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Summary

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 bookstore.

The 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 21st 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 listener, no matter the time of day.

©2012 Robin Sloan (P)2012 Macmillan Audio

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

And now for something completely different.

What a clever book! A marriage of the age of social media and an age of antiquity. With strong characters, good narration and a thoroughly intriguing plot and concept this book kept me royally entertained. It's a little bit different from the norm so it's hard to say who would or wouldn't enjoy such a book but if you do fancy a slightly different adventure then this is definitely one to try.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

gentle nerd wish fulfilment fantasy

This is one of those books that suddenly seemed to be evey where I looked. The title appealed and what's not to like about a mystery in a bookstore, so I downloaded it.

It is a unique book: a quirky, slightly dizzying, overlaying of Google-led West Coast Techie culture; a centuries old, secretive bibliophile sect with a mission and a real-life analog of a traditional Dungeons and Dragons questing party.

It is told with a light touch, lots of pop culture references, and a self-deprecating charm that make it an easy read.

This is a only a "thriller" if you don't get out much. No body-count. No supernatural beings. Not even car chases and gun fights. The height of excitement is a trip to an old New York basement and a visit to a massive automated warehouse and yet I was happy to keep reading.

This is a book with a message. A fairly anodyne message but one that is passionately told. I won't tell you what it is because that is about the only real surprise in the book.

Whether you enjoy this book may depend on whether you find the central character endearing and resourceful or just naive and lost. "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" made me smile but it was so gentle and so slight that it didn't make a lasting impression. I assume that the ubiquity of the book is attributable to the fact that it has a clever title, is easy to read and envisions a MacBook-wielding, nerdy, website designer as heroic.

Reading "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" was a fine way to pass a couple of idle afternoons but if I'd bought a physical copy rather than an audiobook, it would be on its way to the second-hand bookstore by now.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Absolutely fantastic

This is a completely absorbing and realistic fantasy. I love the protagonist, the way it is written and the way it is read. It is a quirky and hard to define book but if you don't read/listen to it you will be missing out. The amazing story of a man that has failed to find his place in the world and how he finds it through the power of a good puzzle, his own resourcefulness, Google, the Internet and most importantly friendship.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A new meaning to getting lost in a book

I was recommended this by a stranger on twitter and i'm glad i was, its an adventure you could only find in a bookshop with enough intrigue to keep you guessing. Great fun!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Weird but intriguing

A very unusual book but within 20 minutes you are hooked. Well worth a listen.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Very likeable characters, funny and engaging

What made the experience of listening to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore the most enjoyable?

The main character was immediately very likeable and funny. He reminded me a little of Harry Dresden from the Jim Butcher series if Harry Dresden worked in a book shop and didn't have magical powers. The writing was great - lively, rich and funny.

What does Ari Fliakos bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He's a great narrator and brought the story alive, especially the main character.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, although it took me a few days.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Not for me

I tried and failed to complete this story but I think it is because I do not read this genre and my attempt at being wild, failed!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Adam
  • London
  • 06-04-16

didnt fulfill its promise

for the first few dozen chapters I was caught by the mysterious bookstore, puzzling goings on, likeable characters. but then it fizzled out. cant exactlt say why - lack of excitement, too much google love....

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A gem

I LOVED THIS BOOK. It's odd and quirky, yet involved, interesting and a complete page-turner. Our hero, Clay Jannon, is a perfect foil to Mr Penumbra. Secrets, strange codes, odd people and a quest - what's not to like - all set in the age of the internet, computer geeks and Google. It's a story for our time, utterly readable, charming and even informative!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Awesome

It's like an Indiana Jones story but for an avarage guys like us living in current times.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Irene
  • 11-04-14

Delightful

What made the experience of listening to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore the most enjoyable?

A mystery was set up, the process was engaging and the ending was as it should be.

What did you like best about this story?

The main characters were well fleshed out and likeable.

What about Ari Fliakos’s performance did you like?

It was appropriate - not too gaudy.

If you could rename Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, what would you call it?

Why rename it?

Any additional comments?

Recommend this. If you want fast action you will be disappointed but if you want to be intelligently entertained this is for you.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Crystal
  • 26-08-14

A Book for Book Lovers

I love books. In fact, I love books so much that I picked up Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore purely because I liked the idea of an actual 24-hour book store so much!

And boy am I glad I did.

Mr Penumbra’s is a love letter to all bibliophiles. It’s for anyone who ever dreamed of finding a real-life mystery in the pages of a book or wished they could go gather a party of their equally geeky friends and embark on an epic quest.

But for all its fantasy origins, Mr Penumbra’s is grounded in modern day San Francisco on the forefront of the digital age. Technology and leather-bound tomes intersect for a fascinating look at the modern mythology of Google.

Audiobooks are often treated as the ugly step-child of literary world so I think fellow audible.com users will especially appreciate the musings about the future of the written world in an increasingly virtual world.

Mr Penumbra’s has transcended genre-preferences amongst my circle of friends so I highly recommend it to readers everywhere!

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  • Jenny
  • 11-03-15

Disappoinyig

Did not enjoy this book at all despite a fabulous narrator. Did not understand the computer language or the Si fi references. Did not find it amusing.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful