Book Review: Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Book number 24 of my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 5 of the summer holiday) was Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

‘Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone – and serendipity, coupled with sheer curiosity, has landed him a new job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days, 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 they simply borrow 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’ behaviour 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…’ (Thanks Amazon)

As previously mentioned, I am a fan of books about books, so Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore was an obvious choice.  If you have read and enjoyed Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library series, then this is a book to read.  It contains an intriguing bookstore full of mysterious books, and a secret organisation who are seeking the answer to a centuries old question – how to achieve immortality.  Amidst all of this, modern technology is introduced to ancient traditions by Clay Jannon and his friends as they search to unlock the secrets of The Unbroken Spine, the ancient society that the bookstore owner Mr Penumbra belongs to.

This book is mysterious with a plot that twists and turns.  I enjoyed the mix of the old with the new, although I felt that the journey to the answer by The Unbroken Spine was, perhaps, more important than the answer itself.  The clashing of modern technologies with ancient traditions was touched on but could maybe have been explored a little more, highlighting the impact such technology can have, not just on processes but also on people.

I do recommend this book, particularly to those of you who love books about books like I do.  There is also now a prequel to this book – Ajax Penumbra 1969.  I will be adding that to my To Be Read list.

Rating: 3 and a half out of 5 stars

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