Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

The tl;dr version of this review is that this is one HUGE advertisement for Google. That’s all it is. It started off with so much potential. But after all the Google hype and navigating through all the technology, I’m not entirely sure if I got the point. If it even has a point.

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 bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

I’ve always wanted to work at a bookstore. I actually looked into it in the past. For a book lover, it seems like a place where I can enjoy working… and bust my paycheck as soon as getting it in my hand. In my head, I had that image of it being a magical place where I can get lost in all the wonderful books in my disposal. (Then I realized, a library fits that bill more than a bookstore.)

Clay Jannon took the bookstore job out of necessity. He was out of a job and needed one. After a few days of working at this strange bookstore operated by Mr. Penumbra, he begins to see weird stuff happening, meets strange customers. Clay is young and curious so he did some digging and accidentally cracked the mystery wide open. For years, several men and women have tried to solve it, old-school style. Clay did in in no time with the use of… yes, the Internet.

There exists a whole organization whose sole purpose is to find a secret message hidden in a certain series of books. To find a certain person, I believe. When Clay and his group of silicon valley friends start to find clues and solve them, the old people start to take notice. Sort of like, “Wow~ what is this sorcery?” kind of situation. There was a part where Mr. Penumbra himself says that technology is the way to go if they want to solve the mystery before they died. But the thing is, it’s taboo for them to use technology. Or… they just didn’t know how. Eh.

It was tough for me to get through. This book definitely was creative and imaginative. But it didn’t really go anywhere. I keep waiting for something to happen but I got to the end and… nothing. What did the author want to happen? What’s the point?

However, I did love following their mystery-solving adventures. I thought that was great and it would translate well on screen if ever they want to do that. The characters feel relatable and you can easily see them walking down the street towards you. The older people are fascinating characters; some of them remind me of Hogwarts professors.

My biggest takeaway from it is the supposed inner workings of the Google Company. From the various articles that I’ve read, Google seems like a pretty cool company to work for. Not just for the necessary benefits but also for all the perks that come with the office. I’m not sure how accurate the portrayal is in this book but it’s pretty fascinating. It is so far away from your boring 9 to 5 at your bare cubicle. Here, they even sneak into Google and what do you know, they don’t get caught. For a place written up to be state-of-the-art, they have to up their security.

Overall, this book gets points for being creative and unique. It had promise. But I’m docking points because it was all for nothing. When you finish a book, whether it be good or bad, you tend to remember stuff. Remember why it was good or why it was bad. For this one, all I could remember was just one word: Google.

Rating: 3/5. I’m glad I read it and I do recommend it. But I may need to read it again if I truly want to get the point.


5 thoughts on “Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

  1. Ugh, I understand you. I couldn’t finish this book. I DNF ed it. There’s way too many Google stuff, the blend between modern and traditional was not well done and the immortality thing pissed me off 😦

    I love your blog! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: MUSING MONDAYS | Peculiar. | Shelf Pickings


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