Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr Penumbras 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Rating: 2 Stars

Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder.

About ★★☆☆☆

Clay Jannon just lost his job as a designer for a bagel shop. Desperate for a new one, he stumbles onto Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore and gets the job as night clerk. And while he thought the concept was weird, the customers are even weirder. Coming at all hours of the night, they exchange one book full of jibberish for another.

Determined to solve the mystery of the bookstore and its owner, Jannon activates his friend: a start-up millionair, a special effects guru and a girl who works in data visualization at Google.


I love books about books but this one was… meh.

It started out pretty cool, with a mysterious bookshop, an equally mysterious owner and it includes a secret society that involves a book whose code they’re trying to crack. But overall, it just didn’t work for me.

I guess because it couldn’t really decide what it was. It would have been cool as a fantasy, but it wasn’t. And that just didn’t work for me. So we’re left with a crazy secret society and Google.

A messiah, a first disciple, and a rapture. Check, check, and double-check. Penumbra is, right now, teetering on the boundary between charmingly weird old guy and disturbingly weird old guy.

It just didn’t make sense that all these people actually believed the key to immortality was hidden in a weird-ass book. It wasn’t convincing.

Throughout the book we also got mentions of another book, a book in the book kind of thing: The Dragon-Song Chronicles. They were mentioned so often with only the most strenuous connection to the plot that I knew they would play some kind of role later.

These parts were really annoying. To be honest, these Chronicles sounded incredibly boring and like the most terribly fantasy book ever. I just wasn’t interested at all.

In The Dragon-Song Chronicles, Fernwen the scholarly dwarf convinces the crew of the Starlily to tie Captain Bloodboots to the mast after he tries to cut the singing dragon’s throat.

Also, and I hate this with a passion: everything was just too damn easy. Jannon just always happens to know the right people for the task, there’s never any struggle involved. He never had to fight for anything.

Need a book-scanning device? Well good thing Jannon happens to know the prime hacker of the bookworld who just happens to have designed a portable bookscanner out of cardboard.


A book that couldn’t really decide what it wanted to be. I was expecting way more.


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