Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Five words from the blurb: dusty, books, curious, analysis, technology

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is an entertaining mystery that will appeal to book lovers. The story focuses on Clay, a web-designer who gets a job working the night-shift at a mysterious book shop. Clay becomes increasingly puzzled by the fact that no-one ever buys any books; instead clientele use it like a library, exchanging strange coded books. Clay sets out to discover the secret behind their bizarre behaviour, uncovering a mysterious group of people with a shared mission in life.

This was an engaging read and I loved all the bookish detail. The passion for literature was blended with cutting-edge computer science and I loved the fact that it wasn’t afraid to go into detail about how everything worked. The technical explanations occasionally went over my head, but I was never lost. In fact I liked the way the book poked fun at those who weren’t following:

But now, with the data in hand, I’m building my model of the store. It’s crude–just a bunch of gray blocks slotted together like virtual LEGOs–but it’s starting to look familiar. Simulated light from the simulated windows casts sharp-edged shadows through the simulated store. If this sounds impressive to you, you’re over thirty.

It also revealed interesting details about working for Google. I’m not entirely sure how much of it was true, but that makes it a good discussion point!

My only real complaint was the number of coincidences, especially the fact that Clay happened to have three friends: a millionaire who could pay for their adventures, a Google employee with access to all their expensive equipment, and a set designer who could build everything they needed for their secret mission. It may not have been realistic, but it did make a great story.

Much of the book reminded me of The End of Mr Y, but using computers instead of philosophy. It’s not great literature, but it is an escapist adventure that introduces some interesting ideas on literature and its place in our modern, data-driven world.

Overall this was a light, entertaining read that will probably gain a geeky-cult status, at least until the technology becomes outdated.

Recommended to those looking for an escapist read.


The thoughts of other bloggers:

The last couple of paragraphs in particular will fill your heart with joy! Books, Bones and Buffy

The mystery felt really poor-constructed, and the final revelations were hastily narrated. Reading on a Rainy Day

 Even though the ending is a smidge predictable it did not take away from my pleasure of the whole book. So Many Books

21 replies on “Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan”

Annabel, I think you’ll enjoy this book. It has a few flaws, but I think you’ll appreciate the mystery and the bookish aspects. I look forward to comparing notes!

Jeanne, Yes, I agree about the fairy-tale like feel. It was almost like an alternate universe – mainly because it would never happen! I often have a problem with a lack of realism, but this book engaged me so much that I didn’t care!

Sounds like a fun romp and I did think the End of Mr Y was a worthwhile read. I wonder if the parts about working for Google would resonate with my reading of The Circle by Dave Eggers?

Kristie, I’m afraid I haven’t read ‘The Circle’ so can’t make any comparisons, but I keep hearing it mentioned (and I love Eggers) so I’ll have to give it a try. If you enjoyed ‘Mr Y’ then I think there is a good chance you’ll like this one.

I’ve been flipping and flopping on the book for a while. I keep wondering if it is too gimmicky. I mean, of course it is a book that book lovers will pick up – but is it really good. You’ve convinced me that it might be worth a try.

Tanya, It didn’t feel gimmicky to me. Unrealistic and a few too many coincidences, but so enjoyable it makes up for that. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to give it a try.

I picked this up somewhere along the lines, but haven’t read it yet. I have started to see it all over the blogosphere lately, so I will have to get to it at some point!

Kailana, It’s interesting to hear that you’ve seen it everywhere recently. It was all over the blogs I follow about a year ago, but I’ve barely seen a mention of it since then – we must mingle in different blog circles 🙂

I really wanted to love this one but it just didn’t work for me. I enjoyed the bookish features of the story but struggled with the narration. Glad that you had better success with it!

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