Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

By (author) Robin Sloan

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A Winner of the Alex Award, a finalist for the "Los Angeles Times" Book Prize for First Fiction, named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, "Los Angeles Times," and "San Francisco Chronicle" "" The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything--instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan's "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.

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  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 138 x 208 x 26mm | 260g
  • 24 Sep 2013
  • Picador USA
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 1250037751
  • 9781250037756
  • 9,072

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Author Information

Robin Sloan grew up in Michigan and now splits his time between San Francisco and the Internet. "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" is his first novel.

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Review quote

"A real tour de force [and] a beautiful fable...The reader is swept along by Sloan's enthusiasm."--George Saunders, " BLIP Magazine ""Part love letter to books, part technological meditation, part thrilling adventure, part requiem... Eminently enjoyable, full of warmth and intelligence."--"The New York Times Book Review ""A book about passion--for books, for history, for the future...There is nothing about "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" that I didn't love."--Cory Doctorow "Delightful." --Graham Joyce, "The Washington Post ""An irresistible page-turning novel." --"Newsweek ""One of the most thoughtful and fun reading experiences you're likely to have this year...There's so much largehearted magic in this book."--NPR "A jaunty, surprisingly old-fashioned fantasy about the places where old and new ways of accessing knowledge meet...["Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore"] cleverly uses the technological age in the service of its fantasy...Sloan's ultimate answer to the mystery of what keeps people solving Penumbra's puzzle is worth turning pages to find out."--Tess Taylor, "San Francisco Chronicle ""[A] winning literary adventure...Sloan grounds his jigsawlike plot with Big Ideas about the quest for permanence in the digital age."--Thom Geier, "Entertainment Weekly ""Fantastic...I loved diving into the world that Sloan created, both the high-tech fantasyland of Google and the ancient analog society. It's packed full of geeky allusions and wonderful characters, and is a celebration of books, whether they're made of dead trees or digits."--Jonathan H. Liu, "Wired," GeekDad "Sloan makes bits and bytes appear beautiful. ...The rebels' journey to crack the code--grappling with an ancient cult, using secret passwords and hidden doorways--will excite anyone's inner child."--"The Economist ""Man, is this book fun--especially for any book nerd who isn't in denial about living in the modern age. If you love physical books (the smell! The feel!) but wouldn't give up your iPhone for any reason, if you like puzzles and geeky allusions and bookish cults and quests, then this book is for you. It also glows in the dark."--Emily Temple, "Flavorpill ""What makes "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" so impressive is Sloan's great gift for storytelling and his cast of brilliant, eccentric characters. Think of this novel as part Haruki Murakami, part Dan Brown and part Joseph Cornell: a surreal adventure, an existential detective story and a cabinet of wonders at which to marvel."--Carmela Ciuraru, "Newsday ""Beguiling...The plot is as tight as nesting boxes, or whatever their digital equivalent...Sly and infectious."--Karen R. Long, "The Cleveland Plain Dealer ""Sloan isn't just exploring new ideas, but laying the groundwork for a new genre of literature. While the influence of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson is present, "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" is something all its own: a technocratic adventure where every riddle and puzzle is solved with very real gadgets, a humanizing reflection on technology that evokes the tone of a fairy tale, a brisk and brainy story imbued with such confidence that it will leave you with nothing but excitement about the things to come."--Kevin Nguyen, Grantland "In a time when actual books are filling up tag-sale dollar boxes, along with VHS tapes and old beepers, "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" reminds us that there is an intimate, adventurous joy in the palpable papery things called novels, and in the warm little secret societies we used to call 'bookstores.' Robin Sloan's novel is delightfully funny, provocative, deft, and even thrilling. And for reasons more than just nostalgia, I could not stop turning these actual pages."--John Hodgman "The love child of Erin Morgenstern's "The Night Circus" and Neal Stephenson's "Reamde," "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" is a hugely enjoyable story of friendship, living, and the lure of the mysterious. It's a good-hearted, optimistic book about the meeting of modern technology and medieval mystery, a tonal road map to a positive relationship between the old world and the new. It's a book that gets it. Plus, you know: cryptographic cults, vertical bookshops, hot geeks, theft, and the pursuit of immortality. I loved it. And yes, I too would freeze my head."--Nick Harkaway "Robin Sloan is a skilled architect, and "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore "is an ingeniously designed space, full of mysteries and codes. A clever, entertaining story that also manages to be a thought-provoking meditation on progress, information and technology. Full of intelligence and humor."--Charles Yu

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Customer reviews

A delightful, witty, and entertaining read

This story follows the journey of a young man named Clay Jannon who finds a job at a quaint and quirky bookstore. While working the nightshift at this bookstore, Clay encounters a variety of unique and eccentric customers. The strange thing about these customers, however, is that they never buy any books; instead, they merely ‘check out’ the oldest books in the store. Clay soon discovers that there is much more to this bookstore and some of the books inside it than he thought. We, the readers, then follow Clay on his journey to decode the mysterious books and everything that goes along with them. This book was truly a fun delight to read. It wasn’t filled with any overly heavy, dramatic subject matter and was an extremely entertaining book. I would actually say this book was the definition of entertaining. First, I loved the entire ‘book’ focus and aspect of the novel (which is somewhat obvious, being the huge book lover that I am). I loved the bookstore itself and how it was described; I loved the huge, towering bookshelves and the different types of books (i.e. “regular books’ and the “Waybacklist”). When I first started this book, I don’t think I realized how big of a role that modern technology would play in it. I feel that most authors who try that are either really successful or fail miserably. Luckily, Sloan was extremely successful. I found the topic itself to be very interesting, and I found myself intrigued by the programming and coding that was used throughout. I think all of it added a really nice touch to the story. There was a very unique array of characters that each had an extremely distinct and entertaining personality. One of my favorite aspects of the novel was Clay himself. He had such a witty and fun narrative that truly captured you and brought you into the story. The pacing of the novel was spot-on; I never felt that the story was too rushed. I also did not find myself getting bored from the novel moving too slowly either. The novel seems a bit far-fetched at times, but it is fiction and that it extremely understandable. Overall, I found this to be an extremely well-written and exciting novel that I would definitely recommend to anyone.show more
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