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

13538873… book cults, vertical bookshops, hot geeks, theft, and the pursuit of immortality.”     -Nick Harkaway

Yes, all of these things can be found in this book.  Clay needed a job, so he found one at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but it didn’t take him long to figure out there was something strange going on.  In order to get to the bottom of it, he recruited a bunch of his friends to help, mostly through the use of technology (there was a lot of Google talk in this book).  It was a light, funny, entertaining read, and a good one for those days when you need a break from the heavier, more thought-provoking books.  I know I needed one recently.

Here is a nice description of Mr. Penumbra’s Bookstore:

The shelves were packed close together, and it felt like I was standing at the border of a forest- not a friendly California forest, either, but an old Transylvanian forest, a forest full of wolves and witches and dagger-wielding bandits all waiting just beyond moonlight’s reach.  There were ladders that clung to the shelves and rolled side to side.  Usually those seem charming, but here, stretching up into the gloom, they were ominous.  They whispered rumours of accidents in the dark.

Here are the lessons Clay has learned by the end of the book:

There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care.  All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.  It takes 41 seconds to climb a ladder three stories tall.  It’s not easy to imagine the year 3012 but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

One more quote from this book that caught my interest (because I have never listened to an audio book):

When you read a book, the story definitely happens inside your head.  When you listen, it seems to happen in a little cloud all around it, like a fuzzy knit cap pulled down over your eyes.

Is this what it’s like?  One of the reasons I have never listened to an audio book is because I think I won’t be able to pay close enough attention.  When I read, I like to make sure I get every detail, sometimes even re-reading paragraphs if I think I was a bit spacey when I read it the first time.

The other question that came up for me after reading this book is:  how many books are out there about The Pursuit of Immortality?  I’m curious to know how many different twists have been given to this theme.  This must be the lightest book I have ever read about the pursuit of immortality.  Usually it involves deep, dark mysteries, like Harry Potter, The Da Vince Code, and The Eight by Katherine Neville.  Can anyone think of some more examples?

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11 thoughts on “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

  1. Care says:

    This is definitely on my want-to-read list. I have a friend who I much admire who didn’t like this but it sounds like something perfect for me.

  2. Care says:

    Oh, and I wanted to add that audiobooks can be SO GOOD! One of my motivations for trying audio is that I wanted to sharpen my auditory-pay-attention skills. And I think I have, but. It actually is great sometimes that I can half-listen and still feel like I’m accomplishing ‘reading’. That probably doesn’t make much sense but I do like driving and listening to stories. It just sucks, though, when you want to write down a quote! so I ‘get’ it – it can be tough.

    • Naomi says:

      I like the idea of audio books, but I think one of my challenges is finding time to listen. If I’m in the car for a significant amount of time I usually have the kids with me. Maybe I will have to start with kids’ audio books.

      And, yes, I can picture myself having to stop it and start it too many times to either write something down or listen to something again.

  3. Cecilia says:

    Hmm…I can’t think of an answer to your question (about books regarding immortality), but I do want to read this book! I also have not tried audio books. I think they’d be fun but like you said, it would be hard to find the time.

    • Naomi says:

      Maybe someday, when the kids are older and they aren’t around as much, I will have more time. See, there are some things to look forward to as an empty-nester!

  4. ebookclassics says:

    You have been reading such interesting books! I think when I need to find something new to read, I’ll just browse through your blog. I have shied away from audio books for the same reason. I don’t think I would be able to pick up the full details of the story if I was listening to it, plus I have a bad habit of spacing out (as we have previously discussed). However, I was listening to an audio version of Paradise Lost as I read the text in the book. The poem is so challenging and intense, I felt I needed some extra help.

    • Naomi says:

      Thanks for the compliment! I get so many good reading ideas from other people, it’s nice to know I can return the favour!

      I’m impressed with your determination to get everything out of Paradise Lost as you can. I think if I was reading that right now, I might not have the time to read anything else.

      • ebookclassics says:

        LOL, I don’t know how much I will actually remember but it has been a good experience just trying to be open-minded and not give up when I don’t understand what’s going on. It also helps that Carolyn made the read-along two months long so I have been able to take things slowly.

  5. Carolyn O says:

    I loved Mr. Penumbra! I read it last year, in the fall, I think. There’s a review kicking around on the blog. As for the pursuit of immortality, that’s what most vampire stories are about, right? And there’s Voldemort in Harry Potter, of course.

    • Naomi says:

      Vampires didn’t even cross my mind! Although, I don’t think I’ll run out and read about them. I will have to go look at your Penumbra review now!

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