Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

Book - 2012
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The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of the life as a San Francisco web-design drone and landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. 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. Clay soon embarks on a complex analysis of the customers' behaviour and ropes his friends into helping him figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the secrets extend far beyond the walls of the bookstore.
Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins, c2012.
Edition: First Canadian edition
ISBN: 9781443415781
Characteristics: 288 pages ;,23 cm.


From the critics

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Nov 05, 2018

I really loved this book. Made me laugh, loved the different characters, the mysteriousness, the secret society featured and was entertaining to the end. Loved the way the main character, Clay used audiobooks! that's the way I "read" my books, love to be told a story and the narrator did a stupendous job telling the story, really sounded like the real Clay was reading the story.

Nov 04, 2018

Very interesting premise

Clay loses his tech job, and finds another job as night clerk in Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Both the bookstore and most of the patrons are odd. Very odd – and so are a lot of the books. A not-so-odd customer comes into the store late one night, as a result of a GPS-activated coupon on her smart phone, which Clay devised. Turns out she works for Google. Clay’s roommate builds “models” of locales for special effects in the movies. They both become involved when Clay decides to find out what is really going on in the bookstore. It’s well-worth reading on a lot of levels – well-written with elements of fantasy, mystery, technology, and colourful characters – you certainly don’t mix any of them up, along with a fun ending. (submitted by ZZ)

Aug 15, 2018

I felt as though I was sitting in a room full of wonderful eccentric friends. The warmth and kindness of the author shines through the entire book dialog. I agree with several other comments that the ending was a bit of a disappointment, but it didn't lessen the fun of reading the book. It's got a little bit of new tech stuff, a bit of romance (a bit), a bit of mystery, a bit of fantasy, a bit of bookishness, a subtle humor, and entirely believable dialog. I totally enjoyed it. Thank you, Robin Sloan, for an enjoyable night of reading.

May 28, 2018

I found this novel in some suggestions for books about libraries, and it came with excellent reviews. Well, overall I liked it, but once again the reviews are a bit misleading. I rated the story "above average" because it is certainly very original, but in the end I didn't feel I had learned anything from it. Without spoiling the story, I can say that the book is about a young clerk in a somewhat unusual bookstore, where people don't generally buy books but rather swap them and have to belong to a sort of society to get a membership card. With the help of some friends, the clerk realizes that there is something mysterious about the books and the bookstore, as well as about the owner, Mr. Penumbra, and decides to find out more. The end seems to be rather anti-climax and a reflection of the several ways in which humans sometimes waste their time. I think the book intends to encourage people to read more books, because they can reveal treasures, and that is fantastic, but all the use of elaborate technology in the novel somehow seems to make things just too easy and take the pleasure out of the act of reading. The end seems to be a traditional happy ending, rather predictable, in my opinion. However, the author was original and overall the book was a fun read.

Feb 10, 2018

Checked this out once but couldn't get into it so returned it. At least a year later I checked it out again and managed to keep reading until I got intrigued. About half way through I became eager to find out what happens next. Overall, a fascinating read, especially if you like exploring books combined with quests and character development.

Oct 03, 2017

I found the beginning very promising but lost interest when they entered the secret part of the book store. I wasn't expecting a fantasy book. Oh well...

Oct 02, 2017

I was going to write a review, but I agree with Issachar 100%. Ending was a bit ...ATALHEA (and they all lived happily etc) but came away from it with a genuinely good feeling. I enjoyed the characters and the premise and I look forward to reading more from this authour.

Sep 11, 2017

Mr. Penumbra's 24 hour book store was a fun little story about a guy named Jannon. He's an out of work techie who gets a graveyard shift job in a mysterious San Francisco book store during the onset of the great recession. A strange place with hardly any new books for sale but with group of patrons who borrow older books kept in the 'wayback' area. With help from his more successful techie and artist friends, Jannon slowly realizes he has fallen in with a book cult. Not the 'creepy sacrificial' -type, but more of an 'eccentric and introverted' kind of cult. Even stranger, they're trying to solve a centuries old mystery which his modern eyes may be able to piece together. This is probably the most 'fun' book I've recently read that didn't have any sort of serious drama or violence or impending doom. The big reveal at the end was a bit disappointing, but the overall ending was really enjoyable. I could easily see this getting made into a family-friendly PG movie.

Sep 06, 2017

I wanted to like this book and did at first. It's clever and a little flashy and original. The main drawback for me, however, was that I never came to care about any of the characters. They marched capably through the plot's ins and outs as undeveloped beings which, after 130 pages or so, no longer interested me. Interesting to see the other very positive reviews.

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Aug 25, 2017

" Let me give you some friendly advice: make friends with a millionaire when he's a friendless sixth-grader."
pg. 115

Aug 25, 2017

“So I guess you could say Neel owes me a few favors, except that so many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty. Our friendship is a nebula."
pg. 34

Aug 25, 2017

"I intend to carry out a clandestine scan ASAP, and the target is one of the most important books in the history of printing, In other words: this might by bigger than Potter."
pg. 162

Mar 16, 2015

But hey, nothing lasts long. We all come to life and gather allies and build empires and die, all in a single moment—maybe a single pulse.

JCLChrisK Aug 01, 2014

You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.

JCLChrisK Aug 01, 2014

Maybe his big build isn't a linebacker's after all; maybe it's a librarian's.

Jun 30, 2014

Neel takes a sharp breath and I know exactly what it means. It means: I have waited my whole life to walk through a secret passage built into a bookshelf.

Jun 30, 2014

Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines -- it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.

Mar 01, 2014

" many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty. Our friendship is a nebula."

sammier Jan 23, 2014

Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.

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Age Suitability

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Aug 25, 2017

Sierrachick07 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

lbi316 Apr 26, 2013

lbi316 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Apr 19, 2013

BlueBee8279 thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over


Add a Summary

May 01, 2013

The protagonist, Clay Jannon, is hired by San Francisco independent bookstore owner -- Mr Penumbra -- to retrieve books from 10 pm to 6 am, at the request of long time bookstore customers holding an unusual interest in highly obscure volumes. Clay has never heard of any of these book titles, which are never purchased, only loaned.

When Clay examines one of these books, he sees page after page of unreadable encrypted characters, no spaces, no punctuation. Yet the customers return night after night, returning one book, and taking another.

The question is: Why?

DanniOcean Dec 13, 2012

Clay Jannon is a graphic and web designer who finds himself unemployed in the new economy. While wandering the streets of San Francisco he accidentally finds Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, and after a very brief interview based on his favourite book, finds himself the store’s new night 10pm-to-6am clerk. There are three rules to working there – he must be on time and cannot leave early, he may not look inside any of the ancient-looking books that are reserved for members, and third, he must keep precise notes about all transactions (including how they smell, what they wear, what they say and how they appear mentally). Mr. Penumbra’s unique approach to store-keeping is matched by his odd clientele who appear in the oddest hours of the night, but they are few and far between so to occupy his time Clay starts developing a web-presence for the store. He creates a 3-D map of the transactions and… a face appears in the results. What follows is a literary adventure of the highest order – a cult of readers bent on discovering but keeping secret the immortality locked in ancient texts of an early typographer, versus Clay and his band of quest seekers, albeit their modern-day equivalents of rogue, wizard and hero. And although the modern-day wizard uses all the power of Google to help them, the printed texts do not give up their secrets easily. It is not until Clay uses all the tools in his magic bag – from the ultimate hacker site to his ultimate favourite novel to the ancient texts themselves - that the code is broken, and the answers are not at all what everyone involved thought they would be. Digital vs. print, Google vs. books, technology vs. old knowledge, piracy vs. privacy, these are the battles of our times and all themes in the book, but the overall story is an adventure, a quest simply reimagined in the techno-age. Given that the author was once an employee at Twitter and has released the book in both print and e-formats, Sloan may be hedging his bets - but his first novel has all the feel of a love-letter to books.


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