Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Sloan, Robin, 1979-

Book - 2012
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore
Print
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.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780374214913
0374214913
Branch Call Number: FIC S
Characteristics: 288 p. ; 22 cm.

Opinion

From 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.


From the critics


Community Activity

Comment

Add a Comment

Mar 06, 2015
  • phenej rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

Writing is poor, too many I saw, I went, I thoughts in almost every paragraph.

Feb 24, 2015
  • RoseSuites rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Enjoyed this suspenseful story intermingling high tech and an old fashioned book store.

Jan 07, 2015
  • ilovesfpl8392 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A spot-on description of 21st century San Francisco and a literary treasure hunt all in one.

Oct 17, 2014

A real page-turner. Couldn't put it down.
This book is a whimsical adventure with a host of interesting characters. Even without an evil antagonist, the book held me in its thrall to the very end.
Light reading, but thoroughly enjoyable.

Aug 07, 2014
  • telger rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour Book store- Robin Sloan
I was hooked because I love and kinda sorta addicted to books and the work of reading, as decribed by Mr. Penumbra. I was captivated and mystified by this bookstore- the secret society, what they do, why and who they are. But I have to admit after the long, winding journey of books, and libraries, New York and San Francisco- I feel I was dissapointed in the end. But this is just me though. I thought there is a bigger, more profound explanation but oh no.

Aug 01, 2014
  • JCLChrisK rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Information and stories. That's the commonality. Convention prefers to set things in opposition to each other: books vs. computers; analog vs. digital; old vs. new; dusty vs. sleek. They may function differently, but at their cores books and computers are about the same things: storing and sharing information and stories.

Clay Jannon sits at the juncture of those two opposing worlds, that of books and that of computers. He is a computer designer in Silicon Valley, but desperation has him accepting a job at a dusty old bookstore that caters to very old-fashioned readers. That job gets him a new girlfriend who works for and--is all things--Google. It also gets him caught up in a centuries-old mystery involving a secret book society. Those are just the simplest of his connections to the two worlds, which grow deeply both ways. And Clay is special because he has a unique talent: he doesn't see the worlds as opposites or in conflict with each other; he is able to join them harmoniously in his perception, his life, his work. And so Clay sits at the juncture of an exciting mystery consisting of unexpected intrigue and adventure that takes him from the latest secret projects at the heart of Google to hidden underground libraries where the chained, leather-bound books are studied by black-robed scholars, breaking codes, uncovering mysteries, and so much more.

This is--to copy a description already used by others I know--a delightfully fun story. It came highly recommended and did not disappoint. Very nearly five stars.

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:)

Jul 21, 2014

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.

Jun 17, 2014
  • diesellibrarian rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A fun if slightly uneven romp that melds the old-world mystery of a used bookstore with the gleaming polish of the Google campus. Robin Sloan might be the Umberto Eco of the facebook generation, and though the subtlety of Eco's work is lacking in this effort, it is nevertheless engaging and life-affirming. A great summer read.

View All Comments

Quotes

Add a Quote

Mar 16, 2015

But hey, nothing lasts long. We all come to life and gather allies and build empires and die, all in a single moment—maybe a single pulse.

Aug 01, 2014
  • JCLChrisK rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.

Aug 01, 2014
  • JCLChrisK rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Maybe his big build isn't a linebacker's after all; maybe it's a librarian's.

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.

Mar 01, 2014

"...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?"

May 29, 2013
  • beckylunatic rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.

Age

Add Age Suitability

Apr 26, 2013
  • lbi316 rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

lbi316 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Apr 19, 2013
  • Sounddrive rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Sounddrive thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Mar 02, 2013
  • YoNella rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

YoNella thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

Summary

Add a Summary

May 01, 2013

The protagonist, Clay Jannon, is hired by San Francisco independent bookstore owner -- Mr Penumbra -- to retrieve books from 10 pm to 6 am, at the request of long time bookstore customers holding an unusual interest in highly obscure volumes. Clay has never heard of any of these book titles, which are never purchased, only loaned.

When Clay examines one of these books, he sees page after page of unreadable encrypted characters, no spaces, no punctuation. Yet the customers return night after night, returning one book, and taking another.

The question is: Why?

Dec 13, 2012
  • DanniOcean rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Clay Jannon is a graphic and web designer who finds himself unemployed in the new economy. While wandering the streets of San Francisco he accidentally finds Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and after a very brief interview based on his favourite book, finds himself the store’s new night 10pm-to-6am clerk. There are three rules to working there – he must be on time and cannot leave early, he may not look inside any of the ancient-looking books that are reserved for members, and third, he must keep precise notes about all transactions (including how they smell, what they wear, what they say and how they appear mentally). Mr. Penumbra’s unique approach to store-keeping is matched by his odd clientele who appear in the oddest hours of the night, but they are few and far between so to occupy his time Clay starts developing a web-presence for the store. He creates a 3-D map of the transactions and… a face appears in the results. What follows is a literary adventure of the highest order – a cult of readers bent on discovering but keeping secret the immortality locked in ancient texts of an early typographer, versus Clay and his band of quest seekers, albeit their modern-day equivalents of rogue, wizard and hero. And although the modern-day wizard uses all the power of Google to help them, the printed texts do not give up their secrets easily. It is not until Clay uses all the tools in his magic bag – from the ultimate hacker site to his ultimate favourite novel to the ancient texts themselves - that the code is broken, and the answers are not at all what everyone involved thought they would be. Digital vs. print, Google vs. books, technology vs. old knowledge, piracy vs. privacy, these are the battles of our times and all themes in the book, but the overall story is an adventure, a quest simply reimagined in the techno-age. Given that the author was once an employee at Twitter and has released the book in both print and e-formats, Sloan may be hedging his bets - but his first novel has all the feel of a love-letter to books.

Notices

Add a Notice

There are no notices for this title yet.

Find it at NYPL

  Loading...

Other Formats

Buy It Now

Support your library, keep it forever!

View Purchase Options Learn more about this program

Your Cart

Hello! We noticed you have the following items in your cart right now:

If you'd still like to purchase the items you have in your cart, you can do that now.

You'll be able to purchase your eBook after you have checked out your current cart.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore
Sloan, Robin, 1979-
Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

To continue with your eBook purchase immediately, you can clear your cart by clicking below.

All items will be removed from your cart.


I'd like to keep browsing! I'll decide later.

Explore Further


Browse the Shelf

Subject Headings


Recommendations

  Loading...
[]
[]