Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore

This novel spoke to all the nerd parts in me.

Quirky.  Mysterious.  Cheeky.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan creates a wacky world where old-school collides with new-school. Books versus e-readers.  No-tech versus high-tech.  Maturity versus youth.  Quality versus quantity. Tradition versus innovation. The extremes found within this story were endless and kept my nerd-girl fascinations fully engaged.


Clay Jannon is a web-designer who has lost his job and is looking for something a little more low-key.  He randomly steps into Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, conveniently located next door to a strip club, and his fate is sealed.  However, Penumbra's is no hole-in-the-wall.  With shelves that stretch far into the stratosphere housing a mysterious collection of tomes written in code, Clay can't help but be intrigued.

Taking the night shift, Clay has more than enough time to explore the old bookshop.  He soon realizes that the few patrons who visit the store during his wee hour shift are in fact regulars who consistently come in to request only the mysterious coded books.  Eventually, Clay's curiosity gets the better of him and he devotes his time to cracking the mystery behind Penumbra's secret reader society.

Eliciting the help of his techie friends and using computers to find patterns within the shelves of the shop and among the secret readers, Clay breaks the mystery which ultimately catapults him across the country in an effort to uncover the truth behind Mr. Penumbra, his boss and newest friend.

Robin Sloan created a legitimate mystery while keeping his characters witty and likable.  The mash-up between old knowledge and new knowledge was so much fun and kept me coming back for more.  The climax of the novel reveals the backbone of the story and solves the mystery behind the secret readers' society.  At this point I was expecting a shocking revelation for Clay but instead received a simple, heartwarming message about the power of friendship.  A bit underwhelming but endearing all the same.

Quality Rating (out of 5 stars)




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