Meh 1.5 stars because the plot was interesting enough that I finished the book and there were some funny moments While Mr Sloan is imaginative and quick witted it does not make up for poor writing and boring characters The book is just bad first person narrative This would be an acceptable as a Syfy Saturday movie but not for a novel.For example It s early in the morning We came straight from the airport Neel visits Manhattan all the time for business and I used to take the train down from Providence or I tap Kat s shoulder and point to the glowing lamps Neel narrows his eyes The entire narrative is just so damn obvious its annoying here is what I see, here is what we are doing etc Also, the book is a novel long ad for Google and The narrator can t stop talking about Googlers and Kindles I like my Kindle but not as its own character in my book I can see that the author was trying to marry the old and the new traditional books and new technology but he failed, really, really failed I d like my 12 back. Authors are magicians I was in the early pages of Mr Penumbra when I realized that Sloan was sneaking in a major chain of events in only a few short paragraphs with the intention of moving the story to where he needed it It was the authorial equivalent of look, nothing up my sleeve in preparation of a hat trick Rather than irritation from this momentary flap of curtain or glimpse of rabbit ear, I was rather captivated.Thinking back on books I ve loved or hated, it occurs to me that in that moment of authorial sleight of hand, the reader willingness to accept the underlying set up is fundamental to the experience of the story, particularly in fantasy, sci fiction and magical realism A suspension of belief at the right parts, or at least belief enough in the presentation to accept and enjoy it, is crucial to a good read.Penumbra is charming, and it was easy to be interested in Clay s search for a job, intrigued by the mystery of the bookstore, and captivated by the charisma of Clay s friends Eventually, Sloan reaches a bit too far, tries a large scale trick that requires stage presence and set up than he can pull off In particular, the New York section started to feel like someone imported The Da Vinci Code It s the equivalent of seeing a magician at the local theater and watching them try and disappear the Empire State Building The story veers out of control and falls apart, yet still manages to remain charm and sincerity to be worth reading.Part of Sloan s skill is in his ability to capture familiar emotion I remember those days when I had job idealism But I kept at it with the help wanted ads My standards were sliding swiftly At first I had insisted I would only work at a company with a mission I believe in Then I thought maybe it would be find as long as I was learning something new After that I decided it just couldn t be evil Now I was carefully delineating my personal definition of evil There s a lovely, lovely description of a bookstore, instantly familiar to any book lover The shelves were packed close together, and it felt like I was standing at the border of a forest not a friendly California forest, either, but an old Transylvanian forest, a forest full of wolves and witches and dagger wielding bandits all waiting just beyond moonlight s reach A description of Clay s co worker, Oliver, instantly resonated with that interesting dualism of solid and dreamy Oliver is a graduate student at Berkeley, studying archeology Oliver is training to be a museum curator He speaks in short, simple sentences and always seems to be thinking about something else, something long ago and or far away Oliver daydreams about Ionian columns I too have a nebula friend So I guess you could say Neel owes me a few favors, except that so many favors have passed between us now that they are no longer distinguishable as individual acts, just a bright haze of loyalty Our friendship is a nebula I also have to commend both Clay and Sloan for writing a meeting of a love interest that involves hair, tee shirt, nail and chipped tooth, culminating with This girls has the spark of life This is my primary filter for new friends girl and otherwise and the highest compliment I can pay Despite the strong, delightful beginning, Sloan lost me by the end I thought the quest metaphor was clever, and appreciated the connection with a fantasy trilogy and friend that was instrumental in Clay s formative years but it didn t quite stretch far enough Or maybe it did, and the quest was an illusion It s hard to say Sloan was showing his hand too much by the end and the spy caper didn t fit with the sweet bookstore mystery The romance was lost in the quest, and imperfectly resolved Neel s professional fascination with boobs struck me as a false note, although it had the feel of a ten year old voyeur over the thirty year old creeper My final complaint is rooting the story so solidly in Google perhaps integral to Sloan s version of the story, it significantly roots it in time and will date it faster than any other element For me, these concerns added up to too many wires and mirrors, and allowed me to lose the illusion.Three, three and a half stars. suuuuper fun this book is going to sell like gangbusters when it comes out in october mostly because each and every one of you reading this review are going out and getting yourselves a copy this is a command you like books, right yes, you do, because you are a member of goodreads and this book is about books and puzzles and adventure there s not a whole lot that s better than that.it is shades of Salamander and The Grand Complication A Novel and If on a Winter s Night a Traveler and The Name of the Rose, but it is definitely distinctly its own.this book is just a pure joy to read each character has their own particular skill set, and are quirky without being cutesy about it, and each contributes to solve one hell of a book mystery involving secret booknerd societies, typography, ancient artifacts, codes and puzzles, the capabilities of computers,and the coolest bookstore you have ever heard of.the mystery is satisfying and the attention to detail is very much appreciated, plus i learned a thing or two this is one of those books it is better if you discover and experience on your own, so i am not going to say anything else about it, suckers but this is wild, page turning fun, and i urge you all to get your hands on a copy if you like books about books and you do.come to my blog HOLY MOLY, BATMAN, EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS I am actually so excited to write this review I HAVE SO MANY THINGS TO SAY Because I have so many thoughts, let s do this bullet point style This story was so positive and mood uplifting Geez I never felt that horrible dread you feel sometimes when you re reading that loss of faith with the author where you ask the horrible question Is the author going to screw this all up All throughout reading the book there were moments where I felt the exciting jolt of panic Oh no What s going to happen but I never felt worry that the story would end badly It was constantly fun and happy It made me happy I LEARNED SO MUCH Okay, as a person I love to learn new things, but the truth is that I don t read very much non fiction When reading you are constantly learning new things through the decisions of people, by taking on new perspectives, but in this book I actually learned new facts and things It felt like I was picking up interesting knowledge and it kept me excited to read There were so many great uses of setting in this book Wowzapants To places like Hogwarts, to places like Spy Kids, from Google to a knitting museum, this book never felt stagnant It was fresh and exciting and the settings all felt so legitimate The best way I can describe the idea of this book is National Treasure for Book Lovers I love the National Treasure movies, they are just a good ol time, and so was this book The characters were so complex And there were so many of them We had so many different secondary characters constantly being introduced but the writing never made them feel unnecessary in real life we have people that we need for certain things but only interact with very little This book had lots of different levels of interaction with people, which was new and great Also, the characters were all super complex and fascinating None of them felt flat or 1 dimensional they were all real people and were constantly surprising The collaboration between old and new Between older people and younger people, older technologies and newer technologies, older thinking and newer thinking Brilliant Speaking of technology, THE TECHNOLOGY There was such an amazing use of different technologies in this book, but best of all they were all plausible There are some movies and books where a character pulls out a tool that is specifically designed to solve the exact problem at hand and it s so unrealistic those tools can t exist But everything used in this book was real, and it made me feel like this adventure actually happened Finally, the main character WHAT A MAIN CHARACTER He is exactly the kind of lead you want in this type of story Constantly clueless BUT TRYING HIS HARDEST, absolutely hilarious, and genuine and earnest.I had such a riot reading this book And the best part I know I m going to love rereading and rereading this book until the end of my days It was so well crafted and had me in smiles and laughs every time I picked it up Ultimate recommendation PS A shout out to my main men, Jesse from JesseTheReader and Dylan from DylanBooks, for reading this with me Talking to them throughout the reading made it even fun The mystery had us going and it took us to a happy place I am so happy that we happened to be walking past the booth were Robin Sloan was signing, and someone was holding up a copy of the attractive ARC trying to lure people onto the line which I now see the cover has been added to the book on goodreads, the book looks better than the picture suggests This is good and I m thinking if the world has any fairness at all this will be a fairly good selling book this fall In a perfect world this would go blasting up the sales charts and topple the Fifty Shades craze, but that s not really going to happen but this is one of those books that succeeds at being a good page turner and fairly smart and not smart in the way of say, I cribbed all the details from Holy Blood, Holy Grail kind of smart I m pretty excited for this book to come out, and fellow book nerds you should be too It s about books, and an old bookstore, and hidden secrets mixed with some hacker internet stuff and it s been written as if it were super super contemporary which I think is a little unfortunate, it s written almost too up to the minute for the bookworld, and the references will get dated fairly quickly It s not the best written book ever, and it s not as smart as say Flame Alphabet, but it s super fun It s the kind of book that makes me wish that there were books like it in existence It s sort of in the same league as The Shadow of the Wind or a pared down Umberto Eco novel written but William Gibson or actually by a reigned in Neal Stephenson would be accurate, but he can t seem to write books that aren t gigantic meaty tomes, and this isn t that kind of book Maybe I ll re read this book and write of a review when it gets closer to the October 2nd pub date, but for now take my word on this and put it on your to read shelf so you don t forget about it Oh and this book really makes me wish I had been smarter and younger and been the type of person that google would hire. Forgive me, people, this review will be all gushing This book charmed me from the very beginning with fresh internal monologues, from Clay Jannon, a recent unemployed young man, who just lost his first job out of art school Then he walks into a bookstore OMG BOOKSTORE and he climbs the ladder, and I m in love How could I not This book is a love letter for books, bibliophiles, but also for technology We know that the world of books, publishings, and reading have changed in the recent years, thanks to the wonderful world of Internet There are ebooks, ereaders Kindles, Nook, Kobo, etc , and tablets We start looking for definitions from Google instead of those huge print dictionaries We start looking for facts on Wikipedia It s NEW, it s EXCITING This book refers to all that It combines the wonderful world of stories fonts printings hidden messages in stories , manual crafting people making props for movies Knittings and technology data visualization GOOGLE computer language and creates a great adventure for a simple reader, like myself It s not futuristic, it s not high fantasy, it s simply a use of contemporary items around us and of course, BOOKS I m simply in love with the feeling that this book evokes I feel like I m right there with Clay, and his eccletic friends there s Kat, the smart girl working at Google, there s Neel, his millionaire best friends who is making money by creating the best BOOBS visual in the world yes, people, BOOBS , Mat who is an extraordinaire with props, and of course, Mr Penumbra, the owner of the store who is also involved in a secret literary group And it keeps the right balance between books and technology Just when I think technology will win it all, to solve everything, the book throws a twist That nope, the great human mind can still win It s just so, SO amazing.The book is not without flaws I m quite disappointed that the whole adventure pretty much happens at Google or at the store I sort of want the story to go all Indiana Jones or National Treasure , you know, with secret caves, and such Also, the very VERY contemporary feeling of this story, might make it go outdated quickly But in the end, I go back to the whole feeling I have when I m reading this It s excitement, it s happiness, it s like being with friends who are really, really enthusiastic about the things I loveAfter that, the book will fade, the way all books fade in your mind But I hope you will remember this A man walking fast down a dark lonely street Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then the right book exactly, at exactly the right time And the last sentence just makes me all shivery and tingly because yes, the RIGHT BOOK, at exactly THE RIGHT TIME, will make everything worth while sigh 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 Hour Bookstore, But After A Few Days On The Job, Clay Discovers That The Store Is Curious Than Either Its Name Or Its Gnomic Owner Might Suggest The Customers Are Few, And They Never Seem To Buy Anything Instead, They Check Out Large, Obscure Volumes From Strange Corners Of The Store Suspicious, Clay Engineers An Analysis Of The Clientele S Behavior, Seeking Help From His Variously Talented Friends, But When They Bring Their Findings To Mr Penumbra, They Discover The Bookstore S Secrets Extend Far Beyond Its Walls Well, I can t say I ve been charmed by a book in a while, and jealous I didn t write it This is a totally hipster book that rings all my bells, I feel like it sort of summarizes the zeitgeist of our internet generation, the gap between old and new.Basically the main character, Clay, is unemployed tech guy, gets a job in a run down bookstore that has a mysterious agenda that he can t help but get roped into I m a sucker for secret societies, and there s a touch of Amelie whimsey that is right up my alley in this as well I mean, Google comes into it, it s so almost a cliche for me this book If I were to quibble, it s that the ending isn t quite dramatic enough, but the journey was so fun I can forget that Recommended Mr Penumbra s 24 Hour Bookstore is the debut novel by Robin Sloan, and a publishing sensation it was s Best Book of the Month in October 2012, and received a lot of attention and praise from reviewers, authors and readers No wonder who wouldn t want a 24 hour book store The novel aspires to be classified as a literary mystery , or an intelligent thriller both labels are somewhat insulting by suggesting that mysteries and thrillers are by default a lower tier of literature, and that the classic whodunnit does not require the use of the reader s brain other than to remember what the detective is called, hence the need to emphasize that this particular one is in fact intelligent and should not be grouped together with the common paperback, featuring the latest case of inspector Z in the series Y Its premise usually aims to be complex than a simple murder scenario the protagonist s usually search for a long lost document of great importance, one which can change the history of the world Of course the existence of such a thing is also known to the bad guys, here played by an underground group secret society This scheme presents plenty of opportunities to include laboriously researched data, allowing the reader to feel the impression that they re learning facts along with following the plot, which moves at the pace of a regular thriller and you ve got a bestseller The poster boy of this movement is of course Dan Brown, who with his The Da Vinci Code shot up to fame and popularity unexpected by anyone hundreds of novels following aiming to cash in on the scheme have appeared since its publication in 2003 Mr Penumbra reminded me heavily of Lev Grossman s forgotten novel Codex, which also follows Brown s pattern Both Penumbra and Codex have a male protagonist who is friends with a computer genius the central mystery involves a special book and a secret library and features the use of contemporary technology to understand its contents It also struck me as completely plain and almost juvenile, despite being marketed as a work for adults.The characters lack depth and originality, and barely provoke any interest in the reader from the paper thin protagonist and his wealthy IT yuppie friend, the love interest a slim and geeky girl who is of course attractive and willing to be interested in our protagonist she s described as having feline like qualities, and is calledKat because the author makes so Even the old Mr Penumbra with his quirky name provokes little interest There s a foreing character from Belarus, who s also hopelessly presented with attempts at a foreign accent and a foreign name of Igor at least it s not Ivan.Although the book is set in San Francisco, it does not have any sense of the place it could have been set in any city on the East Coast or West Coast for that matter, or in truth in any major city in any country the only references to San Francisco are the mentions of the IT businesses and people profiting or getting laid off, and just once the smell of the ocean The setting is like a cardboard prop in a B movie, threatening to fall apart at the slightest gust of wind.The central mystery does not feel like a mystery at all, as there is no sense of any possible danger looming ahead although the main character is presented as a man in a tough spot he and his friends always easily find a convenient solution to any problem, which comes at a little to any cost The novel is short very short and packed with references to pop culture and books communicating via Skype, the inner workings of Google, working at a bookstore and dealing with weird customers but these references seem to do little for the overall plot, as they are what most of us already experienced and know well With a well oiled engine to drive this book forward, the pace slows down, and the road ends up nowhere.I was not surprised when I discovered that the author has initially published a short story, which he later expanded into a novel I did not find the short story any better, and the added fat did not give the novel any extra merit it has been done before and better, and undoubtedly will be again This book is forcefully hip, tries to accomplish too much and accomplishes too little even as an allegory or fantasy it s too bland and obvious The comparisons readers and critics make strike me as unbelieveable Umberto Eco Neal Stephenson William Gibson Really I remain puzzled by its popularity and the praise it gathered perhaps the real and much interesting conspiracy lies there. A mysterious old bookstore with some kind of secret society to be infiltrated and unraveled Cool Except, alas, here we have a fun premise ruined by bullshit nerdbro execution.1 An everyman nerd protagonist with no personality beyond a degree in design and deep knowledge of the internet whose main development is his realization he has talented friends who are interesting than he is Congrats 2 A best friend whose company does boob physics for video games and whose major contribution to dialogue is boob jokes and DD references At one point corners a female knitting museum curator to pitch an exhibit on boobs in sweaters Author appears to have been going for funny , instead lands in groan worthy heart rendingly eyeball rollingly creepy Hey reader, did you know there are BOOBS that JIGGLE We d like to take this moment out of your plot to remind you that BOOBS.3 Manic pixie dreamgirl alert A brilliant Google programmer who is genius and quirky and of course MAJOR YOWZA HOT WE MUST POINT OUT REPEATEDLY WITH BOOBS AND EVERYTHING and for some indiscernible reason is interested in spending time with Mr No Personality Main Character and faithfully helping him in his quest Because if she weren t all those things, then this wouldn t be a very satisfying fantasy for all the sensitive nerdbros out there would it 4 Unsurprisingly, doesn t manage to pass the Bechdel test, and if it does, it does so barely The point, of course, of the Bechdel test is that it s a laughably low bar for involvement of female characters in your plot and so even if you manage to just barely pass it, there is still something deeply problematic about your story 5 The main distinction between characters in this novel is which precise arcane subject they are obsessed with Is it fonts Is it miniature practical effects Ancient architecture Data visualization Life extension In typical nerdbro fashion, people are not interesting for their emotional or psycho social development we are left to conclude they have none but rather for their nerdly obsessions I have no problem with nerdly obsessions, except that they are a poor substitute for actual character development.6 Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that apparently the moral of the story is we get by with a little help from our friends wow, such deep, so learning, wow except the author undermines his own point by actually having the main character go lone wolf in the last third of his quest So, friends are good but you, oh sensitive nerdbro, are also the mighty lone hero YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL including this muddled conclusion.7 Did you forget about boobs HOW COULD YOU Boobs.
Robin Sloan is the author of the novels Mr Penumbra s 24 Hour Bookstore and Sourdough He grew up near Detroit and now splits his time between the Bay Area and the internet.
- 288 pages
- Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
- Robin Sloan
- 05 September 2018 Robin Sloan