Sunday, November 9, 2014

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan
★★★★★ and still a ♥

Synopsis: The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco web-design drone--and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey have landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, 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 "check out" 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. Soon Clay has embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behavior and roped his friends into helping him figure out just what is going on. And when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.
With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or the young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that is rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.
In A Sentence: A reread and still enchanted by it.

My Thoughts: I admit I read this a year ago for the first time, but I'm continuing my purge on my Favorites list of books that I no longer like. This one survived the test however, and it's remaining a favorite!
I love this book. I mean, it's a book about a bookstore, so how can you not love it right off the bat? And it's not just any bookstore, it's a bookstore that stays open 24 hours a day! That alone made me want to read the book in the first place. It reminded me of a 24-hour university library that I used to frequent when I was studying in England. It was a favorite haunt of mine that I would choose over pubs and night clubs, staying there until past 3 in the morning. Ah, the memories!
Now, this book doesn't provide anything new in terms of morals, or even plot. It's fairly predictable and unsurprising in that sense. But that's not what makes it great. It's how Robin Sloan promotes the book's message that makes this book great:
Some novels make you appreciate and feel inspired by the old, by the way things used to be. Some novels make you appreciate and feel inspired by the new, by what the future could hold. This book does something unusual; it makes you value both. Ancient books and secret societies come into contact with the latest technologies, blending together in such a way that you feel awed and inspired not only by the legacy of the past, but also by the potential of the future. It's an unusual combination for a book, but Robin Sloan was able to pull it off, and pull it off with the right amount of humor, thrill, and adventure.
Overall: It's amazing how this book can make you feel so uplifted regarding just about everything. I personally thought it was very well done. It was well written and well thought-out. I strongly recommend reading it if you haven't done so already. Or if you have read it, go ahead and read it again if you're stuck on what to read next!

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