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Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (2012)

by Robin Sloan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Mr. Penumbra (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,0227131,035 (3.8)3 / 665
Fantasy. Fiction. Literature. Thriller. HTML:

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal lifeâ??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 droneâ??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 twenty-first 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 reader, no matter the time of day
… (more)

  1. 215
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafĂłn (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. 121
    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Yells, bookworm12)
  3. 50
    The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (Anonymous user)
  4. 61
    The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz ZafĂłn (SqueakyChu)
  5. 20
    The Library of Shadows by Mikkel Birkegaard (Anonymous user)
  6. 20
    Lexicon by Max Barry (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both books are non-traditional geeky mystery/thrillers.
  7. 20
    The Circle by Dave Eggers (conceptDawg)
    conceptDawg: Similar content and themes
  8. 20
    The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (sturlington)
  9. 20
    A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé (lycomayflower)
  10. 20
    Shelf Monkey by Corey Redekop (nsblumenfeld)
  11. 20
    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.
  12. 10
    Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (Othemts)
  13. 21
    1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  14. 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.
  15. 10
    The Writer & The Witch by Robin Sloan (MitraLibrary)
  16. 10
    An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Othemts)
  17. 10
    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.
  18. 10
    The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (generalkala)
  19. 00
    The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (Othemts)
  20. 11
    Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn (Runa)

(see all 24 recommendations)

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» See also 665 mentions

English (684)  German (6)  Dutch (4)  Italian (2)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  Piratical (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (701)
Showing 1-5 of 684 (next | show all)
Very Slow. Would not recommend. ( )
  PKolb | Sep 8, 2023 |
I found this novel intriguing and entrancing. I pushed right on through it.
It called to my geek side, and with a bit of mystery thrown in. Oh yes, and books!

Trying not to be a spoiler here, but stop reading if you feel I'm endangering the mystery for you.

Think of the power of Google (and Google tools still under development), and IBM's Watson as examples of new ways of attacking a mystery, and you'll see some of that here. Think of applying that kind of power to gaining new understanding of ancient texts (or encoded texts).

I hope you enjoy it.

Here's a link to another review that reflects much of my reaction: http://www.ireadabookonce.com/2013/04/review-mr-penumbras-24-hour-bookstore.html
( )
  jjbinkc | Aug 27, 2023 |
I had to give it at least three stars just by virtue of it's bookstore setting and book-driven plot. Alas, I am not the target audience for this part-WisdomOfTheAges tale, part-GoogleValentine.

In the end I was left with an Almost-But-Not-Quite feeling, and I absolutely hate that in a book! The author toys with some timeless themes and an intriguing twist on the Quest scenario, but the impact in the end is akin to turning over the big rock in the One Tin Soldier song. There is clearly an Important Message being imparted, but the delivery is so underwhelming that it feels like a cheat instead of a profound lesson.

Going to recommend this book anyway, though. I think my friends Jim and Britt Deegan will enjoy the interplay of computer geekdom, art and literature; anyway it's worth reading at least part of this book just to try and imagine being in that bookstore. ( )
  Kim.Sasso | Aug 27, 2023 |
I'm giving this book 5 stars, not because it's so perfect, but just because it's so fun. Also, the audio book voice performance is sensational. The story follows the misadventures of down-on-his-luck, recently laid off tech-drone Clay, who finds a job to tide him over at an odd little bookstore in San Francisco.

He doesn't understand any of the owner's weird rules for 'selling' books, nor the few odd customers that occasionally appear during his graveyard shift (and they are about the only customers). And how does the store even stay in business? Then things get mysterious and weirder and some sort of secret society is involved. Clay is thankful that he at least finally meets a girl and she's relatively sane, despite working for Google. What follows is an suspenseful adventure exploring the collision of the old knowledge of the printed word and the new digitized world and a search for balance between the two.

If you like books and stories and mysteries, you should find this one utterly charming. ( )
  zot79 | Aug 20, 2023 |
A lot of fun, in the same way that Ready Player One was. A perfect read for a hot, hot summer that is making my brain melt. ( )
  beentsy | Aug 12, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 684 (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 (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robin Sloanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Corral, RodrigoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fliakos, AriNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kagan, AbbyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Solow, NannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
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.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Fantasy. Fiction. Literature. Thriller. HTML:

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal lifeâ??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 droneâ??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 twenty-first 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 reader, no matter the time of day

No library descriptions found.

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)

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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