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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by…
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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel (edition 2012)

by Robin Sloan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
4,4624391,099 (3.86)3 / 489
Member:geekylau
Title:Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel
Authors:Robin Sloan
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:English, Library, Books, Secret Society, San Francisco, New York, Friendship, Love, Internet, Science Fiction

Work details

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

  1. 215
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (derelicious, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    derelicious: Both are books about books, with secret societies and mysteries to untangle. The Shadow of the Wind is more gothic and takes place during the Spanish Civil War, and Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is lighter and takes place in modern times.
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Although they have very different settings (1950s Spain in Shadow of the Wind and modern San Francisco in Mr. Penumbra's), these adventure stories, with underpinnings of romance, offer unique perspectives on the role of books and reading in our lives.… (more)
  2. 100
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Yells, bookworm12)
  3. 50
    The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (SqueakyChu)
  4. 40
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Anonymous user)
  5. 20
    The Circle by Dave Eggers (conceptDawg)
    conceptDawg: Similar content and themes
  6. 10
    Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem (Othemts)
  7. 10
    Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn (Runa)
  8. 10
    The Magicians by Lev Grossman (aethercowboy)
    aethercowboy: Both books deal with a fictional fantasy series that holds a lot of significance to the story.
  9. 10
    The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (generalkala)
  10. 21
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  11. 10
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (lycomayflower)
  12. 10
    The Writer & The Witch by Robin Sloan (MitraLibrary)
  13. 10
    The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (Anonymous user)
  14. 10
    Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop (nsblumenfeld)
  15. 10
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both books are non-traditional geeky mystery/thrillers.
  16. 10
    The Martian by Andy Weir (sturlington)
    sturlington: Mr. Penumbra's reminded me in tone and its reverence for tech, geeks, and pop culture of both The Martian and Ready Player One.
  17. 00
    Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (Othemts)
  18. 00
    An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Othemts)
  19. 00
    The Book in the Renaissance by Andrew Pettegree (librorumamans)
    librorumamans: This is the real deal: a thoroughly researched, non-fiction treatment, with particular emphasis on the influence of printing on European culture.
  20. 01
    The Seance Society by Michael Nethercott (4leschats)
    4leschats: The older/younger man relationship is similar along with the quirky cast of characters, light tone, and humor throughout.

(see all 21 recommendations)

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English (428)  Dutch (3)  German (3)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  Piratical (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (438)
Showing 1-5 of 428 (next | show all)
In this high-tech, internet world, will bookstores disappear? Or do you still love the smell of paper and glue? Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan is a novel that combines high-tech with ancient printing fonts, computer visualization with action-adventure, and role-playing games with Da Vinci code-style secret societies. The combination is enthralling. Friends of the nerd unite to help mysterious old guy, a bookstore clerk chooses the volumes to draw in customers while choosing parameters to find them on Google, and the future is inextricably caught up in the past. There’s a secret to be told and a mystery to be solved. But it will all make sense, which is truly amazing after such a curious ride. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: I love the smell of paper and glue. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Aug 23, 2016 |
Wow what a fun book! It was just a really cool story and I'm glad I took the time to read it! It was just alot of fun and the characters were great! It really made me want to read more fantasy and adventure books so that's what I'm going to search for now... ( )
  EmpressReece | Aug 22, 2016 |
This story was so imaginative and had such an original premise! Loved all the characters, loved the plot and all the intrigue. This book is a bit of magical realism which is not something I usually read but I really, really liked this book! ( )
  Maureen_McCombs | Aug 19, 2016 |
A Book Lover's Romp!
Intriguing,mysterious and humourous! ENJOYABLE. Read this book in 2 days. I just enjoyed this book. I'm not into techno themes at all, but even that was enjoyable to read about. This was DaVinci Code meets Big Bang Theory (tv) meets Harry Potter! Fun read! This has to be the "coolest" book I've ever read.

SPOLIER ALERT:

While I was reading this book,I kept looking at the cover,it intrigued me, I thought maybe there was a code there too. Never did find anything other than a repeat of the pattern of books. I had this book on my table and getting ready to return it to the library. I turned the tv off and then the lights and there was the fun! The books on the cover glow in the dark! ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
This is another one of those that I should have reviewed sooner after finishing it. It's been a couple weeks, and my memories are fuzzier. Plus, I took a break while listening to the book, so my listening experience was pretty stretched out.

So, what can I say about the story without revealing too much? Clay, desperate for work after losing his Web design job, stumbles across a little place called Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. It's in a seedy location (next to a strip club), there don't seem to be many customers, and the store itself is a little strange, but Clay needs the money. Besides, he's kind of intrigued. Most of the store's visitors never actually seem to buy anything, but rather check out mysterious volumes from a collection Clay is specifically told not to browse or otherwise look at too closely.

Clay's curiosity gets the better of him, and he starts to investigate. Slowly, at first, making a three-dimensional model of the store in order in order to see if there's a pattern to the checkouts. But then he involves other people and begins to dig more deeply.

I loved this book, at first. The mystery of the bookstore fascinated me. I wanted to know who the store's regulars were, why they were checking out those books, and what, in general, was going on. The appeal that the mystery had for me reminded me a lot of Peter Clines' 14, although this book didn't have 14's Lovecraftian undertones. The fact that everything was tied to books was just icing on the cake.

The introduction of Kat Potente to the story made me realize I wasn't quite the kind of nerd this book was written for, however. To put it bluntly, I'm female. I don't think I've ever felt the need to use “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” in a review before, but that was utterly and completely what Kat was. Clay set up a super-specific ad designed to attract a very specific kind of person to the store, and Kat appeared. She was, of course, beautiful, but in an adorably flawed way. Literally everything about her was adorable and wonderful, from the way she blushed to her excitement over catching a glimpse of Clay's model of the store. Not only that, but she happened to be a Google employee, which turned out to be enormously useful for Clay's investigation. I couldn't figure out why Clay thought she was great and yet thought of his equally perfect (in a different way) apartment mate as an android ("I don't mean that in a bad way!").

The thing that got me was that there were opportunities for Clay to get to know Kat as a fully-fleshed out person, beyond his “OMG she's adorable and wonderful and also wants to have sex with me” initial reaction. She was almost creepily devoted to Google, something I thought would put a wedge between her and Clay but somehow never did, at least not for long. She had a deep obsession with Google Forever, a section of Google interested in life extension and immortality. Her reaction to the idea of achieving immortality was so intense that I figured there had to be a story there...except Clay never asked her. It bothered me that, as far as Clay was concerned, Kat was adorableness and Google connections, nothing else. A rift developed between them later on in the book, but rather than either one of them realizing that they didn't really fit (she was too bound up in Google, he was intimidated by how smart and driven everyone she knew seemed to be, etc.) or even just talking their issues through, they just magically got back together again for no real reason.

The Google stuff was interesting, at first, but I eventually got a little annoyed with it. And also creeped out by it. I don't know if it was intentional, but Sloan did a great job of making Google seem, at best, like its own separate society and, at worst, a bit like a cult. And the characters trusted Google so much. I winced every time Clay or Kat took something that was supposed to be a secret to Google to scan or analyze.

It was, I suppose, part of what made this book feel a bit dated. Aside from that, there was the constant grappling with the value of digital vs. physical. Yes, articles stating that physical books are better than e-books (or vice versa) are still being written, but not to the degree they were when this book first came out, and you could see that in the way the issues were handled. I wonder how much more dated this will feel in 10 or 20 years?

I really liked the first two thirds or so of the book, but found myself becoming less and less interested when the focus shifted from the bookstore to the secret society. I disliked Clay and Kat's methods for solving the various mysteries, and I really felt for the one secret society member who acted dismayed each time they mentioned using a computer to analyze in seconds things that had taken the society years, decades, or longer to work on. After all, sometimes it's not the solution that's important so much as the process of arriving at that solution. I was just thankful that Sloan made sure that Google and its computers couldn't quite solve everything.

All in all, this made for okay work-time listening. I really liked the narrator, and I smiled when the producer took advantage of the audiobook format and included audio excerpts from Clay's favorite books (although they were very cheesy). I just wish that this had ended as strongly as it had begun.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Aug 7, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 428 (next | show all)
Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore flourishes in the nebulous terrain between super-powered digital information and the text warriors of yore. It rocks in terms of crazy imaginative leaps and is so optimistic about the longevity of books in print that it makes bibliophiles like me positively clap with glee. It does have its share of shortcomings though, but more on that later.
added by SimoneA | editThe Express Tribune, Anam Haq (Nov 10, 2013)
 
And if, in the end, the plot doesn’t entirely satisfy – the love story is a little weak, the 500-year old mystery rather too neatly solved – this novel’s ideas will linger long in the mind.
 
“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” is eminently enjoyable, full of warmth and intelligence. Sloan balances a strong plot with philosophical questions about technology and books and the power both contain. The prose maintains an engaging pace as Clay, Mr. Penumbra and the quirky constellation of people around them try to determine what matters more — the solution to a problem or how that solution is achieved.
added by SimoneA | editNew York Times, Roxane Gay (Dec 14, 2012)
 
"In the end, though, the book works fine as an engrossing mystery — and as an intelligent meditation on technology’s trajectory and limits."https://www.librarything.com/work/12661675/book/132262683#
 
I loved diving into the world that Sloan created, both the high-tech fantasyland of Google and the ancient analog society. It’s packed full of geeky allusions and wonderful characters, and is a celebration of books, whether they’re made of dead trees or digits.
added by ablachly | editWired, Jonathan Liu (Oct 6, 2012)
 

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robin Sloanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Corral, RodrigoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fliakos, AriNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kagan, AbbyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solow, NannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
FOR BETTY ANN AND JIM
First words
Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder.
Quotations
Now I've resigned myself to sitting at the front desk, but I can't stop squirming. If fidgets were Wikipedia edits, I would have completely revamped the entry on guilt by now, and translated it into five new languages.
You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.
He has the strangest expression on his face -- the emotive equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.
Now, for the first time in my life, I empathize 100 percent with Fluff McFly. My heart is beating at hamster-speed and I am throwing my eyes around the room, looking for some way out.
There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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 have 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, they "check 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. Soon Clay has embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping him figure out just what is going on. And when 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 twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or the young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that is 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 reader, no matter the time of day.

TEXT EDITION:

CLAY JANNON, twenty-six and unemployed, reads books about vampire policemen and teenage wizards. Familiar, predictable books that fit neatly into a section at the bookstore. But he is about to encounter a new species of book entirely: secret, strange and frantically sought after.

These books will introduce him to the strangest, smartest girl he's ever met. They will lead him across the country, through the shadowed spaces where old words hide. They will set him on a quest to unlock a secret held tight since the time of Gutenberg - a secret that touches us all.
But before that, these books will get him a job.
Haiku summary
Mystery Bookstore
needed better ending but
still amusing read.
(legallypuzzled)
Every time Google

pauses, I shall think fondly

of men in black cowls.

(legallypuzzled)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374214913, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2012 (Debut Spotlight): Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is an old school mystery set firmly in tech-loving, modern day San Francisco. Clay Jannon (former web designer) lands a job at a bookstore with very few patrons and even fewer purchases. His curiosity leads him to the discovery of a larger conspiracy at play, one exciting enough to rope in his best friend (CEO at a startup) and love interest (works at Google). As Clay and company unravel the puzzles of Mr. Penumbra's book shop, the story turns into a sort of nerdy heist, with real-life gadgets, secret societies, and a lot of things to say about the past, present, and future of reading. Sloan originally self-published Mr. Penumbra as a short story through Kindle Direct Publishing, before expanding it to its current form with a traditional print publisher--a fitting trajectory for a fast, fun story that has so wholly and enthusiastically embraced the tension between the digital and analog books. --Kevin Nguyen

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:47 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

After a layoff during the Great Recession sidelines his tech career, Clay Jannon takes a job at the titular bookstore in San Francisco, and soon realizes that the establishment is a facade for a strange secret.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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