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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Sometimes I feel more like a night watchman than a clerk."
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...
Published 22 months ago by Mary Whipple

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original
An original idea for a book, which gives you an insight into google's quest for world domination!!
Not my favourite book of the year but an interesting read all the same.
Published 7 months ago by Ruth Margaret Abell


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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Sometimes I feel more like a night watchman than a clerk.", 4 Oct 2012
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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.

With two computer geek friends, Clay sets out on a quest to learn the carefully kept secrets of the bookstore, using some of Google's cutting edge computer programs and many different kinds of computer languages. Knowledge of the past, as seen in the "Waybacklist" in Penumbra's store, in libraries, and in archives around the world may be interpreted in completely new ways, with new insights for the future, when the awe-inspiring magic of computer programming is applied to them, an interesting take on an old theme.

The mysteries of the bookstore come to life and keep on coming for the next three hundred engrossing pages, carrying the reader along for a wild ride. Do not think, however, that this is a "wizardy" kind of novel with magic and spells - unless you believe that the computer is magic - for this novel is also a kind of homage to the wonders of the computer and the new knowledge it can unlock for those who seek it. Despite all the seemingly arcane languages, computer or otherwise, however, the true emphasis of the novel is on people, and that is where the book's overwhelming charm lies. The characters are young and enthusiastic, and readers will identify with their search for knowledge and connection, even to the point at which they question the very nature of life and death. Even more importantly for readers, the author's own ability to see humor as a very real part of existence is refreshing and life-affirming. Captivating and fun to read, this novel, with all its stimulating detail and its unique twists and turns of plot, left me breathless - and smiling.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Geek quest - 4-, 23 Nov 2012
By 
Blue in Washington "Barry Ballow" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Slow starter.. and then it's a masterpiece!, 22 July 2014
By 
Miss S. Gorton "Garbo" (Berkshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This book should not have taken me as long to read as it did.

I read it mainly in little parts to begin with, and think this was because I was busy and it was a little bit of a slow starter. Once I learnt of the cult, the meaning behind the WayBackList, I was hooked, and whenever I had a moment to pick up the book I was absorbed and transported to another reality. It was fantastic. The quest in the library late at night had my heart pounding, the decoding at Google, had me intrigued, and the revelation at the end was fantastic and totally not what I was expecting. I think what was especially awesome about this story was both the talk of the cult and it's strange followers and doctrine, and the world within the books of Clark Moffat that brought the two worlds together.

This book was a fully realized world, and I truly understand the praise that this book is receiving from critics. I am usually a fan of classic literature, but this was too good to pass up the chance to read. If you have space on your bookshelf, this would be a fantastic addition.

(Oh, and I would read The Dragon Song Chronicles in a heartbeat! So.. if Mr Sloan would like to write them... ^_^)(less)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The literary love-child of "The Shadow of the Wind" and "Microserfs", 25 Mar 2014
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. Falling for her immediately, Clay explains the nature of the secret lending society, and they resolve to investigate further, using access to the limitless resources that Google can offer.

They find themselves on a quest to solve the riddle of the Fellowhood of the Unbroken Spine, a secret society of latter-day literary Templars. This may all sound rather whimsical but the blending of hi-tech and bibliophilia is totally enchanting, and very amusing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the kind of book that makes you act completely irrationally if you ever meet the author, 14 Mar 2014
This review is from: Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore (Paperback)
Within the first few pages I knew that this book was going to be wedged firmly on my list of favourite books ever. This is the kind of book that makes you act completely irrationally if you ever meet the author. Rest assured I will become a bumbling idiot if Robin Sloan ever crosses my path!

Sloan clearly knows exactly how to entice and entrap his readers. Whether you are an established bibliophile, a tech-savvie genius or simply a struggling soul lost in the job market, this book will enchant you. Sloan strikes a perfect balance between teaching you all about the history of books and publishing, Google, the future of technology and those life lessons we always crave from a good book, and creating a down-to-earth and relatable narrator. Similarly, he creates a balance between beautifully sculpted sentences and funny chat. On the one hand it is easy to read and on the other hand, you want to slowly absorb every word and sentence.

This is the story of Old Knowledge and new possibilities and teaches us that while today’s job market is vastly different from traditional job paths and the road to success is rarely easy, the modern career path leads to dreams in a way that they rarely did before. Buy it, Read it, Love it!

Reviewed by Elizabeth Wright on behalf of BestChapLit.com
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-paced, fun book, 11 Mar 2014
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I read this in less than a day - it's not a 'heavy' read overall, but not a comedy (despite the funny parts).
If you liked this, he has some shorter stories up on his website - I'd specially recommend Annabelle Scheme, also available as a kindle ebook.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original, 15 Dec 2013
By 
Ruth Margaret Abell (Spain) - See all my reviews
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An original idea for a book, which gives you an insight into google's quest for world domination!!
Not my favourite book of the year but an interesting read all the same.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 5 Sep 2013
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Is started well and looked as if it was going to keep me gripped, but it lost its way for me about halfway through. The plot was interesting but it just never delivered what it seemed to promise at the start.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me!, 15 Jan 2013
By 
HM Patterson (Chippenham Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
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This is a very well written book but really not for me! It is just a matter of personal choice. I think it will appeal to a younger reader probably under the age of 40 and someone who is very interested in computers and maybe a little geeky! I got just over half way through then gave up I was bored stiff by the plot.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Douglas Coupland lite, 15 July 2013
By 
Rolo "rolo211" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Clay Jannon quits his job as a web designer for a bagel shop and takes a job in Mr.Penumbra's mysterious 24-hour bookstore, notable not only for its vast collection of unknown and unreadable books but by the paucity and weirdness of its customers. Clay soon finds the shop is a front for some sort of book-based cult and procedes to crack its code.

Set in contemporary San Francisco, a world where characters talk seriously about The Singularity (the emergence of superintelligence through technology) and are nostalgic for the early models of Kindle, this is the sort of territory that Douglas Coupland has satirised so effectively in books like Microserfs and JPod. Unfortunately, Sloan lacks Coupland's wit and intelligence; what we get is a very lightweight but pleasantly engaging adventure tale. Characters are super-thin and a breathless chirpyness, where nothing really bad happens and everyone seems uncritically in awe of the power of Google, permeates the book. The conclusion not so much disappoints as underlines the banality of the whole venture.

Jannon is an economical writer who is reasonably good at getting the reader to turn the page, but for a story that revolves around the appeal and magic of books, this is a surprisingly insubstantial example.
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Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore
Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (Paperback - 1 Aug 2013)
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