will work out for them just because.

The rest of the book is one big ad for how great Google is, despite every server in their universe not being able to crack a basic substitution code. And despite the massive build-up and the fervid paranoia of the Unbroken Spine, the secret turns out to be not so much after all. Kat takes it hardest which was amusing. Her first ‘no’. She didn’t deal with it very well.

Eh, I don’t know. I wasn’t overly annoyed while reading this book and picked it up for a palate cleanser, but I wasn’t fulfilled by it either. No deep secrets. No big reveal. The plot, on the surface, seemed complex, but wasn’t. Bland characters. No violence or dirty deeds. I guess if you like saltines, you’ll like this.

5 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Listen to Ready Player One instead

I don't really get the hype for this book. I felt like I had skipped something. The narrator was okay, but occasionally his voice got annoying, shrill when he was trying to show excitement. Maybe teenagers would like the book and it is just not one that can bridge it's genre gap.

8 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Joan
  • Chester, VA, United States
  • 10-17-12

Smart, Quirky and Satisfying

If you could sum up Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore in three words, what would they be?

See my title.

What did you like best about this story?

The story never let go of me.

What about Ari Fliakos’s performance did you like?

His reading was just delightful. I believe he enjoyed the book as much as I did.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Delight; extreme delight.

Any additional comments?

I've read a lot of books in my 64 years. I'm now nearly blind and depend upon audiobooks. This book comes close to making up for the differences between reading a book and listening to a book.

I found it very satisfying to listen to this particular reader tell this particular tale. It's an absorbing story that combines old knowledge and new knowledge, books and technology with the interests and the needs of the young and the old.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is one of my current favorites, and, if it stands up to a few re-readings, it might be a candidate for my list of lifetime favorites

8 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Nate
  • Jackson, MS, United States
  • 05-06-13

Ready Player One's Tone Meets Umberto Eco Lite

But less generously: not half as interesting as either. Foucault's Pendulum is much more worth the time.

6 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Celia
  • Topanga, CA, United States
  • 11-22-12

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 10 people found this review helpful

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Well read and entertaining

The characters were quirky and the story concept was unique. The reader was exactly the right voice for this book.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful