Title: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
(Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore #1)
Author: Robin Sloan
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy, Contemporary
First published: October 2nd 2012
Finished reading: May 3rd 2015
“Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines — it’s hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.”
I was expecting a completely different read when I started reading this novel by Robin Sloan, but different doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. There is a lot more fantasy involved than I would have thought originally, with many fantasy novel references and a secret book society. Since I like the whole fantasy genre I didn’t really mind, but it will definitely be an unpleasant surprise for anyone who prefers reading contemporary fiction or mystery novels. Another important part of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore that can go either way is the fact that there are many many references to modern technology and Google in particular. I wasn’t really bothered by them personally as both the fantasy and technology references brought out the nerd in me. Still, I can’t deny that there was an awful lot of positive publicity about Google that made me wonder if the Googlers decided to sponsor this novel. That said, the prose was entertaining and the pace fast enough for me to finish this one quickly. The characters are likeable in general and all in all it’s an entertaining read.
Clay Jannon is originally more of a web-design and technology expert, but the recession has left him jobless and he is not exactly picky now he’s looking for a new one. When he sees that they are hiring at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, he decides to apply since he enjoys reading himself. Clay soon discovers that the bookstore he is about to start working isn’t exactly a normal one. Not only does the owner Penumbra has a curious taste when it comes to picking the secondhand book titles that are available at the store, but there are also other books that are even more curious. On the higher shelves there are books that can only be ‘checked out’ by members that are even stranger than the obscure volumes themselves… Clay gets the job, but under the condition that he writes down everything the special clients check out and bring back and their general appearance. He is also told that he cannot read the books in question… Clay accepts these terms originally, but under the influence of his friends he starts getting more curious by the day. And soon enough he starts discovering more and more about the members and their secrets.
I enjoyed the first half of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore better than the second half. I guess that is mostly caused by the fact that the whole mystery around the secret book society could have been more interesting. True, I would have loved to work in Penumbra’s bookstore myself and discover more about the members and the strange books they check out. (Although I think I would have been fired before the week is over for trying to read them.) But I was a bit disappointed by the end and Clay’s quest wasn’t all that exciting in general. It ended up being too much of a commercial for Google… Still, the first part makes up for it and I would definitely recommend reading this novel by Robin Sloan.