Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

mr. penumbra

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything—instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store.

Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave. (GoodReads)

Book 26 for the year was Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I am ashamed to say, I thought Robin was a woman at first. No, I didn’t look at the back cover flap. I rarely do.

This is a literary novel I probably would’ve ignored if not for it being a recommendation from a co-worker.  To that individual I’d like to say, “bless you, bless you.”

This post is less a review and more of what an absolute geek I am to love this book, and why you’ll love it too.

I want to be a girl and have Clay’s life (except for the whole interested in girls thing).  I would love to work in a 24-hour bookstore that is creepy and sort of out-of-this-world awesome.  I wouldn’t mind the prior experience as a computer programmer.  And visiting Google’s campus = cool, but it’d be better if it was Apple.

And that’s without talking about Clay’s adventure itself, which is the subject of the book.

Maybe it takes a certain kind of geek to understand this book. Sort of a cross-breed between a RP-ing geek, a computer geek, and a book geek mix.  Am I the only one in the room who hits two or more of those categories?  Anybody 3 for 3? (smile)

I thought maybe so.

This is such a peculiar book. It’s hard to pull off first-person and Sloan does it well I think.  I like the consistent internal monologue of Clay’s that just sits there, no quotation marks, italics or underlines.  This is Clay’s book — maybe even the logbook that he uses to keep tabs on the customers at Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore.

Mr. Penumbra is an interesting character. I’m a little disappointed that he’s only human. I wanted him to be some kind of large dwarf or fantastical figure with the key to ultimate knowledge. Something like that. I’d love to spend a day walking around with him though, maybe check out the street cars of SF and hit up some ethnic food place.

And the library!!!!  Oh my gosh!  You have to read it to understand.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore was an absolute surprise. Probably my favorite aspect about this book is the combination of Clay and his friends and their roles in this “quest” which are comparable to D&D characters. I understood some of Clay’s emotions and frustrations, although I wish I was smart at the Kat-level smart. I’m still trying to decide if I’d get my head frozen like Mr. Disney, another Missouri native. Still not sure.

I spent a little bit of time exploring Sloan’s website this week. Check out the original short story this was based on.

There are illustrations.

Illustrations are awesome.

But read the book first — the short story has spoilers!

Let me know what you think. I’m off to my next fantasy adventure with a grad student armed with only a paperback copy of Pride and Prejudice.

Guess where we’re headed next?

April 2014 Status

Total Abandoned Titles:

(1) A Talent For Trouble by Jen Turano (226pp read)

Total Books Finished: 9

Total Page Count: 1,748



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