Book Review: Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan (4/5)

16 Jul

This is really more of a short story, but it deserves a review. My husband and I loved Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and when I found out there was a prequel, no matter how short, I wanted to read it. I found an audio edition and on a day with a run and indoor bike, I finished the whole thing.

Cover image via Goodreads

Ajax Penumbra 1969

Other books by Sloan reviewed on this blog:

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

Summary from Goodreads:

August 1969 San Francisco. Ajax Penumbra seeks a book–the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. Late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles across a 24-hour bookstore, and the possibilities before him expand exponentially.

Maybe my memories of Ajax Penumbra from the full novel are a bit off because this character seemed a little stiff. But my memory of the 24-hour bookstore and the magic that it held were spot on. I loved coming back to the store and the mysteries within it. Mo was great and the friendships with Corvina and Claude were so fun to see develop.

The characters in this one weren’t really credible, but I wasn’t expecting them to be. Penumbra was a very eccentric character in the original novel, so I expected his origins to be equally eccentric and fun and I wasn’t disappointed. They were what I expected them to be.

Mo was my favorite character. It’s as if owning the bookstore makes you into an energetic and haphazard person and I loved that in Mo. He was very passionate about the store and what was inside it and his customers and I found that very endearing. He was also very smart. In many ways, he’s like the Mr. Penumbra we come to love but he’s very unique at the same time and I liked how Sloan built his character.

I thought Ajax going to Claude when he had a problem was a very realistic solution. There are a lot of times that someone very far from a topic or problem can provide a solution that helps more than the experts or team working on it can. Claude had a local’s perspective and I liked how he was able to help.

Robin Sloan
Image via BookRiot

I loved the story of the William Gray. I hope that’s true and that the city is really built on scuttled ships. Even if it’s not true, I still liked the story and I wish it were true because now I’m thinking about all the treasure that could be buried underground.

The actual discovery of the Techne Tycheon was my least favorite part. I liked the puzzle and the research so doing the physical work to find the book ended up being a bit of a disappointment to me. Maybe a puzzle on the lock would have been better. But now I’m stretching.

Ari Fliakos narrated the audiobook, the same man who did Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I’m glad Ari came back for this short story. He already had a flair for Penumbra and the fun cast of characters that surrounded him and was able to bring that back.

Penumbra is determined to solve the mystery, much like Clay was in the full novel. I liked seeing the dedication to books that Penumbra and his coworkers at Galvanic had. It was really encouraging to see how books had come to influence life and how much people cared for them. It was very similar to the love of books that was expressed in the full novel.

Writer’s Takeaway: I feel writers are often asked to continue with characters in the form of a sequel or companion novel because publishers know it will sell. I think this is one of those instances but I think Sloan handled it well and in a different way from what was expected. He gave his readers a short insight into Ajax Penumbra without muddling the main novel’s plotline and by giving us just a taste of the mysterious character we’d grown to love in the novel.

A really enjoyable short jaunt down memory lane. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan | One Book Two
Ajax Penumbra 1969 | Raging Bibliohlism
Ajax Penumbra, 1969- Robin Sloan | Track of Words


5 Responses to “Book Review: Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan (4/5)”

  1. Becky Ross Michael July 16, 2019 at 10:58 AM #

    I love Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore and will certainly look for this prequel!



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