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In The Media

California Report (KQED) October 19, 2012
   
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan

Overview -

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life--mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone--and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr.  Read more...


 
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More About Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
 
 
 
Overview

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life--mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone--and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead "checking out" impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.
With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that's rare to the world of literary fiction. "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780374214913
  • ISBN-10: 0374214913
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • Publish Date: October 2012
  • Page Count: 288


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > Thrillers - Technological
Books > Fiction > Action & Adventure

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-08-06
  • Reviewer: Staff

For those who fear that the Internet/e-readers/whatever-form-of-technological-upheaval-is-coming has killed or will kill paper and ink, Sloan’s debut novel will come as good news. A denizen of the tech world and self-described “media inventor” (formerly he was part of the media partnerships team at Twitter), Sloan envisions a San Francisco where piracy and paper are equally useful, and massive data-visualization–processing abilities coexist with so-called “old knowledge.” Really old: as in one of the first typefaces, as in alchemy and the search for immortality. Google has replaced the Medici family as the major patron of art and knowledge, and Clay Jannon, downsized graphic designer and once-and-future nerd now working the night shift for bookstore owner Mr. Penumbra, finds that mysteries and codes are everywhere, not just in the fantasy books and games he loved as a kid. With help from his friends, Clay learns the bookstore’s idiosyncrasies, earns his employer’s trust, and uses media new, old, and old-old to crack a variety of codes. Like all questing heroes, Clay takes on more than he bargained for and learns more than he expected, not least about himself. His story is an old-fashioned tale likably reconceived for the digital age, with the happy message that ingenuity and friendship translate across centuries and data platforms. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company. (Oct.)

 
BookPage Reviews

A 21st-century tale of wonders

Robin Sloan’s funny debut novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, is both a celebration and a send-up of the clashing worlds of technology and those who cling to dead-tree books. After losing a job at the corporate headquarters of NewBagel, where “ex-Googlers” developed software to create the perfect bagel, Clay Jannon gets hired at an unconventional bookstore in San Francisco. Unconventional because it’s open 24 hours, has very few customers, is vertical—there are three stories worth of books you have to climb a ladder to retrieve—and the books are written in secret code. What at first seems to be a front for an illegal operation turns out to be connected with a cult, and Clay goes on a mission to solve the mystery that has been plaguing its members for centuries, enlisting the help of a quirky team, like the Google acolyte he’s dating, the friend who got rich by developing “boob-simulation software” and Mr. Penumbra himself, the hopeful store proprietor.

Though there’s a code to be cracked in these pages, the real treat of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is Sloan’s energetic storytelling—and the many, many lines that you will surely want to share on Facebook and tweet to the masses. (“He has the strangest expression on his face—the emotive equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.” Or: “If fidgets were Wikipedia edits, I would have completely revamped the entry on guilt by now, and translated it into five new languages.”) Readers who don’t know a hashtag from a wiki will still appreciate the book’s ultimate message about friendship, and the conclusion that nothing—not even a world full of programmers and hackers—can substitute for a cunning mind.

 
BAM Customer Reviews

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