Review | Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan

20733840

Paperback (Atlantic Books, 304 pages)

First published 2012; this edition published 2014

Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars

Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a Web-design drone and serendipity coupled with sheer curiosity has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. And it doesn’t take long for Clay to realize that the quiet, dusty book emporium is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few fanatically committed customers, but they never seem to actually buy anything, instead they simply borrow impossibly obscure volumes perched on dangerously high shelves, all according to some elaborate arrangement with the eccentric proprietor. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he has plugged in his laptop, roped in his friends (and a cute girl who works for Google) and embarked on a high-tech analysis of the customers’ behaviour. What they discover is an ancient secret that can only be solved by modern means, and a global-conspiracy guarded by Mr. Penumbra himself… who has mysteriously disappeared.”


What a confusing book.

I started off really enjoying it, but it became so convoluted so quickly that I lost interest. The whole plot was so confusing and so hard to believe that I couldn’t really get any enjoyment out of it. The characters were interesting – Clay particularly – but a lot of the details of the book were too technical for me to fully understand, which took a lot of joy out of the book.

It seemed a lot like Google product placement a lot of the time – and why would I want a book about that? There was too much Google and not enough book. It felt at times as though the author couldn’t decide whether he wanted a more contemporary novel or a novel with a historical edge – and the way it was fit together didn’t mesh well at all.

Nice idea, bad execution. Don’t really recommend.

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