A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore
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.
With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that's rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.
|Publisher:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux|
|File size:||634 KB|
About the Author
Robin Sloan grew up in Michigan and now splits his time between San Francisco and the Internet.
Robin Sloan grew up in Michigan and now splits his time between San Francisco and the Internet. He is the author of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough.
Read an Excerpt
LOST IN THE SHADOWS of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder. I am exactly halfway up. The floor of the bookstore is far below me, the surface of a planet I’ve left behind. The tops of the shelves loom high above, and it’s dark up there—the books are packed in close, and they don’t let any light through. The air might be thinner, too. I think I see a bat.
I am holding on for dear life, one hand on the ladder, the other on the lip of a shelf, fingers pressed white. My eyes trace a line above my knuckles, searching the spines—and there, I spot it. The book I’m looking for.
But let me back up.
* * *
My name is Clay Jannon and those were the days when I rarely touched paper.
I’d sit at my kitchen table and start scanning help-wanted ads on my laptop, but then a browser tab would blink and I’d get distracted and follow a link to a long magazine article about genetically modified wine grapes. Too long, actually, so I’d add it to my reading list. Then I’d follow another link to a book review. I’d add the review to my reading list, too, then download the first chapter of the book—third in a series about vampire police. Then, help-wanted ads forgotten, I’d retreat to the living room, put my laptop on my belly, and read all day. I had a lot of free time.
I was unemployed, a result of the great food-chain contraction that swept through America in the early twenty-first century, leaving bankrupt burger chains and shuttered sushi empires in its wake.
The job I lost was at the corporate headquarters of NewBagel, which was based not in New York or anywhere else with a tradition of bagel-making but instead here in San Francisco. The company was very small and very new. It was founded by a pair of ex-Googlers who wrote software to design and bake the platonic bagel: smooth crunchy skin, soft doughy interior, all in a perfect circle. It was my first job out of art school, and I started as a designer, making marketing materials to explain and promote this tasty toroid: menus, coupons, diagrams, posters for store windows, and, once, an entire booth experience for a baked-goods trade show.
There was lots to do. First, one of the ex-Googlers asked me to take a crack at redesigning the company’s logo. It had been big bouncy rainbow letters inside a pale brown circle; it looked pretty MS Paint. I redesigned if using a newish typeface with sharp black serifs that I thought sort of evoked the boxes and daggers of Hebrew letters. It gave NewBagel some gravitas and it won me an award from San Francisco’s AIGA chapter. Then, when I mentioned to the other ex-Googler that I knew how to code (sort of), she put me in charge of the website. So I redesigned that, too, and then managed a small marketing budget keyed to search terms like “bagel” and “breakfast” and “topology.” I was also the voice of @NewBagel on Twitter and attracted a few hundred followers with a mix of breakfast trivia and digital coupons.
None of this represented the glorious next stage of human evolution, but I was learning things. I was moving up. But then the economy took a dip, and it turns out that in a recession, people want good old-fashioned bubbly oblong bagels, not smooth alien-spaceship bagels, not even if they’re sprinkled with precision-milled rock salt.
The ex-Googlers were accustomed to success and they would not go quietly. They quickly rebranded to become the Old Jerusalem Bagel Company and abandoned the algorithm entirely so the bagels started coming out blackened and irregular. They instructed me to make the website look old-timey, a task that burdened my soul and earned me zero AIGA awards. The marketing budget dwindled, then disappeared. There was less and less to do. I wasn’t learning anything and I wasn’t moving anywhere.
Finally, the ex-Googlers threw in the towel and moved to Costa Rica. The ovens went cold and the website went dark. There was no money for severance, but I got to keep my company-issued MacBook and the Twitter account.
So then, after less than a year of employment, I was jobless. It turned out it was more than just the food chains that had contracted. People were living in motels and tent cities. The whole economy suddenly felt like a game of musical chairs, and I was convinced I needed to grab a seat, any seat, as fast as I could.
That was a depressing scenario when I considered the competition. I had friends who were designers like me, but they had already designed world-famous websites or advanced touch-screen interfaces, not just the logo for an upstart bagel shop. I had friends who worked at Apple. My best friend, Neel, ran his own company. Another year at NewBagel and I would have been in good shape, but I hadn’t lasted long enough to build my portfolio, or even get particularly good at anything. I had an art-school thesis on Swiss typography (1957–1983) and I had a three-page website.
But I kept at it with the help-wanted ads. My standards were sliding swiftly. At first I had insisted I would only work at a company with a mission I believed in. Then I thought maybe it would be fine as long as I was learning something new. After that I decided it just couldn’t be evil. Now I was carefully delineating my personal definition of evil.
It was paper that saved me. It turned out that I could stay focused on job hunting if I got myself away from the internet, so I would print out a ream of help-wanted ads, drop my phone in a drawer, and go for a walk. I’d crumple up the ads that required too much experience and deposit them in dented green trash cans along the way, and so by the time I’d exhausted myself and hopped on a bus back home, I’d have two or three promising prospectuses folded in my back pocket, ready for follow-up.
This routine did lead me to a job, though not in the way I’d expected.
San Francisco is a good place for walks if your legs are strong. The city is a tiny square punctuated by steep hills and bounded on three sides by water, and as a result, there are surprise vistas everywhere. You’ll be walking along, minding your own business with a fistful of printouts, and suddenly the ground will fall away and you’ll see straight down to the bay, with the buildings lit up orange and pink along the way. San Francisco’s architectural style didn’t really make inroads anywhere else in the country, and even when you live here and you’re used to it, it lends the vistas a strangeness: all the tall narrow houses, the windows like eyes and teeth, the wedding-cake filigree. And looming behind it all, if you’re facing the right direction, you’ll see the rusty ghost of the Golden Gate Bridge.
I had followed one strange vista down a line of steep stairstepped sidewalks, then walked along the water, taking the very long way home. I had followed the line of old piers—carefully skirting the raucous chowder of Fisherman’s Wharf—and watched seafood restaurants fade into nautical engineering firms and then social media startups. Finally, when my stomach rumbled, signaling its readiness for lunch, I had turned back in toward the city.
Whenever I walked the streets of San Francisco, I’d watch for HELP WANTED signs in windows—which is not something you really do, right? I should probably be more suspicious of those. Legitimate employers use Craigslist.
Sure enough, the 24-hour bookstore did not have the look of a legitimate employer:
Now: I was pretty sure “24-hour bookstore” was a euphemism for something. It was on Broadway, in a euphemistic part of town. My help-wanted hike had taken me far from home; the place next door was called Booty’s and it had a sign with neon legs that crossed and uncrossed.
I pushed the bookstore’s glass door. It made a bell tinkle brightly up above, and I stepped slowly through. I did not realize at the time what an important threshold I had just crossed.
Inside: imagine the shape and volume of a normal bookstore turned up on its side. This place was absurdly narrow and dizzyingly tall, and the shelves went all the way up—three stories of books, maybe more. I craned my neck back (why do bookstores always make you do uncomfortable things with your neck?) and the shelves faded smoothly into the shadows in a way that suggested they might just go on forever.
The shelves were packed close together, and it felt like I was standing at the border of a forest—not a friendly California forest, either, but an old Transylvanian forest, a forest full of wolves and witches and dagger-wielding bandits all waiting just beyond moonlight’s reach. There were ladders that clung to the shelves and rolled side to side. Usually those seem charming, but here, stretching up into the gloom, they were ominous. They whispered rumors of accidents in the dark.
So I stuck to the front half of the store, where bright midday light pressed in and presumably kept the wolves at bay. The wall around and above the door was glass, thick square panes set into a grid of black iron, and arched across them, in tall golden letters, it said (in reverse):
Below that, set in the hollow of the arch, there was a symbol—two hands, perfectly flat, rising out of an open book.
So who was Mr. Penumbra?
“Hello, there,” a quiet voice called from the stacks. A figure emerged—a man, tall and skinny like one of the ladders, draped in a light gray button-down and a blue cardigan. He tottered as he walked, running a long hand along the shelves for support. When he came out of the shadows, I saw that his sweater matched his eyes, which were also blue, riding low in nests of wrinkles. He was very old.
He nodded at me and gave a weak wave. “What do you seek in these shelves?”
That was a good line, and for some reason, it made me feel comfortable. I asked, “Am I speaking to Mr. Penumbra?”
“I am Penumbra”—he nodded—“and I am the custodian of this place.”
I didn’t quite realize I was going to say it until I did: “I’m looking for a job.”
Penumbra blinked once, then nodded and tottered over to the desk set beside the front door. It was a massive block of dark-whorled wood, a solid fortress on the forest’s edge. You could probably defend it for days in the event of a siege from the shelves.
“Employment.” Penumbra nodded again. He slid up onto the chair behind the desk and regarded me across its bulk. “Have you ever worked at a bookstore before?”
“Well,” I said, “when I was in school I waited tables at a seafood restaurant, and the owner sold his own cookbook.” It was called The Secret Cod and it detailed thirty-one different ways to— You get it. “That probably doesn’t count.”
“No, it does not, but no matter,” Penumbra said. “Prior experience in the book trade is of little use to you here.”
Wait—maybe this place really was all erotica. I glanced down and around, but glimpsed no bodices, ripped or otherwise. In fact, just next to me there was a stack of dusty Dashiell Hammetts on a low table. That was a good sign.
“Tell me,” Penumbra said, “about a book you love.”
I knew my answer immediately. No competition. I told him, “Mr. Penumbra, it’s not one book, but a series. It’s not the best writing and it’s probably too long and the ending is terrible, but I’ve read it three times, and I met my best friend because we were both obsessed with it back in sixth grade.” I took a breath. “I love The Dragon-Song Chronicles.”
Penumbra cocked an eyebrow, then smiled. “That is good, very good,” he said, and his smile grew, showing jostling white teeth. Then he squinted at me, and his gaze went up and down. “But can you climb a ladder?”
* * *
And that is how I find myself on this ladder, up on the third floor, minus the floor, of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. The book I’ve been sent up to retrieve is called AL-ASMARI and it’s about 150 percent of one arm-length to my left. Obviously, I need to return to the floor and scoot the ladder over. But down below, Penumbra is shouting, “Lean, my boy! Lean!”
And wow, do I ever want this job.
Copyright © 2012 by Robin Sloan
Reading Group Guide
Sweeping from Europe's legendary Renaissance book printers to the new frontiers of the Information Age, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is a rollicking adventure and an inspiring ode to the published word.
Like many victims of the Great Recession, the web designer Clay Jannon finds himself out of a job. Then, thanks to serendipity (and his ability to climb a ladder like a monkey), Clay lands a new gig working the night shift at a mysterious San Francisco shop, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. After just a few days on the job, Clay begins to wonder how the store stays in business. There are only a few customers. They come in repeatedly, but 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. Clay soon ropes his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on, revealing tantalizing secrets that can be traced back to the world's first typeset books. In this captivating debut novel, Robin Sloan lures us to a hallowed bookstore that we'll never want to leave, where a mysterious collection raises compelling questions about the nature of our love for books and the future of reading itself.
The discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. We hope they will enrich your experience of this inventive literary tale.
A Conversation Between Robin Sloan and Charles Yu
I was rereading Robin Sloan's debut novel and Holiday '12 Discover pick, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, last night and not only couldn't I turn the pages fast enough, I couldn't stop smiling as I dropped back into Sloan's charmingly oddball world. Penumbra is so much fun, a real romp, storytelling that's at once modern and old-fashioned, and it's easy to draw comparisons to Murakami and Stephenson (both Discover alums).
The Discover selection committee readers and I are hardly alone in our admiration: Charles Yu, author of the ambitious and souful - - 2010 Discover selection, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, is also a fan. Both authors made the time to converse via email, and here they are on first-person vs. third- person narration, How Fiction Works by James Wood, and creating entirely new worlds with text, among other things. Miwa Messer, Director of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Program.
Robin Sloan: Most of the stories in your new collection are first-person. My novel is first-person, too, and I have a theory that it's the native mode of the early 21st century, because of email and the Web and Twitter all this first-person writing that surrounds us every day. But I guess I also have a theory that it's just easier than third-person...and I'll take any advantage I can get.
So I'm curious to know if you feel the same way. Have stories always come out naturally in first-person for you? Have you tried other modes and decided, "nah, 'I' is really more my style"?
Charles Yu: I think you're onto something when you say first-person is "the native mode of the early 21st century," although I would qualify that by saying that is much more true of writers who are just starting out or close to it, and less true for writers who have been writing since the last millennium. No doubt it has something to do with email and Twitter, as you point out, and also Facebook and video games and all of this first-person writing. Of course, people have always navigated the world in first-person but I think the difference now is that everyone wants to be a protagonist. And if you're living in the US, and relatively comfortable, you have the means and opportunity to do so, to construct reality so that you're at the center of it.
There are, of course, tradeoffs. Although there are stories that can only be told in first-person, there are many more stories that don't have to be (and probably shouldn't be), and among those, there are stories and storytellers who can do things with third-person that would just not be possible in first. And knowing this, it actually bothers me a bit, both as a writer, and in a broader sense: am I limited in the kinds of stories I can tell? Even more troubling: am I limiting myself in how I see and understand other people, putting a ceiling on my own empathy? With the first question, I think I probably am, and so with the novel I'm currently working on, I am in fact trying to write it in third. As for the larger issue of empathy, I don't know that writing in different modes will necessarily help me in my efforts to be a less crappy human, but I can't see how it would hurt.
Have you ever tried to write in third-person? If not, do you feel any desire to do so? And what do you think about the idea of everyone being a protagonist? That's more egalitarian and enabling for people without voices or access, but aren't there downsides? If everyone's the main character, does that lead to a decrease in empathy? Also, if "I" is the new native mode, does that lead to a selection effect, limiting the kinds of stories that can be told?
RS: I'm also trying to write something in third-person at this very moment. For me, it's been like playing a familiar video game now set on Super Hard Extreme Inferno mode. I mean, I technically know how to play this game, and I've already beat it once...but...wow they are not kidding this is really hard.
I've been using James Wood's How Fiction Works almost like a how-to guide, which is probably a little ridiculous, but I'm okay with that. The book is an explication of what he calls "free indirect style" a third-person mode where the narration tends to merge with the protagonist's thoughts, to dip into her brain without always signaling that it's doing so. As a result, it preserves many of the benefits of first-person writing, but then also grants you the flexibility of third-person. Wood's book is crisp and smart I recommend it.
I'm actually optimistic about mass protagonization. One of the virtues of writing in first-person for an audience, even a very small one, is that it forces you to actually decide what you think. When you sit down to write, even if it's just to share a link on Facebook, you have to render the fuzzy cloud in your head into something solid. There are ways to avoid the exertion, of course instead of writing an actual thought, you can always just release a big loud LOLLL but even so, I think today, in 2012, more people are deciding what they think about things than ever before, and I think that's a healthy development.
You're right that video games are part of this, too. Do you play them much yourself? What do you think of games as a medium, potentially, to do some of the same things you do with your stories explore strange scenarios, provoke new feelings? If a company came calling and said, "Yu, enough with the books already! This is the 21st century. Come write our next game!" would you be interested?
CY: I enjoyed How Fiction Works, especially the first part, which as you know is essentially a love letter to close third-person. Wood is better at reading than I realized it was possible to be or maybe it's that he's just so good at explaining what he likes and why, especially the magic of the free indirect style. In the latter chapters of that book, however, he gets away from the descriptive and goes into full-on prescriptive, and I couldn't help but feel that he does not have much tolerance for books that don't work in the particular way that he requires of fiction. Even in his curmudgeon mode, though, he's still quite a treat to read, but the assumptions he makes start to pile up How Fiction Works is an audacious thing to call a book, and I can understand its appeal on many levels, but in those three words, he certainly presumes a lot about both writers and readers. A more honest title would have been How Certain Kinds of Fiction Work, but that wouldn't have looked as good on the cover.
Your video game analogy is perfect, both in terms of describing the degree of difficulty and the type. For someone like me, writing in mostly first-person for the past ten years, trying now to write a novel in third is like playing a game with someone else's hands. And someone else's eyeballs. And yet, like you, I am determined to do it.
I do play video games, although not as much as I once did. There are definitely ways that games can, as you put it, allow people to "explore strange scenarios" and "provoke new feelings" and I think, because it's a different medium, games can require us to access different (and maybe even more) parts of the brain than books do, but what I'm curious about is whether they will do the same for the heart (or, if I can say it, the soul). You've worked at some really cool places, and are a media inventor and certainly better equipped to speculate on such things than I am: what do you think? Do you think game worlds will rival or even replace book- shaped fictional universes? Or some other, newer medium, some convergence of books and games and movies and GPS and FourSquare and Reddit and who-knows-what else?
And yes, to answer your question, I think it would be cool to write a game, although I don't know how interested anyone would be in a metafictional time travel game with melancholy overtones. How about you would you write a Penumbra (or any other) game?
RS: Oh man, people would totally play a metafictional time travel game with melancholy overtones!
I think the challenge for games doesn't have anything to do with graphics or sound or interactivity. Rather, it's all about how they're made. Video game production today is a lot like blockbuster movie production there are so many contributors, so many constraints. The results are frequently spectacular, but almost never subtle almost never weird or truly original. (I say "almost" out of respect for the indie creators who make games that are both.)
If it's the heart and soul you're after, I just don't think you can beat solo authorship. But I'll admit, I do often find myself wondering if there's some way to combine the creative power of a single imagination with the productive potential of a big team. The best I've come up with so far is wishing for a sort of writing super power through which I can spawn copies of myself to work on different parts of a story in parallel. (Which of course reminds me of the conversation between alternate selves in your story collection. I'm sure we'd be more organized, though.)
What would your writing super power and/or mutation be?
CY: So sorry for the delay. I've been working on my game, Super Sad Meta-Fictional Time Machine. I'm hoping to get the rights so that you can unlock the secret boss character, Gary Shteyngart.
What you said about games seems to crystallize the issue for me. So if I can paraphrase and extrapolate from there, the issue is that the machine is a die-cast, and the mold is cast in the shape of Gigantic Stupendous AAA Franchise Titles that's the only kind of product that can be made from this machine (bells and whistles might change, but the basic shape is overdetermined by the constraints and the nature of the process. So my follow-up question to you is: is there (or will there soon be) an alternative to this process? In music, ProTools allows musicians to make music outside of studios, and in film there's FinalCut Pro. Can one video game developer, working in her or his apartment, release the equivalent of a Bon Iver album, something with a singular, subtle, idiosyncratic voice? If not, is it an issue of constraints in technology, or economics, or distribution channels? I suppose iOS apps are already sort of a channel where a single person can release something to a mass audience, so I guess my question is more about PC/console games...
I like your idea for a writing power, and the one you chose totally makes sense for someone with your background and proficiency with technology it's sort of like having superhuman skill at project management. In my case, however, I fear that such a power would result in 200 copies of me, all of them with writer's block. My writing super power would be the ability to imagine what my Ideal Reader would say about my draft. Although that might freeze me into permanent paralysis and cause me to stop writing altogether.
RS: I think a lone programmer can definitely produce the video game equivalent of a Bon Iver album in her secluded log- cabin laboratory. It helps if she's strategic with her style. She almost certainly can't produce all the art and animation that's required for a Gigantic Stupendous AAA Franchise Title...but 8-bit graphics? Or playful sketchy 2D shapes? That's doable.
And so, of course, is text.
As we've been writing back and forth, I've been playing through a couple of old text adventures made by the long-defunct game company Infocom. These are the games where you type "go north" and the computer responds "You are standing in an open field..." and so on. I played a bunch as a kid, but had forgotten all the details, and it's been fun to rediscover them.
(Some of these text adventures totally have the feel of your stories, by the way. There's the same intelligence, the same humor, the same set of cosmic concerns.)
Playing these games, and thinking about this conversation, it's occurred to me that fiction (of a certain kind) and games (of a certain kind) might actually be points on the same continuum. We apply the label "interactive" easily to games, but of course fiction is deeply interactive, too: you're doing a lot of work when you read a novel or a short story. And we apply the label "literary" easily to fiction, but I think it can apply to certain games as well. It definitely applies to some of these old text adventures.
Now I'm imagining an alternate history where text adventures grew into a big, popular medium (instead of withering in the early '90s); where writers, people who love language, could decide: "Hmm, should this project be a novel...or a short story...or a text adventure?"; and likewise, where game makers, people who love systems, could decide: "Hmm, should this project be a 3D shooter...or a 2D platformer...or a text adventure?"
I really want to live in that world.
> You are standing in a dark cave.
CY: Oh man, that takes me back. In my childhood I was eaten by a grue so many times. You'd think I would have gotten over it by now, and yet thinking of it still sends a little dart of dread through me. Eight years old, sitting alone in the dark, dying a silent, textual death, over and over again. And then re-entering the text, over and over again. The books I've loved have always been like that: less like museums, where you passively admire the artful installations of prose, and more like sandboxes, places where you can move around a bit, change the terrain. Leave some footprints.
That's how I felt about your novel from the very first pages the spirit of experimentation, of something new, of really not knowing. Not just in terms of not knowing "what is going to happen?", but in terms of "what is this thing that I'm holding?" Is this a new thing? Has there ever been a thing like this before?
I like the idea of living in an alternate history, and not knowing it. Of living in a reality that is the opposite of what everyone thinks it is. Of the invisible furniture of the universe constantly rearranging itself while we aren't looking. So yes, I'm with you. Let's go on an adventure:
> We are standing in a ark cave.
October 9, 2012
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
At the intersection of book & tech, type & typing, Dan Brown & Borges, a book-lover's dream novel. Get it. Read it. Love it. Now.
If you love books, the old fashioned paper ones and the new e-books, you will love this read. What do you hope to find in all of the books you read? Why do you read so much? A book not only about people that love books, but about how our friends are called upon, about our own curiosity about things we don't understand, and what we do to satisfy our curiosity. All who were involved or know someone who is/was a Dungeons and Dragons fan will see someone they know (or are). And the geeks shall inherit the earth.
It's perfect. Such a treat to read. Has everything you could want. It almost feels like it was written just for me, designed and thought out for me. Sort of a relief to know there's more of me, if you love this book, you're a friend of mine <3
A serious book which doesn't take itself too seriously. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore concerns an unusual San Francisco book store, and the eccentric cast of characters associated with it. The narrator, Clay, is a smart but down-on-his-luck relatively recent college graduate who stumbles into working at the title book store where he soon discovers a literary mystery. Naturally, he sets about trying to solve it. Clay is clever (so there are numerous funny lines), as are most of those in his orbit, but he and his friends are also kind which makes all of them likable characters for whom it is easy to care, and easy to cheer. The novel is an homage to quest novels, and a celebration of the friendship (or fellowship as it always is in a quest novel) that sustains when in the midst of such journeys. Really, really fun read!
Loved this book fantastically fun, fast moving and holds your interest! Immediately wanted to find more to read by this author to find out this is his first book, will be watching for more!
This was a fun book to read for a book lover such as myself. Also a good light read for someone into technology. It is fun to see the two worlds at odds and then come together to solve the mystery. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
I want to live next door to this book store. Really i want to work there, read there, maybe even get locked in there every once in awhile. I mean if it weren't a 24hour book store.
Having worked in printing and publishing when it was "hot press" and then "cold press" this book was especially interesting to me. I remember trays and trays of little letters being set by hand in our print shop. And loving computers and technology in general, the book has "feet" in both worlds/both times. While parts seemed pure fiction, I was surprised to find, after research, that many of those parts are fact. It's a fun read.
Once it's out in paperback it will make an excellent present. I would explain just exactly what I liked about the storyline and how it progressed, plus the character development, but that would be a spoiler not unlike finding out about the end of the Sixth Sense before seeing the movie.
Tongue in cheek humor pervades this book. The story centers around the eccentric owner of a strange and wonderful bookstore, where books are revered, and also the clerk he hires, Clay Jannon. Clay is out of work, driven into an aimless state of being by a failing economy. One day, while walking, he discovers a job opportunity as the night clerk for Ajax Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore. The shop seems to exist for a dual purpose. On the one hand, it is a bookstore, albeit not one that sells many popular books, or many books at all, for that matter, and on the other hand, it caters to a group of unusual people who are studying odd books in order to discover a very well-kept, hidden secret. The bookstore is reminiscent of a library or a museum. Shelves are filled with ancient manuscripts from floor to ceiling, a ceiling only reached with the aid of a ladder. It is a temple for books. The secret, that this unusual group of people, seem to be searching for, is a missing code. They must decipher it when they find it. What is this mysterious code? It is the key to eternal life, the key to immortality. In this brief novel, the reader is led on an abstract journey to find the answer. It is often outside reality, and it is often very confusing. This creative little book combines the wisdom of the ages with the creativity of technology to search for the answer. The merry chase is sometimes convoluted and, truth be told, in several places I was completely lost, but soon, the thread is picked up again and the search goes on. In the end, for me, the message of the book was that eternal life, immortality, is the written word, it is what we leave behind as our accomplishments, as well. Time marches on for everyone and so does progress. As the book proudly proclaims: “There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. …all secrets worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.”
I not only want to re-read this book, I want to live it. At the very least, I want to live in Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.
Fun to read. Not terribly engaging at first. Nice message at the end.
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Contemporary writing style that combines old world books and modern technology with puzzles and suspense. Hard to put down. My 13 yr old son is also really enjoying this book. Recommend you get this one!!
This was a totally fun read!
Techies on a romp, pretty fun, light reading, high tech combined with ancient text.
Don't let this book fool you, its full of mystery and amd excitement that any avid book reader will appreciate. So well written and worth every minute spent lost in its pages
Many of us read this book over the holiday in 2014, and each of us has declared this to be their favorite book. There are NO spoiler alerts here. The only caveat is do not cheat by reading the last page first, as is often my habit -:)
Simply cannot figure out what I'm missing here. Very juvenile writing. Another generation thinks they discovered SF. Yawn. Story is full of deus ex machinas served up by technology. Really, this is a pretty lousy work by a barely competent writer. Consensus be damned.
After reading this I wanted to visit every little book store I could find. A must read for any bibliophile!
Book lovers will enjoy this rare winner. This is an outstanding and exceptional foray into the treasure that books truly are. MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE is enjoyable in every turn of the page. I wanted to go there, to that 24-hour bookstore, and bask in the feel and the smell of those old books. I wanted to be a part of the code-breaking quest that Clay and his pals were on. Robin Sloan reminds us that our own immortality lies in books, and that is how we live forever, maybe for most of us not as authors, but as the members of the fellowship that have been influenced by books. We always read exactly the right book at exactly the right time in our lives. Every bibliophile knows all too well that books give us a sense of security. Every book we ever read becomes a part of us, forms our identities, and influences who we are.
Very good read... and at the ending the epilogue wrapped everything up nicely, which I think should be in every book. I'm not spoiling anything, so I'm telling you right now: read this, you won't be disappointed. :)
I loved this book. It was fun, unusual, with a good mystery to solve and interesting local SF Bay Area characters. A fast fun read.
I like a good mystery as well as the next person, but does every single facet of it have to be solved with computers? Where is the creativity here? So disappointed in this book, I want to like it but it just wasn't happening for me.
A fun, captivating read. Hard to put down. Totally enjoyable.
Book source ~ Purchased on Audible Clay Jannon is a graphic designer that gets downsized during a recession. After looking for a job in his field for quite a while, he’s desperate, so he applies at a 24-Hr bookstore that’s got a Help Wanted sign in the window. And he gets the job. But it’s one weird job and he’s determined to figure out what is going on in this strange bookstore run by old man Penumbra. Overall I enjoyed this strange tale of a 24-hr bookstore with weird clients. There’s a mystery here and Jannon finally gets curious enough to try to figure it out. That’s when things really take off, storywise. The ending, for me, is a bit of a letdown, but I have to say that it’s a great ride for most of the book. The characters are awesome, the writing is decent, and the plot is intriguing. I also really enjoyed the narration.