Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

One particular edition of this book has a very cool cover: It glows in the dark.

Penumbra is the so-called owner of a 24-hour bookstore in San Francisco. Clay is an ex-IT-media advertising guy who has just lost his job, and ended up working the midnight shift at Penumbra’s bookstore. The bookstore is not any ordinary bookstore – for one, it opens 24 hours a day. Its physical structure is tall and skinny, and it doesn’t carry much of those titles which you get at any other bookstores. The most peculiar thing is, its customers are few, and there is this particular group of “returning customers” who come at odd hours. Instead of buying the books, they return the one which they are done with and get another one which they specifically request for.

So what is the story behind this bookstore? Who are these people? What are they reading and what are they looking for in those books? Who is Penumbra?

These are the questions which kept me captivated throughout. Partly detective thriller, partly technology book, partly soul-searching journey – Robin Sloan combined the two worlds (old printed books and new Internet technology) which seem to be at odds with each other into this book and showed us that how amazing it could be when people from these two worlds work alongside each other. However, the ending does seem to be slightly anti-climax to me. I was expecting some earth-shattering revelation about Penumbra, but he remains as mysterious as ever. And I just found out why last weekend.


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