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Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore | Robin Sloan | Review

"Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan, 2012 (288) “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.” Source

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore follows Clay Jannon, a young unemployed web-designer living in San Francisco who stumbles upon a job working the night shift at a quirky 24-hour bookstore. Clay quickly discovers that there is something different about Mr Penumbra’s store, the customers are sparse and those who do visit never seem to buy any books. Instead they use the store like a library ‘checking-out’ all sorts of unusual books with their membership cards. With a little research Clay discovers that they are all part of a secret society with an intriguing code to crack and begins roping in his friends to help him figure out what is really going on.

As a narrator Clay told his story with humour and a likability that really made me invest in the mystery of the bookstore and the adventure, or rather quest, that followed. He is joined along the way by a host of likable secondary characters including Google employee Kat, prop creator Mat and of course Mr Penumbra himself. The interactions between Clay and Mr Penumbra were probably the most interesting as initially there was a great contrast between the modern and traditional ways of problem solving. It was nice to see as the book progressed how these ideas could come together and prove that there is a place for both technology and tradition in the modern world.

The book is set out in three parts, separated by the different locations, followed by a short epilogue. Within theses parts there are smaller chapters so although I would consider this book a quick read it is also easy to read at a slower pace if that is what you prefer. Sloan’s writing style flowed well with humour throughout and was very easy to follow.

Although for me it doesn’t quite hit the mark of Ready Player One geekiness I’m really glad that I decided to pick up this book. Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a book for book lovers, but also a book for technology & typography lovers. If you are any of those things then this is the book for you! 4/5 

Photo © Erin Elise 


  1. Hey, nice site you have here! Keep up the excellent work!

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  2. The premise for this book sounded interesting. It started out well with a strong beginning that gets you interested in the story. But, somewhere along the middle, it loses steam and becomes a rather fantastic and unbelievable tall tale. Not bad, but could have been a lot better.

    Zaira Lynn (Skagway AK)


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