Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Robin Sloan |  Fiction


I was charmed by this book.  Yes, as some reviewers point out, it is a techie's dream book, at the intersection of books, extreme technology, and knowledge.  And more  than that, it is simply a delightful story.

Clay Jannon takes a job working graveyard shift at Mr.Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, where only a few books are ever sold.  What really happens occurs in the tall vertical stacks in the back, where assorted characters drop off obscure books and pick up others, that Clay wraps in brown paper.  These books are not sold; they are simply exchanged.  For a while, Clay obeys the rules and never looks inside these books.   Clay’s job, besides climbing the ladder to find the requested book, is to record in the log who took the book, what they were wearing that night, their emotional state, how they smelled, and their words.

Of course, one day Clay looks inside and discovers symbols ... not text at all.  And with the help of a Googler, Kat, and various designers, techies, and artists, he begins to discover and unravel the secrets of the Unbroken Spine, a centuries old movement(?), sect (?), cult(?).

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is a fable and a fantasy, imbued with amazing real technology, a delightful read, and just plain fun.  

9 responses on “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

  1. Mary C Crawford

    I listened to the book a year or so ago and enjoyed it. Usually not a fantasy reader. The audio version has an excellent narrator, Ari Fliakos. His reading made the difference for me – if I was reading it, I may have put it aside. So if you think you might not enjoy this book because it is fantasy or very techie, maybe try the audio version.

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      I didn’t find this book very fantasy-ish or very technologically deep. I thought it was just a modern story.

      I continue to be fascinated by comments on my blog from people who compare the audio versions of books to written versions. I would love to hear more from those of you who often listen to audiobooks. I rarely do, and so don’t have much understanding of why/how the ratings and experiences might differ ….

  2. Daniel Murphy

    Great review in a nutshell, Andrea. I, too, was totally charmed by this book. But then, any time there is science, good people striving for a common goal, and interesting romance thrown together, you can count on me to be charmed! Dan

  3. Donna Billings

    I LOVED this story and recommended it to everyone I talked to. The creativesness of the author with his characters fascinated me. You are right, Andrea, it was a fun read

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      Hmm, it might have been you who recommended this book to me, Donna!

  4. Mary C Crawford

    I listen to audio books during long car rides and in the winter while walking on the treadmill. They help the miles pass quicker. Definitely prefer reading the print version but audio books really help fill the time. One drawback is that it is hard to ‘flip back’ when I want to check on a character or earlier event in the story. That is a big advantage of print and most e-book versions. Some books work well as audio books; some don’t. A lot depend on the narrator. For me, fiction works better than non-fiction with the exception of memoirs and biographies which I enjoy as audio books. During car rides, need to find books all in the car enjoy which is sometimes a challenge. I download audio books from the library – free!

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      Yes, card rides are the exception .. audio books prevail!
      And, here is my stumbling block. Sometimes i fall asleep reading. With a book, I can find my place .. the page that was last turned! How do you recover with an audio book????

  5. Mary C Crawford

    I don’t usually fall asleep while driving or on the treadmill! So I can’t answer that question. I do sometimes doze off while Ned is driving and he fills me in what I missed.