Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan


Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a Web-design drone and serendipity coupled with sheer curiosity has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. And it doesn't take long for Clay to realize that the quiet, dusty book emporium is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few fanatically committed customers, but they never seem to actually buy anything, instead they simply borrow impossibly obscure volumes perched on dangerously high shelves, all according to some elaborate arrangement with the eccentric proprietor. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he has plugged in his laptop, roped in his friends (and a cute girl who works for Google) and embarked on a high-tech analysis of the customers' behaviour. What they discover is an ancient secret that can only be solved by modern means, and a global-conspiracy guarded by Mr. Penumbra himself...who has mysteriously disappeared.


I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky, interesting and witty tale. Who doesn't love a book about books? 

The characters were all well written and added a great sense of time and place to the story. Clay Jannon is intelligent and inquisitive and I loved the bond that he formed with Mr Penumbra who is something of an enigma. 

An insight into the world of technology and how things have moved forward and will continue to do so. Specifically Google and all of its capabilities. My only criticism being that I thought that the story tailed off slightly toward the end. 

This book was a wonderful fusion of literature and technology. I thoroughly recommend it if you would like something a little out of the ordinary, original and can open your mind to the old and the new.


Robin Sloan grew up near Detroit and has worked at Poynter, Current TV and Twitter in jobs that have generally had 'something to do with figuring out the future of media'. He has previously published short fiction in Kindle-only editions (Mr Penumbra started out as a 6000-word ebook). He lives in San Francisco.

He can be found at his website and on twitter @robinsloan

This edition was published in paperback by Atlantic Books on 27th February 2014.

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