Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

I’ve been seeing all kinds of articles and reviews mentioning Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan popping up all over the place. Since I want to be one of  the cool kids, I decided to pick it up. My biggest regret? Not having a physical copy – because it GLOWS IN THE DARK y’all.

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

The plot for this one…well. I read the book and I’m still not sure how to describe it. Literary fiction? Mystery/thriller? Basically, a guy gets a job at a super mysterious bookstore and accidentally stumbles across a secret society (a literary cult, if you will). If that doesn’t get your radar buzzing, then you and I have extremely different taste in books. It sounds like  the perfect premise to me. And while the book definitely has some real fantastic points, my expectations were definitely set a little too high.

The descriptions on the first few pages, you guys. THE DESCRIPTIONS. Whether of the people, the library or the books themselves – it all took me to my reading happy place. Perfect for readers, writers and imaginers of all shapes and sizes – I fell in love with this bookstore/library/breeding ground for literary oddballs from the get-go.

Then things take a turn toward the software programming and writing code and such – and that is where the book started losing me. Computer programming isn’t really my preferred shade of geek. I would have loved Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore infinitely more if it had stayed purely in the realm of the bibliophile. Of course, the plot line would have developed much differently since the point of the story is seeing how technological advances shook the foundation of a group of old-school mysterious puzzle-solving literary dudes. But still. Throwing stuff at me like a “three-dimensional matrix of ink-saturation values?” WHOOSH. (The sound of something flying over my head.)

But, there were some advantages to having the literary and techno geeks collide – awesome lines like this one:

When I was a kid reading fantasy novels, I daydreamed about hot girl wizards. I never thought I’d actually meet one, but that’s only because I didn’t realize wizards were going to walk among us and we’d just call them Googlers.

Love it.

Also, there is talk of a cloth-bound ereader prototype that only made me drool a little bit. SOMEBODY GET ON MAKING THAT!

Ultimately, even though I did have my issues with it, I think Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is a good read for people that love books. Also – you do have to be patient. It is definitely a slow build without a lot of real action. Think more digging into the mysteries of a secret society and learning things piece by piece then an epic adventure tale. (Besides, when the action comes, awesome things happen. Like a dead drop scheduled with this epic code phrase: “ask for the hogwarts special. hold the shrooms.”)

To Sum It Up:

  • Think ancient literary cult meets technology (with an unfortunate lack of sword fighting)
  • Even though I had some issues with the execution, I basically felt like I was reading a mystery story made just for bibliophiles
  • Guys, I really want an ereader made cloth-bound like a hardback book. And to write a sci-fi novel set more than 1,000 years in the future. And also, I’m a little scared of Google now.

Check out Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan on Goodreads / Amazon

Other Reviews:
A Bookish Way of Life
Books Matter

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Charlie October 10, 2012, 3:36 am

    Glow in the dark? And there I was thinking that some of those cut-out covers were cool. Literary Mystery Thriller works, why not 🙂 Though I know about programming I can see why it might not fit the book, you can combine the two (hello blogs, for example) but otherwise they aren’t the sort of subjects you’d generally put together.
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  • Heidi October 10, 2012, 12:37 pm

    Yay! I’m so happy to see this one getting some blog love. I read this story somewhere between 4-5 years ago when it was first just posted online. I was really happy at BEA this year when I saw that it’d been picked up for publication! It was a really cool read for those of us who are computer and book geeky. 🙂
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  • Andrea October 10, 2012, 1:31 pm

    The book glows in the dark?! That is awesome!! I’ve been seeing a lot of this book around the blogosphere and it sounds like so much fun! Though knowing it goes into computer programming.. I would be lost during those moments as well. Glad to hear you still enjoyed this one. I definitely need to get my hands on it. Great review!
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  • Kara October 10, 2012, 2:56 pm

    I’ve been seeing this one pop up on goodreads. It sounds as fab as I thought it might be. Excellent review! I’ll definitely check it out. 🙂
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