ASK Musings

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July 2023



Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Maybe people who liked the DaVinci Code?

In a nutshell:
Clay gets a job in a bookshop in San Francisco, which turns out to be the front for something else entirely.

Worth quoting:

Why I chose it:
I love a bookstore, and I love a good mystery.

What it left me feeling:

This book was absolutely fine. I think it might be one that was better suited for the page than audio book, so if this is on your list I’m going to recommend that you pick up a hard copy (or at least an e-book version).

The premise is that Clay lives in San Francisco and has recently lost his job. He gets a job working the night shift at a 24-hour bookstore that doesn’t sell many books. The only other employees are Mr Penumbra and Oliver, each working one eight-hour shift. Right off the back the logistics confuse me – does everyone work seven days a week? Or is it closed two days a week? If so, why is it such a huge deal at one point in the book when the shop is closed? It doesn’t make sense to me.

Anyway, moving past that, Clay is a bit of a caricature of a tech bro. He lives with roommates, one of home works in practical effects. He meets a woman who works at Google. Everyone feels very SILICON VALLEY, and tech ends up playing a huge role in the book. I think I get what the author was going for, but it read almost like a TV show as opposed to a book, and I wasn’t a big fan of that.

The plot is that no one really shops at this store. Sure, people do sort of come off the street occasionally and buy some of the popular titles up front, but really the store exists to serve members who come in and demand specific titles from the back of the store. Clay wants to know – who are these people? What are they doing?

The plot develops from there, and there are some genuinely intriguing moments where I didn’t want to put the book down, but I found the last 20% of the book to be a bit of a let down. Now, without spoiling things, if you’ve read this book and are reading my review, I’m not let down in the same way that the people in the end are let down (too cryptic?) – I just didn’t enjoy how things played out. I don’t think it was bad or anything like that, I just wasn’t as taken in as I thought I might be given the topic and my interests.

Recommend to a Friend / Keep / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it

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