Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

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. –Goodreads summary

Publication Date: October 2, 2012.

Favorite Quote from the Book:

“After that, the book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind. But I hope you will remember this:
A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”

My Thoughts:

As someone who identifies herself as a bibliophile, this book resonates deeply with me.  Mainly, the book reveals a deep dedication, admiration, and respect for books.  Many characters throughout the novel have some affiliation with books which plays an integral role in their past, present, and future.  This is largely seen in the protagonist, Clay Jannon.  Searching for a job, Jannon finds himself becoming a clerk at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (by the way, why does a 24-hour bookstore not exist?).  Quickly, he finds himself succumbing to the power of books as he examines a strange group of frequent customers.  Unexpectedly, Jannon finds himself intermingling with a mystery involving books, secret groups, and potential immortality.  Wait, books can do that?  Yes, Jannon discovers they can!

Besides the look for books, I appreciated the way this story unraveled.  While I went into this book with no expectations, I had some preconceived notions with how this plot would ensue (basically, just accounts of owning a bookstore).  Essentially, this plot twists and turns in ways that one could never imagine.  Indeed, this is a sign that Sloan, the author, is aware of his audience and knows how to keep them anticipatory for the subsequent actions.  As the plot developed, the mysteries and characters developed; you just had to keep reading in order to get to the root of this chaos.  Admittedly, I got frustrated; I wanted to know what happened and did not possess the patience at times.  However, I am glad that Sloan wrote this book in this manner as it gave the novel interest.

Additionally, this book presents very interesting themes, themes which many books have not attempted to discuss.  For example, the theme of technology and its advancement is strongly emphasized in the book.  Sloan presents different arguments of how technology advances and hinders the human race.  This theme and others are thought-provoking and require the audience to engage in their own analyses.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, to say the least.  Everything about this book is enjoyable.  Even though I was excited for the book to end so I could figure out the “grand mystery,” I was sad to flip to the last page.  I had genuinely grown attached to the characters and plot that I wanted it to continue!  Sadly, it is over.  However, I am hopeful that Sloan may possibly write more in the future (or maybe he has published other books) because he is truly a talented author!

My Rating:

★★★★★ 5/5 stars!

Recommendation:

I’d recommend this for my fellow bibliophiles!