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Synopsis

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.

Book Reviews

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Average rating
4.1 / 5
Love this book
October 6th, 2015
This is my second reading of what will no doubt be many more. If you like puzzles and people you will love this book!
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
Penumbra at the right moment
July 29th, 2014
This was the right book at the time for me, much as penumbra's is the right bookstore at the time for our protagonist. I found a celebration of the intersection of modern information technologies and age old truisms in paper: to stay open we must dream and we must share our dreams with friends, sweet.
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
January 23rd, 2014
Loved this book! Was sorry to have it end. Reminded me of Night Circus - high praise!
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
November 24th, 2013
I enjoyed this book very much. It's a fun suspense story with bookish and computer-nerd heroes, and great touches of humor. I laughed at the bit that mentions e-readers while reading this on the Kobo app on my ipad. I only regret that I got the e-version, because if I'd bought this in paperback it would be one of the books I loan around to friends saying "Read this; I know you'll like it."
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
October 8th, 2013
National Treasure meets Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Clay Jannon finds himself a clerk in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Despite his misgivings – he’s a web-design guy working in an ancient store which lends obscure books to weird people – he sticks with it. He decides to figure out the secrets of the store, the books, the borrowers, and maybe even Mr. Penumbra. The puzzle of the store is solved, but the adventure is just beginning! This novel is at once an Epic Adventure and a whirlwind, quicksilver romp. It’s little-boys-turned-gizmo-geeks playing superhero and pausing periodically to ask themselves urgent, banal questions with utter sincerity. (Consider Clay’s stupefaction to learn that Mr. Penumbra has a first name! And it’s…!). It’s a Quest complete with dungeons and dragons (OK, not actual dragons), wizards, code words, rituals, and True Meaning. It’s downright hilarious. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore may be read quickly, but will not quickly be forgotten. As with any great adventure, the questions asked and the truths learned throughout the quest will remain in the reader’s mind. As will Mr. Penumbra’s first name.
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
A book about books
March 10th, 2013
Or rather a book about a cult revolving around books. A light but impactful story about where books and old knowledge meets technology and a digital future.
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1 review
1 person found this helpful
Started and finished in a morning
January 6th, 2013
It was that different and that pleasant to read
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1 review

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