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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin…
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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (edition 2012)

by Robin Sloan

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,588None2,300 (3.92)3 / 327
Member:tkhughes8
Title:Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Authors:Robin Sloan
Info:Center Point Pub (2012), Edition: Lrg, Library Binding, 383 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:fiction

Work details

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

2012 (35) 2013 (84) audiobook (19) books (134) books about books (91) bookstore (52) bookstores (85) California (22) codes (54) computers (38) ebook (42) fantasy (97) fiction (378) Google (124) Kindle (34) library (25) mystery (117) New York (22) novel (39) puzzles (17) read (50) read in 2012 (18) read in 2013 (50) San Francisco (133) science fiction (17) secret societies (105) technology (69) to-read (191) typography (29) wishlist (19)
  1. 133
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (derelicious)
    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.
  2. 60
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (bucketyell, bookworm12)
  3. 30
    The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (SqueakyChu)
  4. 20
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Anonymous user)
  5. 10
    The Writer & The Witch by Robin Sloan (MitraLibrary)
  6. 10
    The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (Anonymous user)
  7. 10
    Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop (nsblumenfeld)
  8. 00
    The Seance Society: A Mystery (O'Nelligan and Plunkett) by Michael Nethercott (4leschats)
    4leschats: The older/younger man relationship is similar along with the quirky cast of characters, light tone, and humor throughout.
  9. 00
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (lycomayflower)
  10. 00
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both books are non-traditional geeky mystery/thrillers.
  11. 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.
  12. 013
    Voice from the Planet by Charles Degelman (simonew)
    simonew: FREE till April 1 'Book of the Month' globetrotting anthology VOICE FROM THE PLANET read excerpt http://ow.ly/juCFD
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English (235)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (239)
Showing 1-5 of 235 (next | show all)
This book was great. It took everything I love and stirred it all into one great bubbling stew of a story. Obscure books, indie bookstores, computers, digitization, dragons, and intrigue! ( )
  Johanna_Talbott | Apr 7, 2014 |
There is a moment early in Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore when the narrator, Clay Jannon, first meets and describes his love interest, Kat Potente, describing her thus: "[T]his girl is a Googler. So, she really is a genius. Also, one of her teeth is chipped in a cute way." It's narration that not only describes Kat, but also reveals Clay's reaction to her, and, above all, it's true: It's the way a twentysomething geek might react to a girl to whom he's attracted. I couldn't help thinking, "Reading is fun again!" Over-the-top, perhaps, but that's how I felt throughout the entirety of Robin Sloan's 2012 novel.

The story begins in the wake of the Great Recession. Clay Jannon, recent art school graduate and employee of NewBagel, the pet project of two ex-Googlers, finds himself out of a job and in fear of living in a tent. Desperate for a job, Clay gives up on Internet searches (which invariably lead to hours spent bookmarking articles that are too long to read) and turns to the now-arcane art of "beating the pavement." On one of his treks throughout San Francisco, Clay notices a "clerk wanted" sign on the window of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Inside, Clay meets the kindly and aged proprietor, Mr. Penumbra, and takes the job; Clay will work the 10pm to 6am shift.

But (of course) the bookstore is not all it seems. The entryway is stocked in a desultory way with the kinds of books a reader might expect to find -- A Steve Jobs biography, some Dashiell Hammett -- but the bulk of the store's cavernous interior is devoted to huge folios checked out by members of the "club." Clay opens one of these books (despite Penumbra's instructions not to) and finds that they're all written in code. A data simulation run on Clay's laptop reveals a strange pattern in the customers' borrowing behaviors. And that's when things start to get weird.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is a delight to read. Clay's narration is spot-on. Meeting Kat for a second time, he notices that she's wearing the same t-shirt as she was during their first encounter. Clay concludes: "(a) she slept in it, (b) she owns several identical t-shirts, or (c) she's a cartoon character -- all of which are appealing alternatives." Later, describing Kat's enthusiasm for various Google initiatives: "They are making a 3-D web browser. They are making a car that drives itself...They are building a time machine. They are developing a form of renewable energy that runs on hubris." It's that sort of knowing and just-slightly-jaded-enough tone that Clay uses throughout the story.

Of course, Clay's commentary is informed by Sloan's firsthand experience in the tech industry: Sloan has worked for Twitter, among other companies, and knows a thing or two about their culture. Several scenes take place on Google's campus and, based on Sloan's descriptions, it seems safe to say he's been there. San Francisco, too, is lovingly described, and Mr. Penumbra's bookstore will be recognizable to those bibliophiles who still indulge in haptic reading experiences.

Indeed, part of Sloan's purpose appears to be the examination of the intersection of tradition and innovation, of old and new technologies. While Penumbra champions Clay's use of technology, Corvina, Penumbra's boss, takes umbrage: The "cult" (Clay's word for it) should only use its traditional methods, which involve print books and slates for notes. Sloan recognizes that too great a reliance on any one idea or artifact is the basis for the cults he describes. He rightly points out that the movable type was a disruptive technology in its day, and that, of course, Google is not the antithesis of print (and other, more "traditional" forms of information and knowledge), but a continuation on a spectrum. The print book is a technology, among the most successful the world has ever known, but its use led to, and interacts with, the digital world. One does not negate the other. The story's end points to a hopeful partnership between the two.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore was a pleasure to read. Sloan's humor is snarky without resorting to cynicism; there is a touch of whimsy that buoys up what is ultimately an uplifting narrative. Even the secondary characters are recognizable, real, and readers will find themselves emotionally engaged with them, which, after all, is what you want from a good book. The "bibliomystery" aspect is really a device to move the plot forward, but book lovers, in the truest sense of that world, will especially appreciate it. Highly recommended. ( )
  LancasterWays | Apr 5, 2014 |
A fast, fun and totally engaging read! I liked the mystery; I liked the characters; I liked the story. I didn't really see the need for the epilogue.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! ( )
  EvelynBernard | Apr 4, 2014 |
I enjoyed Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore well enough. Enough to give it a slightly better than average review. It is what it is: a light, superficial, mystery surrounding books and bibliophiles (both things ancient) using modern technology (Google!) to solve little puzzles. I recently read a couple of the "Benedict Society" books by Trenton Lee Stewart (I enjoy the occasional YA offering, even if I'm several decades too late, myself) and I couldn't help notice the comparison. MP's24hBS feels like a slightly more mature version of those books. Instead of kids running around solving mysteries, you've got 20-ish hipsters, and instead of childish toys to help them out, these hipsters have Hadoop clusters at Google.

Unfortunately, I was looking for (and hoping for) something more. First of all: character development. None of the characters developed at all in the course of these 288 pages, and thus I really couldn't get interested in their supposed plight. They were merely mechanisms to propel the plot forward, and let me tell you, they were introduced with suspicious timing, just as particular skill or piece of knowledge is needed to move on.

Second of all, the plot wasn't nearly as clever as the author clearly thought it was going to be. I won't reveal any spoilers here—and I've read a good many reviews that would contradict this statement, anyway, so let's chalk it up as a personal preference—but I didn't find the mystery and intrigue all that mysterious or intriguing. It seemed as if it were more important to Sloan to discuss technological devices (and after the fact create mysteries surrounding them) than to create good mysteries and then work out the mechanics of their solution. Also, being moderately tech-savvy myself, I kept poking holes in those technological devices that Sloan would introduce.

In the end, I got the distinct impression that Sloan was way too pleased with himself. Take the cover as a metaphor. Once you realize it glows in the dark, you might be inclined to say to yourself, "Hey, it glows in the dark." And then maybe: "Okay, that's neat." And then move on without really being affected one way or another. I found myself doing the same at numerous points in the book. "Hey, they're talking about book scanners." "Hey, they're using Google's cluster." "Hey, he's creating a Ruby data visualization." Yeah. Neat. But I wanted more than "neat." ( )
  invisiblelizard | Apr 2, 2014 |
“ He has the strangest expression on his face -- the emotive equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.”

What a terrifically fun book. It’s got geeks, and a secret society, and books, and a quest and, yes, singing dragons!

What more can one want?? Okay, the dragons don’t really feature a lot in the plot but still….

If you understand the quote you’ll enjoy the book! ( )
  majkia | Mar 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 235 (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)
 
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)
 
This winning literary adventure, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, has all the elements of geek hipsterdom: fantasy novels, role-playing games, computer coding, and classic typography.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robin Sloanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Corral, RodrigoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fliakos, AriNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kagan, AbbyDesignersecondary 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.

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:12 -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 7 descriptions

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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