Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

 cr: Lauren Clewes

cr: Lauren Clewes

Are you tired of trying to decode academic papers? Do midterms increase your blood pressure? Is an escape into a bookworm’s paradise what you need? Well, look no further than the wonderful novel that is Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan!

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name for its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything – instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.

My Review:
Why is this not a real thing?! Why aren’t all book stores open 24-hours?! Yes, I know that it would be a terrible thing for a bookworm’s bank account, and social life, and vitamin D needs, but details, details!

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is pretty much everything you could possibly need in a quick novel – mysterious setting, a quintessentially bookish shopkeeper, a lost protagonist who finds comfort around books, quirky and endearing characters, with secrets and adventure around every corner. I really liked the mix of old and new. The main character and his friends are most definitely millennials (web-designers, GOOGLE employees, just general tech-savvy humans). However, the bookstore, its proprietor and regular customers have the eccentricity and essence of a period of time that belongs more to the last century, which makes it charming. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it; most books are either all 21st century, technology based or set in the last century or even older. This juxtaposition is coupled with mysteriously missing people, secret societies, and ancient quests that don’t really seem all that out of place in a 24-hour bookstore. Ticking off ever more boxes, this novel also has a touch of Latin, awesome character names (Rosemary Lapin is a personal favourite), and a manhunt across America for a bookstore-owner named Mr. Penumbra. Personally, I really struggled finding any faults in this novel, because the whole concept is just so fascinating! I would most definitely recommend Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore to anyone and everyone, because I feel like there is something from this book that it is brought to every different kind of reader.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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