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

I judged it by its cover. I grabbed this book from the library based entirely on the cover and title. I didn’t even read the summary blurb to see what it was about. And it worked for me. I loved this book. It was an incredibly easy read (one day), and sure, it didn’t have a lot of depth, but something about it pulled at my heartstrings. I was drawn in from the very beginning. Enough that I bought a copy for a friend when I was only a quarter of the way through. I loved the easy style of the writing, even as I recognizes the show/tell flaws. I wasn’t looking for a deep literary read when I picked this up. I’d recently finished Ready Player One and wanted a similar type of story without all the gaming info dumping, and that’s exactly what I got.

The quest aspect of the book was delightful. It wasn’t all dark and moody. It was light hearted and kind of ridiculous. Easy access to the google “big box”? A millionaire friend who makes his money from digital boobs and loves fantasy novels? A hidden dungeon of crazy book lovers in flowing black robes? A knitting museum that holds the key to everything? All of these things are ridiculous and they all come together in a giddy adventure for people who dabble in multiple obsessions.

Yes, this book may age poorly because of its many references to modern technology, but those references may also serve the book. The story makes references to outmoded tech (audiobooks on cassette, printing presses, etc) that are crucial to the plot coming together. So maybe in a decade when technology has totally changed the way we read, people will look back at this book and see it as charming rather than outdated.

The part of the book I liked the least was the love letter to Google that takes up a good chunk of the early parts of the story. Until it’s turned on its head and used to show that we can’t just throw up our hands if we can’t find something on the internet or whole heartedly embrace everything that is found there. Utilizing our own intellect to puzzle out an answer is a skill that is quickly becoming lost.

The fact that the clues to this mystery are found in a cheesy, 80s fantasy novel about singing dragons is a refreshing change from novels where the hidden mysteries are found in great works of art. Those stories are enjoyable in their own right, but there’s something delightful about being forced to dabble in fluff-lit to uncover a mystery.

When I read this (a year ago), I was a recent convert to audiobooks. Sloan’s description of audiobooks being a fluffy cloud around your head just solidified my love of this book. I still remember large chunks of this book, after only reading it once, and that means something to me. It’s not for everyone, but for me, it was a playfully delicious read.

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One thought on “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday – Beach Bag Books | hellphie's fiendish fiction

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