Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

A guy gets a job at a mysterious bookstore . . . that’s all I needed to know; I’m in. I added it to my Goodreads list. I even went so far as to put a hold on the e-book from the library. I hate doing that because you never know when it will show up.

I was finishing up The Fourth Bear, a very silly and much needed distraction from reality by Jasper Fforde, when it showed up. I had to know what happened to Goldilocks and the Gingerbread Man before I could start this new book, so I was worried it wouldn’t give me enough time to read it all before it went to the next person on the hold list. I had been checking the library quite a bit, and the hold had been constant for a few months.

I needn’t have worried. In addition to a promising premise, the engaging voice of the narrator had me hooked by the second page, and I finished the book quickly. As a fan of fantasy and science fiction, I don’t have trouble suspending my disbelief (I seriously just finished a book about a murderous cookie). There just has to be a good reason to do it. While this book does not fit those genres, is does require you to have a willingness to believe that everything happens for a reason. That does not fit my idea of reality, but the likable narrator’s determination to find out what was behind the mysterious books on the tall shelves at Mr. Penumbra’s made me happily follow along on the adventure and get over everything falling miraculously into place.

Modern technology plays a big role, and this is the first book I’ve read with characters glued to their cell phones. A passing mention of someone playing Fruit Ninja registered with me as a reference someone would get right now, but made me think- would people reading this 20 years from now get it? Before I finished the thought, I realized that was point. I enjoyed the exploration of the theme of old knowledge from books (referenced as “OK” by the techies) versus the digital age and how those two things intersect. A discussion about e-readers and paper books caused me to have a surreal moment as I was reading it on my Kindle.

Strange bookstores, secret societies . . . and Google. I suppose given the previous book I read, all of the events in Mr. Penumbra seemed perfectly reasonable (compared to anthropomorphic bears with porridge addictions) and nonetheless entertaining. It was a trip I’m glad I took.


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