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

Mr Penumbra’s is not like any other book shop you’ve been in before. Okay, well perhaps it is…in some ways. That typical over-run book shop that every bibliophile dreams of, piles upon piles of books, high shelves, the sliding ladder…the whole works. However (this is where the cliché strikes) things aren’t what they seem. Clay is a young guy, looking for a job when an advert catches his attention for a night clerk, no specifics, no particular sector, which only heightens the interest in the job advertised. Naturally, Clay goes to find out more.

Thus starts the bumpy ride from relative nobody to mystery cracking extraordinaire.

What started off a small idea, grew and grew for Sloan until he found that there was tremendous interest in his fledgling novel and the rest, they say, is history. Receiving a US release in 2012 and finding a new resurgence in 2014 as it featured in Watertstones’ Book Club, the novel features elements of fantasy, adventure, sci-fi and all-round brilliant writing. The book’s namesake, Mr Penumbra is a character for sure, highly secretive, wise like an owl, crazy as a crazy person, an unimaginable boss for Clay. The bookshop itself is seldom visited by a ‘regular’ customer. However it is frequented by a select group of individuals with a seemingly similar ‘borrowing’ pattern. Mr Penumbra’s is, to Clay, more of a posh library than a book shop and he is about to find out why. Can he single-handedly crack the code that lies within the shop or will he need the assistance of a group of Google employees? You bet!

This is almost the perfect novel, smart, witty, fun, mysterious and wonderfully structured. The only thing that I found to be difficult was that it seemed to lose some steam towards the end. I am not sure if this was intentional, but even if not, it didn’t detract from the narrative and is only really a minor grumble on my part I think.

One thing I will say is that throughout reading this, I couldn’t help but think of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It has a similar (albeit tenuously) story of sorts; Clay is reminisent of Parzival, Kat reminds me of Art3mis, a young guy looking for the elusive end to a means. However, this only improved it for me, as I loved Cline’s first offering. If you haven’t read it then I’d highly recommend them both!

Buy from Waterstones.com
This paperback is out now from Atlantic Books
ISBN: 9781782391210

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