Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Author: Robin Sloan

Synopsis: Clay used to work as a website designer, but then the Great Recession hits and he’s stuck looking for a new job.  When he sees a hand-written “Help Wanted” sign in the window of a bookstore, he cares more about getting the job than about the oddness of the store.  But after working the night shift for just a few weeks, he realizes just how weird the store really is.

It’s not just that the store is taller than it is wide, although that is strange.

It’s not that it’s open 24-Hours a day, although that’s unusual too.

It’s not even that the owner is an eccentric, bright-eyed old man.

It’s more like the fact that the entire back of the bookstore is shelved with old-smelling tomes that are written in code.  And that bizarre people come in at all hours of the night, desperate to exchange one coded book for another.

Clay really wants to hang onto his job.  But more than that, he wants to know what’s going on.  But the further he digs into the mystery, the weirder things get.  Clay steps from his world of buzzing fast internet, human androids, and insane technology, out into the dark world of ancient societies and black robes.  To uncover the mystery of the coded books and their strange borrowers, he’ll need the help of his girlfriend (who works at Google), his best friend (who is a millionaire), and maybe even Mr Penumbra himself.

My Thoughts: I was enchanted by this book.

Setting:  I loved the way that old, dusty books collided with new, lightning-fast technology.  It was a really neat setting (about 50 years in the future, I think), and I loved the way the MC described things.

Style: The writing style was really fun & interesting – I loved the voice.  And I especially loved how the MC was such a nerd – there were references to Harry Potter and other books/movies, and the MC was slightly obsessed with this Fantasy story.  It was awesome how the Sci-Fi world was mixed with the Fantasy-loving characters.

Characters: Awesome.  Diverse.  Funny.  Real.

Plot: Super cool.  Ever-changing, always going somewhere new.  I loved the idea of these special books that were written in code, hiding secrets even deeper than the MC could imagine.  It worked for me.

Content Advisory: There is some romance in the book, but it is NOT central to the plot.  That said, the MC mentions that he and his girlfriend “make out”, and there are a few scenes where they are in her bedroom (and one where it’s mentioned she’s naked).  However, there is NOTHING explicit at all.  Really, if you skip about two sentences, the book could be rated G.

Rating: 4.7 stars.

If you like books, computers, sci-fi, fantasy, nerdy things, things that make you laugh, or just REALLY GOOD BOOKS, then go get it from the library.

WARNING:  IF YOUR BOOK COVER LOOKS LIKE THIS, IT WILL GLOW IN THE DARK.

mr ppenumbra-glow-in-the-dark

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