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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.
With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the 21st 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 listener, no matter the time of day.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By january on 11-04-12
A light, fun, easy listen
Before I read/listen to a book I read lots and lots of reviews. After I finish a book I go back and reread the reviews and think to myself, "Oh! That's what they meant!" It's so difficult to tell if you'll like a particular book when people are being so careful not to give anything away in their reviews. So now it's my turn to try to write something meaningful without giving anything away.
At first I thought the book was set sometime in the near future because of the way the author describes things. But it was just clever wording about our present situation. So, there's a guy, Clay, who is an out of work graphic designer. He's been applying for jobs, but there's not enough to go around, especially in graphic design. He's out walking one day when he comes upon a bookstore with a help wanted sign in the window. He walks in, meets the owner, Mr. Penumbra, and is hired on the spot for the overnight shift. (A 24 hour book store?!?!? What a fantastic idea!)
It seems a little odd to say, but I thought it kind of rushed too quickly into the mystery. I like to be eased into a book. On the plus side, you get sucked into the story right away. There's no looking back.
I don't agree with some of the other reviewers that said it's too techie, and a love letter to Google. I don't live in California, or work for an internet related company, but I search Google 50 times a day. This book demonstrates how dramatically our lives have changed in such a short time. Maybe this is how they felt at the turn of the last century with the rise of the automobile.
As for the end, I thought Mr. Sloan brought this book to a lovely conclusion. It's wrapped up nice a neat, like a Christmas package. No loose ends and no head scratching. This book is light, but not fluffy. It's a good book to kick back and relax with. Don't take all the negative reviews too seriously. This book is not too techie for average people. This is our life now. You'll get it.
167 of 176 people found this review helpful
By donna on 01-22-13
Still Thinking about this Book!!!
I am not much of a fiction reader; I prefer nonfiction most days, but occasionally I am drawn into a good story. I was hooked almost immediately, by the narrator's artful presentation and timing...and the main character, an intelligent, yet unemployed, geeky, introvert living in San Francisco working in a mysterious 24 hour bookstore, just piqued my interest. I am not a tech person, but I learned a lot from the technical conversations and descriptions of what it is like to be a Google employee and to view solving the problems of this mystery through high tech means. It was a wonderful, thought provoking adventure, and I learned things that have been beneficial in my everyday life. It has been months since I listened to this book, and I am still thinking about it regularly. I would definitely recommend it to my friends, and l plan to listen to it again.
65 of 69 people found this review helpful