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Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Sloan, Robin, 1979- (Book - 2012 )
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore
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Baker & Taylor
After a layoff during the Great Recession sidelines his tech career, Clay Jannon takes a job at the titular bookstore in San Francisco, and soon realizes that the establishment is a facade for a strange secret.

McMillan Palgrave

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—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 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 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.



Baker
& Taylor

After a layoff during the Great Recession sidelines his tech career, Clay Jannon takes a job at the titular bookstore in San Francisco, and soon realizes that the establishment is a facade for a strange secret. 75,000 first printing.

Authors: Sloan, Robin, 1979-
Statement of Responsibility: Robin Sloan
Title: Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore
Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012
Edition: 1st ed
Characteristics: 288 p. ; 22 cm.
Subject Headings: Bookstores Employees Fiction Bookstores California San Francisco Fiction
Genre/Form: Fantasy fiction
Adventure fiction
Suspense fiction
Topical Term: Bookstores
Bookstores
LCCN: 2012012357
ISBN: 9780374214913
0374214913
Branch Call Number: FIC S
Research Call Number: JFD 12-6249
MARC Display»

From the critics


Library Staff

Comment by: BCD2013 Jun 13, 2014

NYPL Staff Pick
When a website designer on the night shift at a San Francisco bookstore begins to notice mysterious patterns, he uses technological wizardry to decode a secret message.
- Selection Team

When a website designer on the night shift at a San Francisco bookstore begins to notice mysterious patterns, he uses technological wizardry to decode a secret message.

When 21st century tech know-how meets an ancient secret society.


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Jul 26, 2014
  • BrigidWilson rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Truly enjoyed this novel. In fact, I had to make myself put it down several times just so I wouldn't hurry through it:) I didn't want to be done because it was done so well. Literature lovers and computer geeks will like this story in similar degrees:)

Summary: Clay Jannon, an unemployed web designer takes a clerk position at a strange bookstore run by an old man. Not only does the store keep strange hours but few customers ever visit, and those who do are quite bizarre and “check-out” rather than buy books. Clay soon discovers that there is much more to the bookstore and its customers than meets the eye, and becomes caught up in a centuries-old puzzle that has yet to be solved.

This book presents an interesting exploration of the relationship between modern technology, such as computer programming and e-readers, and the place that physical books hold in our society. This is definitely a book for both book-lovers and computer enthusiasts! While not written in the most remarkable style, it is an entertaining read!

Jun 26, 2014
  • Drake_Fresh rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This book is such an exiting mystery! With a clever, multilayered theme and a series of very interesting characters, this is a personal favorite.

NYPL Staff Pick
When a website designer on the night shift at a San Francisco bookstore begins to notice mysterious patterns, he uses technological wizardry to decode a secret message.
- Selection Team

Recommended by Karl @lynden library.

Apr 05, 2014
  • Indigo_Cobra_8 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Things I liked about the book: fast-paced adventure, the main character's dry humor and witty narration, the character interactions, the incorporation of Google and technology. Things I didn't like: undeveloped villain character, blatant themes (that is to say, this book didn't make you THINK; it just stated things outright). Still, a fairly enjoyable book.

Nov 23, 2013
  • Michael Colford rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This delightful homage to the physical book is intriguing as it also celebrates the Google-age, digitization, typography, and code breaking. But nothing is more celebrated, and also a little mourned, than the independent bookstore. Mr. Penumbra's bookstore in San Francisco is, of course, not your average bookstore. There is the front part of the store, which is typically eclectic, where booksellers favorite books are featured randomly, and the occasional sale is made. But it is the rear part of the store, taller than it is wide, with ladders skyrocketing to great heights, and mysterious books filled with a bizarre, unreadable code lining the shelves. Young Clay Jannon finds himself working the night shift at this curious bookstore after losing his job to a poor economy. He also finds himself tossed into a fascinating mystery about history, books, and even immortality. He is surrounded by an assortment of colorful characters, from his girlfriend, Kat, who works at Google, his best friend Neel, with whom he once played Dungeons & Dragons, and of course, his quirky employer, Mr. Penumbra himself.

A delightful read for book lovers, but also for computer geeks who think the age of print is over. Robin Sloan's prose skips along merrily making for a fast read. There are a lot of ideas in here, and if there is any flaw, perhaps it is that all are celebrated, and none shown to be more relevant than any other. It's rather even-handed in that way, which is nice, but perhaps a trifle less exciting.

This book has a certain charm but mostly because the narrator has an utopian worldview. When he and Kat are projecting the future, they seem to only mention positive future possibilities, culminating with Star Trek. Hence, Google becomes the gateway to the utopian future. But this could also be seen as a war of the cults with Penumbra's obvious cult versus the Google cult. Kat becomes unavailable due to her new power position with all it's possibilities and it's never really the same afterwards. Of course, she's an idealist who is looking for immortality (nope) in a perfect world that doesn't exist and never will. This book had some nice zenly charm but it was like Facebook with no place to express your "dislikes". I personally love San Francisco so that was a big element for me. Even Gene Rodenberry admitted that Star Trek was idealized military fantasy. The future is... brrrr....!

Aug 22, 2013
  • Merteuil rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

I couldn't stand this book. I thought it was unintentionally sad in the same way that B-movies can be unintentionally funny. Sentences like "his face is the emotive equivalent of 404 Page Not Found" do not bode well for the emotional development of these characters or anybody who actually liked them. I don't understand why the quest was so important. We are told what secrets the books at the store might contain...but we are never told why those secrets would be really important to anyone. (I would go further in-depth, but I would have to spoil the plot.)

I didn't find the book gleeful so much as glib. I was hard pressed to find any real humanity or feeling in this book. The narration reads like a blog, which will either engage you or irritate you to death, depending on who you are. The whole thing seemed like it was written by someone who has spent most of their life playing video games without contemplating what it really means to be human. At the end, it turned out to be a banal success story that coursed over 280 pages' worth of chasing wild geese.

A patron review from the Adult Summer Reading Game: This is a whimsical, optimistic story for people who love books. The main character, Clay, is a tech-savvy book lover who has lost his tech startup job in the recession. He goes to work as a clerk at Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, where it immediately becomes clear that something beyond simple book-selling is going on. The story that follows concerns cryptography, typography, data visualizations, e-book readers and of course books. This book is a lot of fun to read and is highly recommended for book-lovers AND technology-lovers.

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Jun 30, 2014
  • SlotFather rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Neel takes a sharp breath and I know exactly what it means. It means: I have waited my whole life to walk through a secret passage built into a bookshelf.

Jun 30, 2014
  • SlotFather rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines -- it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.

"...so many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty. Our friendship is a nebula."

Jan 23, 2014
  • sammier rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.

Jan 23, 2014
  • sammier rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

"We need James Bond with a library science degree."

Jan 23, 2014
  • sammier rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

"What do you seek in these shelves?"

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Author Talk with Robin Sloan via Google's Author Series

Author Robin Sloan talks about his charming book with folks at Google.

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Sloan, Robin, 1979-
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