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

//published 2012//

This was the third book I received for my Mr. B’s Book Emporium subscription, and it was yet another book I already had on my TBR, making them 3/3!  I really enjoyed this book a great deal.  It had some fun adventures, some great characters, and a satisfying ending.

Our narrator is Clay, who begins the book unemployed in San Francisco.  Through a bit of serendipity, he walks past a Help Wanted sign in the window of a musty bookstore – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, in fact.  When Clay begins working as the night clerk there, he realizes that there is a lot more going on besides selling books.

It’s hard to tell a lot about this book without giving things away, so I’ll leave it at that.  Clay ends up on some rollicking adventures with some old friends and some new ones, and it’s a really good time.  There were so many things about this book that I really enjoyed.  I liked Clay himself, and loved basically all the other characters as well, so I was really invested in their discoveries.  I loved the way that Sloan works in Clay’s favorite epic fantasy series and uses it as a catalyst for so much of what happens.  Clay is just enough of a geek to make this book super fun.

“Besides,” I say, “I’m the rogue in this scenario.”

Kat raises an eyebrow and I explain quietly, “He’s the warrior, you’re the wizard, I’m the rogue.  This conversation never happened.”

For the most part, I enjoyed Clay’s narration, although the tenses didn’t always seem to flow right.  However, there were moments when the line between what Clay is thinking and what Clay is saying out loud gets blurred and it happened just often enough to annoy me.

We are in the Gourmet Grotto … It’s downtown, right next to the cable-car terminus …  The Gourmet Grotto is its food court, probably the  best in the world: all locally grown spinach salads and pork belly tacos and sushi sans mercury.  Also, it’s below-ground, and it connects directly to the train station, so you never have to walk outside.  Whenever I come here, I pretend I’m living in the future and the atmosphere is irradiated and wild bands of biodiesel bikers rule the surface.  Hey, just like the Singularity, right?

Kat frowns. “That the twentieth-century future.  After the Singularity, we’ll be able to solve those problems.”

So at what point did the first paragraph stop being Clay’s narration/explanation for the reader, and start being something he was saying out loud to Kat?  It really isn’t clear, and for some reason got on my nerves, especially since it happened pretty regularly.

But overall this book was just so much fun that I wanted it to keep going forever.  4/5 for a really happy, fun, thought-provoking book – recommended.