Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane
Narrated by: Ari Fliakos
Produced by: Macmillan Audio
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Harper Collins Canada
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 7 hours 41 minutes
Source: Borrowed from library
Release Dates: October 2 2012
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.
“Some of them are working very hard indeed. “What are they doing?” “My boy!” he said, eyebrows raised. As if nothing could be more obvious. “They are reading!”
Is it possible to fall in love with a fictional character? Because I may be in love with Clay Jannon. Seriously. He works at a book store, he codes things for fun, he loves fantasy novels and makes great references to all sorts of nerdy stuff. Plus he’s socially awkward and random. Love him. I would marry him (shhh don’t tell my boyfriend) Characters like Clay Jannon are one of the reasons I love reading so much. You can’t help but fall for them. Become invested in them. And hang onto their every word.
It was Clay that hooked me into the dazzling story that is Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, but it was the ultimately the mystery that got me to stay. It’s so intriguing. And the idea of a secret society that revolves around books is just too good to pass up. As someone who loves to read and talk about what their reading, the idea of following clues hidden in writing is very appealing. I think it’s an idea that would be appealing to all book lovers. We all know what it’s like to become obsessed with books.
When I was done reading/listening to this book, the idea that really stuck with me was how Robin Sloane presented the new technology (Google and all it’s gadgets) and old (books). I loved that they worked together for a common goal, rather than against one another. I think this book is a wonderful example of how we don’t have to choose one over the other. I can have my e-reader and my bookshelf full of print books and there’s nothing wrong with that. New and old technology can co-exist. It doesn’t have to be a fight to the death.
Recommendation: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is a quick, fun read with lovable characters, and intriguing plot. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet still manages to say something important about our society. This is definitely a book for book lovers.
Notes on the Audio
Ari Fliakos did a fantastic job on the narration. He was Clay. He was able to perfectly conveying both Clay’s awkwardness and his internal sarcasm. I also enjoyed the way he did Mr. Penumbra’s voice. It really helped me picture the character, and I don’t think he would have been as vivid to me without Fliakos’ particular style.
About the Author
Robin Sloan grew up near Detroit and now splits his time between San Francisco and the internet. He graduated from Michigan State with a degree in economics and, from 2002 to 2012, worked at Poynter, Current TV, and Twitter. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is his first novel. You can learn more at robinsloan.com and follow along at @robinsloan.