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Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore Paperback – 27 Feb 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (27 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782391215
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782391210
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 1.6 x 13.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"* 'A rollicking neo-Borgesian tale... an ode to the beauty of dead-tree books' - New York Times * 'Delightful... The protagonist is a tech nerd, but he's also a book nerd, so both those who crave shiny new technologies and those who relish the scent of paper will find room in these pages... Smart, hip and witty' - Washington Post * 'Irresistible' - Newsweek * 'The pages swell with Mr Sloan's nerdy affection and youthful enthusiasm for both tangible books and new media... [but] the ties that bind the story are friendship and vitality for life. This is a clever and whimsical tale with a big heart' - --The Economist

About the Author

Robin Sloan grew up near Detroit and has worked at Poynter, Current TV and Twitter in jobs that have generally had 'something to do with figuring out the future of media'. He has previously published short fiction in Kindle-only editions (Mr Penumbra started out as a 6000-word ebook). He lives in San Francisco. www.robinsloan.com / @robinsloan

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover
From the first pages to the last, this refreshing, original, imaginative, thoughtful - and often humorous - debut novel kept me glued to the chair, completely charmed by the novel's style, an unusual mix of ephemera and cutting edge computer science. I was totally captivated - not just for the excitement of the story itself, but for the ideas it presents and the hints it gives of the future of writing itself. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore may be every serious reader's fantasy, a novel in which an innocent and unsuspecting person takes a night job at a bookstore where he inhabits the world of ancient manuscripts and ancient typefaces.

When Clay Jannon gets hired to work nights in a tiny, but very tall bookstore, he discovers that it is packed with what he calls "the Waybacklist" of ancient, esoteric books, most of them hand-made. He quickly learns that his few customers always arrive carrying one old book which they want to exchange for a different book from the Waybacklist. When they make the exchange, Clay must record each transaction into an old ledger, including the time, the customer's appearance, his state of mind, how he asks for the book, how he receives it, and whether he is injured. On slow nights, Clay amuses himself by creating a computerized model of the bookstore in 3D, using a program of "data visualization." Identifying each of his customers by a different color in this 3D model, he creates a line for each, and when he begins to see a pattern of overlapping colors, he is stunned, convinced that the customers and Penumbra himself are members of a secret cult.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 500 REVIEWERTOP 1000 REVIEWER on 23 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover
I'm going out on a small limb here and guessing that reviews for "Mr. Penumbra's..." might divide along generational lines. I'm an AARP type and got some enjoyment out of the technical procedural that is central to the book's theme, but the very emphasis on the great god Google and lesser IT instruments that are the secondary characters here was lost on me. When the story veered occasionally back toward a traditional mystery, my attention span snapped back into place; when it lurched back in the other direction, I was skipping paragraphs.

"Mr. Penumbra's..." does manage to convince the reader that there is another world out there that is populated by a different kind of mind and person and probably several years ahead of the general population in perspective and imagination. This is probably not a news flash for those readers who locked into the storyline and gave the book high marks.

In any event, it was an interesting experience for me and author Robin Sloan certainly earned my respect for articulating an original plot with credible characters.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James Brydon on 25 Mar. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but it proved to be a very serendipitous discovery. Finding myself in Waterstone's at Trafalgar Square with an unexpected book token burning a hole in my pocket (another serendipitous acquisition) I found myself being talked into buying this novel by Rachel, my favourite book barista par excellence.

She clearly knows her stuff, or at least knows her customers, as I found this book utterly engaging. Think of a melding of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's "The Shadow of the Wind" and Douglas Coupland's "Microserfs" with a hint of the more tolerable end of Dan Brown and a soupcon of "Bored of the Rings" thrown in.

Clay Jannon, occasional website designer, finds himself out of work and desperate to find a job, any job, that will enable him to carry on living in San Francisco. He finds himself working the night shift in Mr Penumbra's small, 24 hour bookstore situated next to a dubious strip joint. Despite being open twenty-four hours each day, the bookstore seems to sell very few books, though Clay becomes aware of a parallel service with strange customers coming in peruse a room at the back of the store. It transpires that these customers are borrowing from a mysterious set of books, which Mr Penumbra warns Clay not to read. Predictably enough, he does soon sneak a look at one of these books but finds himself none the wiser - they appear to have been written in a strange code. Meanwhile Clay has been trying to drum up more trade for the store by niche advertising through Google. This turns up trumps when Kat, an aspiring programmer and data visualiser who happens to work for Google is passing by the store and receives a coupon on her phone.
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By Merlin's Owl on 30 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback
The young techno-inspired inhabitants of California are about as distant from me as some lost tribe. They have different ways of seeing the world and reach for the internet as a solution to life's every problem. The internet has everything at your fingrtips but technology has a way of bleaching out life's more immediate experiences, making it flatter. So, brilliantly we can sit at home and travel the world and learn about history, science, other cultures or wars in distant lands. But, I have a feeling that most westerners are interested in celebrity weddings. The vacuous and empty. Or porn.
One interesting concept that this book brought to me is the Singularity. This, I gather, is when artificial intelligence becomes greater than ours. The problem is that we can't imagine what that will be like because our intelligence is limited. It's like trying to imagine what life will be like in the year 3000. After you go through flying cars, the elimination of cancer and spaceships it's really hard to imagine the future beyond things that we aleady know.
Mr Penumbra started out as a 6000 word e-book and has been reworked into a papery book things. This is relevant to the story because it seems to be about the interface between old-world technology and new. A criticism levelled at the book is that it is aimed at young adults but I have read the Hunger Games and don't have a problem with books appealling to a wider audience. It is just sooo sunny, Californian, rock-climbing, low-carb, computer savvy, bright young things - it makes me feel a bit sick. But, I am an aging dinosaur heading for extinction....
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