Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

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As a bibliophile, this book’s title immediately caught my eye as I browsed through the Modern Fiction section in the local independent bookstore (yes, please support them!). 24-hour convenience stores aren’t anything special; but a 24-hour bookstore… you can just smell the mystery and adventure in the title. Without a doubt, the book fulfilled these expectations.

I was looking for a light read for one of my students, and Mr. Penumbra is exactly that. The language and style of the book is very similar to those commonly found on social media. Readers can effortlessly understand the plot, smoothly navigate through each chapter, and comprehend every sentence without stumbling on difficult vocabulary. Being a classicist, this is the first modern book I have read in years, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a mystery that will leave you thirsty for answers and an adventure you cannot ignore if you love books and technology.

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The above book cover glows in the dark. Neat.

Robin Sloan cleverly intertwines technology and tradition without creating a great ripple of tension between the two, so the story stays upbeat and positive without being dull. He proposes the potential effect of modern tech on books and makes the reader wonder if humans will eventually be taken over by Cylons (Battleship Galatica anyone?) or Google advancement. I found the idea of the story to be creative and funny, although lacking in character development and a satisfying execution of the ending.

This is a “marmite” book. If you’re like me and didn’t know what that meant upon first glance, marmite is a yeast spread in the UK that people either love or HATE–no middle ground. (Credit to The Beauty Infidelity‘s blogger who explained this to me, because she is, you know, European and cultured.) People either think the involvement of 21st century technology dates the book (don’t carriages and petticoats in 18th century fiction also date those books?) and cause it to only resonate with readers of this particular era–or they greatly appreciate the effortless integration of tech to advance the plot. I, for one, think of Mr. Penumbra as a representation of our generation’s capability to command computers, solve problems, and utilize resources. I stand in the middle ground, you see.

Despite my not loving the book and not giving it 5 brilliant stars on Goodreads, I liked it as an acquaintance. The novel does not have a wide scope or a sophisticated style; it is simply a narrative set on a social media platform, waiting to be read, enjoyed, and dismissed–much like meeting an acquaintance, having an interesting conversation, but parting ways in the end. The connection isn’t deep enough to further the experience.

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This book is for book-lovers who embrace change and aren’t very picky. If you don’t expect too much, Mr.Penumbra will make you laugh pretty hard and wish you worked at a mysterious 24-hour bookstore. I would say Robin Sloan’s Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is all about the journey and not the destination.

Isn’t that kind of what life is about? 🙂 7.8/10

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