Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, I think I know why I like this so much already, despite having read only a few chapters. It is, basically, an upper-elementary adventure mystery for grown-ups, in the same realm as The Mysterious Benedict Society and, maybe, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The Penderwicks keeps coming to mind, too, but I can’t quite justify that comparison. In any case, the setting is fun and the characters are quirky and I want to know them better.

And, the character names! Deckle! Potente! Penumbra! This is that wonderful thing that great children’s authors, do, too. Every time I read those names, I felt a smile coming.

One tricky spot: I like to read late into the night. This book requires extra effort, as the cover glows in the dark. I have to get up out of bed and put it into another room before going to sleep.

I am enjoying the general feel of Sloan’s writing. Here are some bits that made me smile:

“This is the kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard.” p. 12

“There is nothing worse than an incurious clerk.” p. 37

“Have they been seduced by some other book club on the other side of town? Have they all bought Kindles?” p. 40

(After beginning work on his 3D modeling of the bookstore) “If this sounds impressive to you, you’re over thirty.” p. 42

“Her home is the burrow of a bibliophile Hobbit.” p.101
Bibliophile Hobbit! How I would like to be one. Second breakfasts and sunny reading chairs for everyone!

“A messiah, a first disciple, and a rapture. Check, check, and double-check. Penumbra is, right now, teetering right on the boundary between charmingly weird old guy and disturbingly weird old guy.” p. 136

“Neel takes a sharp breath and I know exactly what it means. It means: I have waited my whole life to walk through a secret passage built into a bookshelf.” p. 143 (Yes!)

And on the same page: “This is no library. This is the Batcave.”

“We’re a little Rebel Alliance, and Penumbra is our Obi-Wan. We all know who Corvina is.” p. 155

“We need James Bond with a library science degree.” p.157

I’m starting to feel embarrassed by how many of these lines I’ve marked for remembering. They just delight me!

“Flip, flash, snap. This is a terrible video game.” p. 180

“When I arrived, Oliver was carrying an armload of heavy tomes toward the Anthropology shelves. Maybe his big build isn’t a linebacker’s after all; maybe it’s a librarian’s.” p. 243

“You know, I’m really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all wth their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.” p. 253

“There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care.” p. 288

Another thing: When reading, sometimes you can tell that the author is trying to impress the audience. Sometimes the author is sneering at the audience. This book feels like Sloan likes his readers. It’s smart and fun and tech-y without being “I’m hipper than you.”

You know, this could almost make the ‘oh best beloved’ shelf. I don’t think a book written for grown-ups has ever come close. It falls just shy because it is so of this moment. In a few years, a story focused so strongly on google and networks, etc., may end up feeling quaint.

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