Robin Sloan's debut novel, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, is one of those titles I wouldn't normally have picked up. But there has been lots of buzz about this debut, so I wanted to give it a try. The publisher's blurb intrigued me...
"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."
And it was the hole-in-the-wall bookstore description that clinched the deal. I love used bookstores! There are treasures just waiting to be found on every shelf.
Clay Jannon is downsized from his web design job and in order to pay the rent, he takes a job as a night clerk at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. There aren't many customers and the ones he does serve are decidedly...different. They have an agreement to borrow books - old, obscure volumes on towering shelves accessible only by ladder. Being a curious sort (and with lots of time on his hands) Clay decides to try and figure out what these 'customers' are doing. Is the bookstore a front for something else?
I chose to listen to Sloan's book and I'm glad I did. For me, some books are just better enjoyed listening and this was one of them. The reader was Ari Fliakos. His voice was perfect for Clay - young, kinda hip and engaging. He provided different voices for all the supporting characters as well. The old and female characters were believable. Fliakos's interpretation of Sloan's prose was excellent.
Listen to an excerpt of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.
How to describe the book? It's an adult adventure story with fantasy elements I would say. There are lots of 'bookish' references that had me running to check facts online. (And funnily enough, Google does play a part in the book.) Lots of fun, quirky characters let us play out that 'what if you really discovered a secret code in a dusty, mysterious bookstore' game with Clay and his pals. An enjoyable, entertaining listen for this reader.
Read an excerpt of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.