Clay Jannon is out of a job and down on his luck until he comes across a hole-in-the-wall bookstore where, after demonstrating some climbing skills, he is quickly hired as the night clerk. But there is something different about Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore that sets it apart from other bookstores in San Francisco. It could be the fact that the store rarely has any customers, and the ones that do come in are eccentric and frantic for the next installment on their list. Or it could be that these eccentric customers don’t buy their books, but rent them. Or perhaps the stories high bookcases that Clay has to climb in order to retrieve these books. And inside the books themselves? A jumble of letters that Clay can’t make heads or tails out of.
Wanting to advance his skills in media and code, Clay begins to create a digital database of the books in the store, only to find that there is something more to the books than he originally believed.
I loved this book. I bought it on a whim about 2 years ago and am so happy I finally sat down and read it. Robin Sloan’s writing style reminded me a lot of The Weirdness by Jeremy P. Bushnell. It’s simplistic and straightforward and does not make the reader work to figure out what is going on. Once I started reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, I couldn’t put it down and was finished it within 3 days. The plot keeps on at a good pace so nothing is dragged out and is interesting enough to keep me wondering what would happen in the end.
However, I did find some of the characters a little flat. I liked Clay and Mr. Penumbra a lot, but I felt like Neel was a character mostly used to move the plot forward than anything else. I also found Clay’s relationship with Kat to be a little odd and a little forced. Obviously these instances didn’t stop me from reading and enjoying the work as a whole, but may be a turn off to other readers.