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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

By Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2012,
    304 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2013,
    304 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Dianne, Book Shop owner (10/19/12)

Old meets New
This month I stepped away from my usual historical fiction books and read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a contemporary novel by debut author Robin Sloan. I was of course drawn in by the title. Upon finishing Mr. Penumbra's 24 - Hour Bookstore, I immediately turn to the front and started it again. I not only didn't want it to end, I wanted to relive the experience.

The book features Clay Jannon an unemployed art student/web designer and science fiction reader. Clay stumbles across a help wanted sign in the window of an out of the way San Francisco bookstore. Clay begins working the night shift, 10:00 pm to 6:00 am. The bookstore is not all that it seems, but what exactly it is, is what is to be discovered.

One thing about the store is that there are very few customers. The store has used books for sell in the front but in the back are books that Clay refers to as the Waybacklist. These books inhabit bookshelves that are over 30 feet tall and accessed by tall rolling ladders. These books are not sold, but borrowed by “members” that come in and request books at all times of the night and day. There is a logbook, which records the coming and goings of the members. The logbooks go back over 100 years.

In addition to the mysterious nearly medieval characters that are the members, there is quite a cast of characters with whom Clay lives with and interacts. Some are the best and brightest of from the techno world of Google and the Internet. Others are mysterious characters that make up the secret society of the Bound and Unbound. The locations range from Penumbra’s dusty vertical bookshelves, to a secret underground bookroom in New York City. Clay also visits an ultra dry storage facility in Nevada where forgotten museum relics are housed. The super techno campus of the Goggle headquarters in San Francisco is also visited.

This book is a great mix of shadowy old world and shiny new world, old knowledge vs. new knowledge, E readers vs. the printed word. I may read it again!
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