When unemployed web designer Clay Jannon applies for a job as night clerk in Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, he finds a narrow, three-story shop where haphazardly arranged books must be accessed by ladders. Only an occasional customer visits, arousing Clay's curiosity. Helped by his techie friends, Clay uncovers a mysterious cult that is dedicated to solving a puzzle hundreds of years old. Ari Fliakos's narration convincingly captures the enthusiasm of the youthful narrator as well as the older Mr. Penumbra. An entertaining blend of old and new technologies, books vs. computers. Sloan's story, with its many references to a dragon trilogy, will appeal chiefly to young adults and those who read more for quirky plot than for character development. VERDICT Recommended for those seeking a light mystery that celebrates the digital age. ["Though the depiction of Google as a utopian meritocracy seems rather farcical, Sloan has created an arch tale knitting the analog past with the digital future that is compelling and readable," read the review of the New York Times best-selling Farrar hc, LJ 9/1/12.—Ed.]—Nancy R. Ives, SUNY Geneseo [Page 43]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
After a layoff during the Great Recession sidelines his tech career, Clay Jannon takes a job at the titular bookstore in San Francisco, and soon realizes that the establishment is a facade for a strange secret.Review by Publisher Summary 2
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 bookstoreThe 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 has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just 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 "checking 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, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once 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 enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that's 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.