Reviewed by London Koffler
About the Book:
A Winner of the Alex Award, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction, named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle.
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.
My Review: 5/5
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is truly a book for bibliophiles. This smart and adventurous novel celebrates books while also acknowledging the value of technology in the literary world. In a time that asks, “paper books or eBooks?” Sloan argues the necessity of both to preserve knowledge. While Clay loves the books in the store, he is also a skilled computer programmer and graphic designer. He represents the ideal balance of old and new knowledge, and without either one, he would have no chance at solving the mystery. The mysteries of the bookstore and its patrons lead to an exciting adventure full of twists and turns. Sloan’s humor is on point, and it really helps to keep Clay relatable and likeable. He is just an ordinary guy thrown into an extraordinary situation. The rest of the characterizations are vivid, painting a realistic, three-dimensional picture of each character.
While I gave the book a five out of five rating, there was one detail that bothered me. The characters encountered a lot of obstacles along their journey, yet they quickly overcame them. There were too many convenient coincidences, and all of the characters had an unusually high level of intelligence to easily solve their problems. However, this did not occur to me while reading; it was only upon reflection that I noticed.
This is the most captivating book I have read in a long time, and I had fun reading it. Once again it made me feel, through the content and through the reading experience, the quiet magic of books and bookstores. It is a light, whimsical book I would recommend for mystery and fantasy lovers of all ages.
About the Author:
Robin Sloan is the author of the novels Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough, published in the U.S. by MCD. He grew up near Detroit and now split his time between the Bay Area and the internet.