Friday, January 17, 2014

Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore

If you love books and the idea that there are hidden ancient books out there that carry secrets that could change the world, this is the book for you.  A little tech savvy doesn't hurt either.  Click on the photo if you want to see more information.

Synopsis from Barnes and Noble:
A Winner of the Alex Award, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction, named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle
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 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. Rendered with irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.
I loved two things about this book.  The characters and the idea behind the plot.  
The characters were all interesting and I particularly enjoyed the fact that on one side, we had Clay, Mat, Neel, and Kat, who were all tech nerds, each brilliant in their own fashion.  And then we had Mr. Penumbra and the "club" members, who used no technology but who were desperately searching for an answer to a problem that technology could make simple.  The two groups come together through the relationship that Clay has with Mr. Penumbra, who desperately wants to use the technology available to Clay to solve the ancient riddle.  
I also loved the plot.  Probably because I love books and I love puzzles.  What fun it would be to have an ancient book suddenly put into your hands and to have to crack a code to find a secret that could change what we know about life and mortality!  The bookstore itself in the story was enchanting.  A reader's dream come true, towering shelves with tall ladders that will take you to any book you like.  Sitting there with hours and hours to peruse them. That's exactly what the main character did once he summoned enough bravery to delve into one of the forbidden books.  Clay realized that this was not your normal bookstore and started investigating further. I got more and more excited as Clay found the clues that led him closer to solving the puzzle.  I was truly hoping for a big revelation in the end.
I had few issues with the book as well...
The pacing was one problem. I found that, although there were spots in the story that went quickly, most of it was very slowly paced.  Not to say that I wasn't interested.  I actually thought it was fascinating at times.  It just wasn't a page turner.   It was just easy to put down and start up again at another time. At times it was a little bit too techy for me as well, and I consider myself to be fairly adequate with most forms of technology.  
The second problem was the ending.  No spoilers but I just found that it fell a bit flat compared to my expectations.  I wanted more.  It seemed as though the characters did so much work and I just wanted the end to be everything they had hoped for and it wasn't, at least not in my opinion. 

The book won several awards so I'm sure it would appeal to a lot of people.  Everyone looks for something different in a story, and I did enjoy it for the most part.  It just won't be on my top ten list for the year.  I would probably give it two and half stars out of five but don't let that stop you if it is on your TBR list.  You may have a different opinion!  

1 comment:

  1. Ooo this book is on my to-read list, and I'm probably going to read it this year. I'm sorry that you found the ending a little flat. The plot just looks so good, but if you said that you could just put in down anytime, then I'm probably going to have a hard time being engaged with it.

    Nice review!