Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: June’s Litwit Meetup

imagesI was so excited to read Sloan’s debut novel. I mean, the freakin’ cover glows in the dark. How awesome is that? Gimmicks like that totally sucker me in. I was even more excited to read it along with my bookclub. A good, lighter read for the beginning of summer.

The story combines a quirky bookstore with all the nerdy tech-savvy of Google. Our fearless leader, Clay, has found himself out of a job due to that pesky recession. No one is desiring his programming and web design skills so he finds a job at an eccentric bookshop. Mr. Penumbra’s store is like no other – built extremely tall and awkwardly narrow, only the front shelves actually house books for sale. The multitude of the collection is ‘borrowed’ by odd characters who often come in during the dead of night. What are they up to? Clay is determined to find out.

Did the ladies enjoy? Mostly yes. We agreed the novel is a strong debut with some room for growth. The story starts off interestingly enough – Clay is an extremely likable narrator. Victoria loved how welcoming and friendly Clay’s narration felt. The side characters were great, if at times a little underdeveloped. We all loved what we knew about them and would have loved to know more.

No one felt that the modern technology combined with the old world bookiness detracted from the story at all. We actually loved how Sloan was able to incorporate both worlds and show how they needed each other to survive. What we weren’t too impressed with was the mystery. In theory, the idea is wonderful, but in execution it faltered. The climax wasn’t particularly surprising or intriguing. In fact, the mystery kind of felt like it went no where. But the journey mostly made up for that pitfall.

As a group, I think we would describe Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore as a good read but not a great read. Everyone enthusiastically agreed that we’d read Sloan’s next novel. Hopefully, his next work will better stand on its on as Penumbra felt very derivative at times (many members compared to The Da Vinci Code) and surprisingly fresh at others. A fun beach read we wished had a bit more development and a more shocking conclusion!

Next up for the Litwits: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles!

BONUS!!! Here’s a link provided by Macmillan Audio of a sample of the audiobook: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore Audiobook clip!!