Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.

Author:Sloan, Robin
Position:Book review

By Robin Sloan

Before publishing this, his debut, novel, self-described "media inventor" Robin Sloan held jobs at Current TV and at Twitter, where he explored the future of media and technology's role in it. In addition to this foray into fiction, he is one of the hosts of the blog Snarkmarket.


THE STORY: After Clay Jannon loses his job as a Web designer in San Francisco, he stumbles into a gig working the night shift at a 24-hour bookstore operated by the endearingly old-fashioned Mr. Penumbra. It doesn't take long for Clay to grow curious about the store's tiny band of customers, all of whom continue to borrow arcane tomes hidden throughout the store without making any purchases. As he delves deeper into the store's mysterious purpose, Clay enlists his tech savvy friends to make sense of the situation. When they approach Mr. Penumbra about what they've discovered, they are flung into a clash between technology and tradition--and the quest to discover the secret of eternal life.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 304 pages. $25. ISBN: 9780374214913

Wired ****

"Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is filled with ideas and technology that may or may not exist yet but seem mostly plausible. ... It's packed full of geeky allusions and wonderful characters, and is a celebration of books, whether they're made of dead trees or digits." JONATHAN H. LIU

New York Times ****

"Mr. Sloan fills his book with wittilydrawn prodigies, then makes them wonder how they can best use their newtech talents. ... All that Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore should need is a way for some of these characters to regain their humanity, touch base with their inner Luddites and find reasonable ways to live happily ever after." JANET MASLIN

NPR ****

"It's been five years since the Amazon Kindle started one of the most enduring literary controversies of recent times: the fight between e-books and printed books. ... Whether your hero is Steve Jobs or Stephen Crane, we're all just in love with information and the power of the word--and that's the point Robin Sloan attempts to make in his debut novel, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, one of the most thoughtful and fun reading experiences you're likely to have this year." MICHAEL SCHAUB

Boston Globe ***

"Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, the first novel from Robin Sloan (who worked at Twitter), is worth a read for anyone who has wondered about the epochal changes wrought by the digital...

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