Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
By Robin Sloan
Rating: * * * * *
National Treasure meets Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Clay Jannon finds himself a clerk in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Despite his misgivings – he’s a web-design guy working in an ancient store which lends obscure books to weird people – he sticks with it. He decides to figure out the secrets of the store, the books, the borrowers, and maybe even Mr. Penumbra. The puzzle of the store is solved, but the adventure is just beginning!
This novel is at once an Epic Adventure and a whirlwind, quicksilver romp. It’s little-boys-turned-gizmo-geeks playing superhero and pausing periodically to ask themselves urgent, banal questions with utter sincerity. (Consider Clay’s stupefaction to learn that Mr. Penumbra has a first name! And it’s…!). It’s a Quest complete with dungeons and dragons (OK, not actual dragons), wizards, code words, rituals, and True Meaning. It’s downright hilarious.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore may be read quickly, but will not quickly be forgotten. As with any great adventure, the questions asked and the truths learned throughout the quest will remain in the reader’s mind. As will Mr. Penumbra’s first name.