Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Read: April 1 – 3, 2013
Personal read.

Book Blurb: The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

My Opinion: I flipped back and forth between really liking and really disliking this book. I finally settled on really liking it.

Why did I want to dislike it? Product placement. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is rife with it. Especially references to Google and Amazon. I was getting really tired of reading about Google-this and Google-that. Not that I have any problems with Google itself, but there was so much mention of it… I doubt it was entirely necessary.

The other reason I wanted to dislike it was the prose. It was technically fine, but stylistically very basic and lacking in elegance.

I also found myself lacking a connection to Clay, though I loved a lot of the secondary characters, so I think that was more a fluke of trying too hard.

Why did I decide to really like it? The story. I found it to be really unique, and I was drawn in to find out what was going on. There were moments of humor in the prose, and the ending fit. That is so important in books these days, that the ending fits.

I also liked the simplicity of the prose, when tying it in to the story. Would Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore have benefited from a more stylistic prose? I feel it would have. But with the length of the book and the style of the story, it also worked in its own way.

Bottom Line:  A quick read, and if you can look past the love letter to Google, an enjoyable one.

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