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Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

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How great a title is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore? It’s honestly the main reason I picked this book out when I saw it on a newsletter.


When the recession leaves Clay Jannon without a design job, he finds himself taking over the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay comes to realize that Mr. Penumbra’s isn’t your ordinary bookstore. There aren’t many customers and most of the shelves are filled with obscure volumes of what seems like gibberish.

Using technology, Clay analyzes the customer’s behaviour and figure out what’s really going on at the store. Little does he know, the mystery extends far beyond the shop. With the help of his friends, Clay sets out to find the truth.

Let’s get into it…

It is rare that I come across a book that’s so unabashedly positive. The characters all have and follow passions – even Clay, the protagonist, who is at first aimless and uncertain, doesn’t fall into mopiness and angst. Instead, he’s open to getting wrapped up in a mystery. Robin Sloan does a good job of making the solving of the mystery seem like it will have consequences while not making it nefarious.

When I started reading the novel, I thought that it was going to be either anti-technology or anti-traditional books. But as I continued, I realized that it’s neither. In fact, the plot really proves that tradition and technology can co-exist. In fact, the book is really a love letter to nerdery in its many forms.

This was an excellent holiday read. It moved along fairly quickly and had quirky fun characters. If I was being critical, I would say that the most prominent female character, Kat, is a bit of a manic pixie dream girl, but her passions clearly give her her own life outside of her relationship with Clay.  So, I was still glad to have her included.

There’s clearly a lot of attention to detail put into the descriptions of the various settings. They’re interesting and unique – clearly imagined and serving the purpose of the items they hold. I certainly wish a 24-hour bookstore existed near me.

Final thoughts: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore is a fun nerdy read perfect for those looking for a quick, light read.

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