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

A bookstore piled high with indecipherable volumes.

A high-tech animated boob designer obsessed with fantasy.

A Googler obsessed with immortality.

A man obsessed with mysteries.

And the cult, obsessed with books, that brings them all together on a modern day quest the likes of which literature has surely never seen.

Robin Sloan’s masterpiece, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, is a one of a kind novel that will have you turning pages until they run out, and then have you turning back to the beginning to soak it all in again.

To tell you the truth, it’s hard to pin down exactly why I loved this book as much as did. Was it the strange clash of modern technology with archaic literary culture? Was it the witty sarcasm and hilarious observations about the world we live in? Was it the cast of characters so vivid and insane and human that I couldn’t help but love every single last one of them? Was it the nod to contemporary fantasy, woven throughout the storyline? Or was it the simple observations on loving literature – the sentences that captured the magic of loving books?

The plot is great, but I think the plot is also the least important part of the novel – I loved the plot, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t what I fell in love with. The destination wasn’t nearly as important as the journey. Each page made me laugh and think and fall more in love with literature (an impressive feat). This is a book for book lover’s, and it’s impossible not to find yourself in love by the time you put it down.

Let me, in closing (because this book needs very little in the way of introduction or recommendation), set the stage.

In the beginning, it’s a book about a bookstore, which is described thusly:

“…this is exactly the kind of store that makes you want to buy a book about a teenage wizard. This is the kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard.”

Mixed in amongst the story, which is about a secret cult searching for the key to immortality in a bunch of ancient, secret, autobiographies, are lines commenting on the state of our modern mentality:

“Our books still do not require batteries. But I am no fool. It is a slender advantage.”
“Books: boring. Codes: awesome. These are the people who are running the internet.”

And in the end, it’s a book that leaves you with this:

“After that, the book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind. But I hope you will remember this:
A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time.”

Rating: 13/10

Overall Reaction: “I don’t even care what happens as long as I get to keep reading this forever.”

Up Next Week: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


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