Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
I always have to work during our library’s monthly book club, but occasionally I will pick up the book they are reading anyway. That’s how I found out about this quirky little audio book.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan follows Clay Jannon as he goes from San Francisco website designer to night clerk at a 24-hour bookstore with practically no patrons. Clay’s friends are all creators, website designers, computer coders and Googlers, so finding himself climbing 14 foot ladders to retrieve obscure–literally one of a kind–manuscripts for bibliophile eccentrics wasn’t exactly how he thought he’d be spending his time.
After only a few days, Clay realizes that Mr. Penumbra’s bookstore isn’t what it seems. The customers who do come in never buy anything; they borrow and return ancient looking tomes that look like they’ve been written in code. One day Clay notices a pattern in the books his eccentric patrons borrow and finds himself stumbling upon a secret society and a mystery hundreds of years old.
Can Clay uncover an age old mystery that has stumped both academics and googlers alike?
This book was a pleasant surprise. Quaint in its discussion of books and real life woes and yet magical and mysterious in it’s quest to find the truth. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is so current in its portrayal of hi-tech, low-tech and how our lives are a merger of both. We see 20-something tech gurus and baby boomers resisting the technological boom. We see what happens when technology thrives and when it fails and how these different groups respond. If you want to look deeper, I think this book could be used as a commentary on a need for balance in today’s high-speed world.
This book, is also a look into what it means to be immortal. Immortality can be gained in many different ways. Our names, our deeds can live on, we may thrive through the blood of our children, or we can chase immortality of body and soul. Immortality means something different for each of the characters in this book and each are chasing it in their own ways.
The internal dialog in this book was fan-tastic and listening to it in audio form made it even better. Clay’s internal voice injected a bit of humor into the story and was very relate-able. I kept thinking to myself that much of what Clay thinks, would totally be my own internal reactions. I also loved his nerdy-ness… as they say, nerd is in.
This was a mystery novel for bibliophiles and techies alike. Ultimately, it was an enjoyable read with the thrill of the chase without all the drama. This one gets 4.5 stars from me.
That’s all for now!