Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (5/5)

14 Jul

I’m always hesitant of books about books. Among the uber-bibliophiles, these seem to be popular and I think we’re being duped into liking them. But when I heard Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a mystery, I was interested. It would be the perfect book for my husband and I to listen to while we drove to Southern Indiana for a wedding. He agrees, great choice.

Cover image via

Cover image via

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Summary from Goodreads:

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.

Wow. Wowwowwowwow. I don’t give out 5 stars very often. The last time I did was for J.K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives and before that, Louise Erdrich’s The Round House. I’m proud to list this book among their ranks. With the bookstore title, I thought this book would be a bit old-timey. And while Mr. Penumbra was, Clay and Kat were not. The merge of modern and antiquated was really great and helped move the plot along really well. I cannot recommend this one enough. I even recommended it to someone three disks in.

Clay was a bit flat, but I thought the other characters were very realistic. Kat reminded me of a lot of techie friends I have (and a bit of the guys from The Big Bang Theory) and I loved how much she knew about computer resources. I’ve known people who undertake big projects like Matt and I loved how detailed his project was. Neil was every dream’s nerd of their future and I thought he was very well-developed. The cast of characters was awesome.

Kat was easily my favorite. Though I didn’t appreciate her little tantrum after the Google effort. Anyway. I liked that she was a strong and smart woman and that she wasn’t embarrassed by that.  She’s very independent. I see myself in a similar way and she reminded me of what I would want to be like if I were a computer engineer.

Besides the fact we’ve both worked in bookstores, I didn’t find myself relating to Clay very much. He was on a quest and I’ve never been lucky enough to be a part of one. I’m not in contact with my childhood friends any more and I’ve never flow across the country to learn about a secret cult. I wish my life could be more like Clay’s, but I’ll keep it for now.

Robin Sloan Image via BookRiot

Robin Sloan
Image via BookRiot

The scenes at Google were my favorite. The setting was very well described and I could visualize it really well. I liked all the little things that were different from an office I’ve worked in and how passionate people, especially Kat, were about their jobs there. Google has created really new ideas of an office with their headquarters and I’m interested to see what catches on for non-tech companies.

There wasn’t a part of the book I particularly disliked, but I’ll say that I thought the relationship between Matt and Ashley wasn’t relevant to the plot. Actually, I think Ashley could have been taken out completely because Matt was the important person in the plot. That kind of bothered me.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Ari Fliakos. He did a good job with it and brought Clay’s sarcasm to light well. His voices for the other characters were distinct enough for me to keep them apart and he did a good job with Kat’s voice. It always seems hard for male narrators to do a woman’s voice, but he was fine. I really liked that Sloan narrated the audiobook-withing-the-audiobook portion. That was really cool.

The broken spine was persistent. Clay had to be persistent to figure out the code. Kat gave up. The characters taught me a lot about persistence in this book and the benefits of hard work. Clay kept at computers and programming even while working at a book store. The broken spine believed for hundreds of years that a book could crack a secret to immortality. Matt got the cute, hyper-organized girl to like him despite being a bit of a pack-rat. The characters who kept trying got what they were after.

Writer’s Takeaway: The point of view and tense of this book were unusual. The majority of adult fiction is written in third person, though there are many exceptions. Though, most of those exceptions are written in past tense. Not this book! First person present is more often found in young adult, middle grade, and children’s fiction. It stuck out to me from the beginning, but not in a bad way. I really enjoyed the refreshing point of view. What was more interesting about it was that the epilogue was written in future tense. I really loved that. Sloan did something unusual with this book and I think it paid off well.

I want to add an extra love for Sloan that he grew up in Troy, Michigan which is my husband’s hometown and right next to my own. He also went to Michigan State, which is my husband’s alma mater. Go Green!

Really great read. I can’t recommend this one enough. Five out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan | prettybooks
Book Review: MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOK STORE by Robin Sloan | Educating a Teacher and Coach


6 Responses to “Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (5/5)”

  1. Ellie Pelto July 14, 2015 at 1:58 PM #

    I just listened to this one a few weeks ago and I loved it too! It was just so intriguing!


    • Sam July 14, 2015 at 1:59 PM #

      Glad you agree! And glad you found me here!!


  2. bbooksmartblog July 20, 2015 at 8:55 PM #

    I definitely need to check this out! I love books about books! Haha. Great review:)


    • Sam July 20, 2015 at 8:56 PM #

      Thanks! It’s a great book and I hope you enjoy it.



  1. Book Review: Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan (4/5) | Taking on a World of Words - July 16, 2019

    […] Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (5/5) […]


  2. WWW Wednesday, 17-July-2019 | Taking on a World of Words - July 17, 2019

    […] story than a book, but I listened to Ajax Penumbra, 1969 by Robin Sloan. This is a short prequel to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and it was really fun to revisit the world Sloan created for that one. The review for this one […]


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