Title: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Author: Robin Sloan
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
It starts with a bookstore. A small, packed-to-the-brim bookstore that Clay scores a job at after he loses his tech job. Clay works the night shift and he notices one odd thing: The bookstore has few customers, but the ones it does get are repeat customers who check out bizarre books from the collection, rather than buying anything. Intrigued by his new job and the puzzle it presents, Clay begins to dig into the bookstore’s history and is presented with an entirely new world he didn’t know existed.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a novel that’s difficult to describe (and it’s best to know as little as possible about it before picking it up), but is an incredibly rewarding read. It’s so many things wrapped up into one neat, fast-moving package. First of all, it’s a love letter to the written word. Whether you love the smell of old, musty books and adore towering shelves, or you value the ability to keep an entire library on a slim ereader (or both, like so many of us), this is a book for you. What’s great about it is that Sloan clearly values the past as much as technology and gives both equal treatment in his book.
The novel also present a sort of treasure hunt, complete with secret societies. In this respect, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is very exciting. It’s wonderful to theorize about where the story is going or what twist will present itself next. It’s definitely difficult to predict, and it’s just such a fun experience to read it. It’s also interesting to see the juxtaposition of a centuries-old treasure hunt against modern day technology and to see how the past and present can, in fact, work together seamlessly.
The characters are well-drawn, and while character development is not the central point of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, the reader gets to know Clay and his friends reasonably well. Clay’s a naturally curious person, which makes him the perfect hero for this novel.
This is a short novel, a slim volume, and it goes quickly. The plot draws the reader in well, and the book moves at a fast pace. The plot could easily fit into a larger, more descriptive and embellished novel, but it’s nice that Sloan chose to make it short and sweet. When you’re reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, you’ll begin reading a bit slower, savoring each word more and more, as you turn the pages because you realize that the end will just come too quickly.