“Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” Review

Warning: If you have not read “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan, do not read this review if you do not want spoilers! If you don’t mind spoilers or already read the book, however, feel free to read this!

I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore” by Robin Sloan! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.”

There was a lot going on within the plot to the point that occasionally it got confusing. First it was about the protagonist Clay trying to get used to working at the bookstore and adhering to Mr. Penumbra’s rules regarding what he must and must not do, then somehow a cult surrounding books gets involved, and somehow tech companies also get involved. In short, the plotline started off interesting, but got far too complicated to fit into one novel.

I did like the literary references scattered throughout the book, as well as the description of dealing with weird customers at the bookstore, but I cannot say the same for the main characters. Mr. Penumbra flits in and out of the scenes far too quickly to be interesting, and the same goes for Clay and his love interest as well. It could be because the book is more plot-driven than character driven, but to be honest I don’t know.

Another problem I had with the plot is that despite it getting increasingly complicated with the worldbuilding, there is also no real tension or peril in terms of what happened throughout the story. It’s too obvious any obstacles are going to be overcome easily. The fact that the characters could solve almost anything by looking it up on the internet – while accurate and funny – diffused a lot of potential tension.

Overall, I would rate this book 3 out of 5 stars.


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