Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore By Robin Sloan

Title: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Author: Robin Sloan

Publisher: MacMillian

First Published: 2nd October 2012


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. 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. (From Goodreads, 17th July 2013)


I love books about books. So was very interested in Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore and considering the hype around the book tubing/blogging community was happy to get my hands on this novel.

Clay begins work at the strange hole in the wall bookstore in San Francisco, but Clay soon realises that there is more to this bookstore. Soon we are brought into a world where books and computers combine to work out puzzles within the texts.

I found the beginning of the novel very exciting, and was pulled in by the absurdity of some of the characters and the mystery of the bookstore, but as it went on I lost interest. Everything became an argument about computers and books and I lost the magical feel that I felt at the beginning of the novel.

This is a novel that had a lot of potential but I felt lost focus. It was more the momentum of the story that keeps you going. The want to find the answer to the puzzle.

I feel that I wanted this book to be one of my favorites of the year before I even bought it that left me feeling disappointed. The turn away from a book focus to a computer focus wasn’t something that I enjoyed and feel that if I knew that was going to happen I may have enjoyed this novel more.

A book with so much potential, but falling short.

3.5 out of 5

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