Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore Review

Title: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore

Author: Robin Sloan

Number of Pages: 288 pages

Date Published: October 2nd 2012

Publishing Company: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Books Number in Series: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, 1


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.


Holy guacamole! Can somebody explain to me what I just experienced!? This book was is amazing! When you read the summary it really doesn’t help much with what this book is about at all. In fact, you don’t even know what genre this book is. What type of book is it, you ask? Well, this story is a conspiracy theory with book lovers such as yourself, except to a new level. Clay ends up getting a job at this strange book store and his friends get pulled into this strange secret world of book lovers. This book also dabbles in the realistic problem between technology and OK (old knowledge, such as books), which is genuinely intriguing. I would say this is a mystery contemporary with a bit of fantasy and history.


I know, I know. This book sounds very quirky. I’m trying hard to recommend it to you. Really. I am.

Why You Must Read This Book:

  1. The characters are all quirky and EVERYONE needs a bit of quirkiness
  2. The romance is small, cute and awkward…
  3. The plot is exciting and fun
  4. BOOKS! There are books in this book. This book revolves around books that revolve around books. (Not really, but it’s kind of fun saying that. Well, the first two parts are true.) And there is the issue with technology and books.


Characters are sometimes pinpointed and sculpted perfectly to the point that they are unrealistic. These perfect characters are just…boring. They aren’t unique or special. The characters in this book are so unique and comical.


“I’d sit at my kitchen table and start scanning help-wanted ads on my laptop, but then a browser tab would blink and I’d get distracted and follow a link to a long magazine article about genetically modified wine grapes.”

Yeah genetically modified wine grapes. I challenge you to name one other character from another book that mentions this. Clay’s thoughts and his interactions with others are really awkward in a way. He is really socially awkward now that I think about it. Mr. Penumbra interviewing Clay for the job is a great example of this, and it is by far one of my favourite interactions between them.

“…‘have you ever worked at a bookstore before?’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘When I was in school I waited tables at a seafood restaurant, and the owner sold his own cookbook.’”

I don’t even know how Clay thinks that what he said was experience but it sure got a laugh out of me.


Mr. P is another outstanding character. A frail old man in love with books.

“A figure emerged-a man, tall and skinny like one of the ladders, draped in a light gray button-down and a blue cardigan. He tottered as he walked, running a long hand along the shelves for support.”

Penumbra is secluded and doesn’t use technology much, but he believes in it unlike many of the other characters. He’s also like a fatherly figure.

“Lean, my boy! Lean [on the ladder]!”

He calls Clay, my boy. Penumbra really puts Clay into his heart after they meet and sometimes I feel like he’s like a father to Clay or more of a really close friend. Their relationship makes me feel warm and fuzzy.



I don’t really consider this a spoiler, but Kat Potente; the Googler, is the love interest of Clay Jannons. They are quirky as individuals so together they are the ultimate quirky couple. Normal romantic gestures just don’t work for these too I guess. It’s such a formal and strange romance if you really ponder about it.

The bold words are Clay.


“Everyone uses it. Google, Facebook, the NAS. It’s a software-it breaks a big job into lots of tiny pieces and spreads them out to lots of different computers at the same time”

Hadoop! I love the sound of it. Kat Potente, you and I will have a son, and we will name him Hadoop, and he will be a great warrior, a king!

As for the amount of romance, there are only implied hints of what happens between them. Honestly, I don’t even think Robin Sloan described them kissing once.  It’s really lovely and I enjoyed how the romance didn’t take over the plot or the message of the book. There’s just a whole lot of this:

 “She is Queen Kat Potente with her instant empire and I am her loyal consort.”

The story focuses on the main points of the books and the secrets of Penumbra. I can’t stress enough that the reader shouldn’t be focused on the romance. Honestly, Kat isn’t even really focused on the relationship.

“I tickle Kat and make her click the wrong box; she shoves me with her elbow and keeps working.”


That’s Kat for you. Work first, no fun, no cheesiness either.


The plot is very fast paced to me. Many events happen for this mystery to be solved. One minute we’re in the heart of the store in San Francisco, then we are in Google, then we visit Penumbra’s strange customers, and then Clay makes a discovery and then we’re in New York. I felt like the plot flashed before my eyes in a split second. Although it was exciting, I wish the plot was paced better for the audience to take it in and think. The events were sometimes too fast for me to process.

Books vs. Technology the Ultimate Showdown:

This book mentions a lot about books, since there’s this strange book club and the story takes place in a book store. A book about books is twice the normal enjoyment.

Mainly, this book focuses on the idea of how technology is taking over our society, but literature and OK is fighting back. Should we let books go? Or should we embrace them? The answer was a balance. What Sloan did was genius. I think each character was on a team.

Team Books *and the crowd goes wild!*

All the book club people



(Ashley, Clay’s roommate)

(Mat, Clay’s friend and roommate who is dating Ashley)



Google People

Neel (Clay’s friend who owns a company that focuses on programming)

Neel’s assistant



From what I did, I thought that each character on the team really embraced either books or technology and they represented the books or technology in the fight that takes place in this book.

Observation 1:

Clay and Penumbra are on both teams. They represent embracing both and being able to create an integrated society. They help bring together the two sides and make a fantastic story.

 Observation 2:

The members of the teams eventually end up becoming friends (mostly) and working together. While working together to uncover secrets, they realize technology can do many jobs books can’t but books hold a lot of information sometimes even technology can’t replace. The members working together show how there should be integration between books and technology in our society so everything can be improved. The experience where the reader realizes there are pros and cons to both sides shows that if one was discarded, we would lose a lot.

You’d think this author would side with books, but he is very fair.

Result: Books and technology tie in importance.


This book was fun and very comfy to read because of all the secrets and literature. If you want an adventure and you love books then this is for you. There is too much to uncover and if you discover something interesting I didn’t mention please leave a comment. I really want to hear what you got from the experience. Hope you enjoy!

4.5 out of 5 cups of tea


The perfect tea to go with this book (you can get anything similar or this exact product at Teavana):


Gyokuro Genmaicha Green Tea is simple but with a unique taste you must try!

2 thoughts on “Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore Review

  1. I stumbled upon this book last summer, coincidentally after reading another review of it on WordPress. I love it! It’s a bit farfetched at times-I recommended it to my mum and she just said “Nah, I started it and it’s weird”-but I really enjoyed it. I love your rating system too-I’ve been thinking about doing something like that, would you mind of I did? 🙂 nice job!


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