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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel

Scris de Robin Sloan

Povestit de Ari Fliakos


Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel

Scris de Robin Sloan

Povestit de Ari Fliakos

evaluări:
4/5 (376 evaluări)
Lungime:
7 hours
Lansat:
Oct 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781427227423
Format:
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Descriere

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore.

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead "checking out" impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra.

The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he's embarked on a complex analysis of the customers' behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what's going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that's rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.

A Macmillan Audio production.

Lansat:
Oct 2, 2012
ISBN:
9781427227423
Format:
Carte audio

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Despre autor

ROBIN SLOAN is a self-proclaimed media inventor and writer living in San Francisco. He grew up near Detroit and went to school at Michigan State, where he studied economics and co-founded a literary magazine. Since then, he’s worked at Poynter, Current TV and Twitter, figuring out the future of media. Visit his website at robinsloan.com.


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  • (4/5)
    Lots of fun. Lots of inside humor although it kinda betrays its origins as a freebee Internet e-book giveaway. Good on Google and cults and other West Coast silliness. Not quite the sum of its parts, but an amusing enough distraction.
  • (5/5)
    The mystery in the giant shelves.
  • (2/5)
    It is not at all what I expected. I didn't enjoy it, but I couldn't put it down. Something about it grabbed ahold of me and I HAD to know the solution to the puzzle. I can't recommend it, but I don't want to give it a terrible rating, either.
  • (5/5)
    A great story and a wonderful audiobook.
  • (3/5)
    Category:A book you chose for the cover (mmdchallenge)Quote: Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines -- it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.The cover of this book caught my eye with it's simple design and colors, the word, "bookstore", and...Bonus! It glows in the dark! I had high hopes for this one, but it was kind of a letdown. It has all the right ingredients for a great story, but I found the writing to be sub par, and the characters weren't engaging me. The plot was entertaining, and it did have a few humourous and witty moments. C- 2A- 3W- 3P- 5I- 6L- 4E- 4Avg= 3.9= ⭐⭐
  • (4/5)
    Fun easy read (except for the details about coding, skimmed!). Great airplane or beach book!Happy endings for everyone!
  • (5/5)
    1 Vote

    “Tell me,” Penumbra said, “about a book you love.”

    The answer unemployed marketer Clay Jannon gives to this simple question starts a journey of discovery, mystery, and adventure that leads from a dusty, unremarkable San Francisco bookstore to the whitewashed walls of Google to a hidden library beneath New York City.

    Clay is at first amused, then intrigued by the strict instructions given him by bookstore owner Mr. Penumbra, paramount of which is do not read any of the books located in the soaring stacks of the store. His curiosity piqued by the odd customers who show up at all hours of the night looking for a new book, and, compounded by the boredom of working the night shift in a 24-hour bookstore, Clay eventually turns to his computer to pass the time. His first inelegant attempt at charting the use of the books turns into an algorithm that predicts use, ultimately helping him solve a part of a larger mystery hidden in the encoded books.

    Throw in a romantic love interest in the form of a spunky, eccentric girl genius who works for Google, concern for the suddenly missing Mr. Penumbra, and a wealthy, eccentric best friend, and Clay finds himself winging his way to NYC, where he traces Penumbra to an underground library full of readers devoted to cracking a code devised by a 15th century printer, believed by the First Reader and his followers to be “the key to everything.” What Clay and his friends discover, however, is not immortality, but something much more precious.

    On the surface, this is a typical adventure story – the unlikely hero, the smart-than-everyone quirky girl, the eccentric best friend, the quest for knowledge. Underneath, however, there is so much more. In one regard, this is a cautionary tale addressing the current rush to “googlize” everything. What will happen to the way we gather and retain knowledge when everything is in Google? Will we forget how to think in favor of being told?

    And on an even deeper level, why do we read? Does the very act of reading set us each on a personal journey? Is our reading connected to something bigger? The First Reader tells his followers: “It is the text that matters, brothers and sisters. Remember this. Everything we need is already here in the text. As long as we have that, and as long as we have our minds, we don’t need anything else.”

    An interesting perspective in the print vs. digital debate of 2013. Does the container matter as long as we have the text? Can we separate the physical act of holding a book from the act of reading the text? Do we read print and digital text differently? There is some emerging research that suggests physiological differences in how we retain information read in digital format versus traditional print. How will those differences affect the way we learn and the way we record information?

    Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is, in itself, perhaps an allegory for the shift in how we obtain text. The internet has become our 24-hour bookstore; is there still a place for physical repositories of text?

    This is a multi-layered book that begs to be re-read, and I expect that I will find even more to think about the second time through. It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book that resonated quite like this one, and I will be thinking about it for a long time.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this book. I listened to the audiobook borrowed from Overdrive on a long trip a couple weeks ago and it kept me entranced for six hours straight. Not what I was expecting but still excellently done. I enjoyed the mystery feel combined with the general bookish love. Great read.
  • (4/5)
    Like The Da Vinci Code and other coded codex mysteries, this book’s charms lie in the search for clues. However, as each of the two stages of discovery conclude, each result doesn’t make sense for the customers of the bookstore, considering how the data is derived (I’m struggling not to give anything away.) Nevertheless, the search is fun, so although the effort fails logically, it succeeds as a mystery, hence the 3½ stars.
  • (2/5)
    This book started off exactly as promised, but shape shifted into something different and less desirable. There may be a select target audience for this book, in which I clearly do not belong.
  • (3/5)
    I have been in a major book slump for the past month. Had to read this one for a book club and it was just okay. The story was good, who doesn't love books about book shops, but it just didn't grab my attention. But hey the real kicker... the book glows in the dark!!! Loved that part of the book. 3.5 ⭐️
  • (2/5)
    You may like this book quite a bit--I wanted it to be something it wasn't, and that disappoints (I tagged it fantasy at first, and then thought science-fiction, and finally settled on suspense thriller).

    With the whimsical title I expected something a bit more off-beat and charming, but it gradually turned into a shallow techno-thriller with undeveloped unbelievable characters and not much of a pay-off at the end. It has some nicely-written moments (enough to bump it to 2.5, rounded down 'cause I can't bring myself to give it a 3--3s are okay, 2s are disappointing), but not enough of them. None of the characters came to life, the plot careered into an unexpected and unwanted direction, and like one of the other reviewers noted, it's awfully similar to Codex (which I didn't like any better).

    (Note: 5 stars = rare and amazing, 4 = quite good book, 3 = a decent read, 2 = disappointing, 1 = awful, just awful. There are a lot of 4s and 3s in the world!)
  • (4/5)
    There's a lot to love about this novel. Bookshop setting? Check. Likeable hero? Check. Love interest? Check. Wide range of interesting characters? Check. An intriguing mystery stretching back hundreds of years? Check. I should have absolutely loved Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore, but it left me slightly wanting. All of the obstacles encountered by our hero are easily overcome thanks to having friends with specific talents. An event that should have been a big deal in the love story was summed up in a paragraph with no emotional reaction. There's no real showdown with or explanation of the motives of the main 'villain'. The writing style is mostly good, but some of it is a bit detached, as if the events are happening to someone other than the hero (which is quite an achievement considering it's written in the first person).I also had problems with the birds-and-rainbows picture painted of Google, which definitely isn't as altruistic as is suggested in the novel.Still, I was intrigued enough to race through it to the end, and enjoyed the resolution of the central mystery. I just wish there was a bit more emotional fulfilment, I suppose.
  • (3/5)
    3.5 - I have to say I enjoyed this book. it wasn't what I expected, but that was a good thing!
  • (3/5)
    I sure wish this was just more story. It was really good, don't get me wrong, the writing was great, very fun and witty; I just wanted more of it, more of the unbound books, more of the underground library, and the novices and everyone else. His roommates were even interesting to me and I would have loved more of them. So I guess because it felt a little rushed, I felt a little robbed of story. This book just sort of lightly touches on adventure, just when things start to ramp up and get exciting, it's over and they're on to something else. I will check out more from this author, I really like her writing style and I liked this book, I really did, I just wish there were more of it. I heard there might be a sequel? I will check that out, perhaps it will have the "more" I'm craving!
  • (5/5)
    This book was a hard one to put down. From start to finish, I was completely enthralled in the adventure and mystery of one tiny little book store.
  • (4/5)
    The hardest review to write is the review of the good book that you disliked. It forces you to examine and reveal your own prejudices, explain why you believe that your own reaction to the book probably isn’t fair, and then try to put your feelings aside so your audience can make up their own minds. Here is my bias: I hate the smooth and the comfortable in the arts. When I was a teenager, I wrote in my notebook that great music should either bring you to your feet or bring you to your knees, and that opinion, generalized to all the arts, and only slightly tempered by age and experience, has stayed with me all my life. Of course there is a place for feel-good movies, pleasant music, and books that tell you that everything will be OK. But to reach me, they have to acknowledge the terror and the terrible, even if just in passing, or they have to express joy in that way that is only possible when the opposite of joy also exists. To ignore the good’s polar opposite seems like such an egregious denial that the work doesn’t deserve to be judged on its other merits.“Mr. Penumbra” is a charming story. A young, overeducated nobody gets a job in a strange bookstore in San Francisco that turns out to be an important center of a kind of centuries-old intellectual cult. With the help of other young, brilliant misfits and important allies in the cult, he penetrates to its inner mysteries and solves the puzzle to which the cult has been dedicated since its founding in Venice in the 16th century. Google has a lot to do with this.I like the way the plot hinges on the history of printing and typography, two of my particular interests. Much of the historical information in the book, especially concerning the Venetian printer and typographer Aldus Manutius, is true; only the works of his fictional assistant “Griffo Gerritszoon” are invented for the novel. The tech culture of the San Francisco area is also very convincingly and minutely rendered, particularly that of Google, whose campus and methods are described so vividly that they seem to have come from an insider. This combination of worlds is handled beautifully. The supporting characters are funny and well drawn, the story moves relatively briskly, and the puzzle is solved in a more or less convincing way.The trouble is that the challenges that the hero must overcome in this journey are merely intellectual and logistical, never emotional. There is no evil in this book, and there are no villains. The major human obstacle to success, the shadowy and intimidating head of the cult, is merely a misguided guy promoted beyond his expertise. Seemingly everyone else the narrator meets becomes a friend; they’re all gathered convivially for the reveal at the end. The epilogue assures us that everybody gets their just deserts, including success and happiness. Really, there is nothing wrong with the world or anything in it.To me, the most telling example of this foolish optimism comes when the hero’s new girlfriend stops hanging around or responding to his text messages in more than one word. She has, in fact, dumped him. Does this send him into a tailspin? Slow him on his quest? Give him a moment’s pause? He doesn’t even notice. But needless to say, this tiny unpleasantless is resolved, too.This book was empty calories when I would have preferred sustenance. But there’s a place for it, I’m sure, and it may be just your cup of sweetened hibiscus tea.
  • (5/5)
    I loved it. I didn't see anything coming. Perfect.
  • (5/5)
    This book is genre-breaking, but a must-read for bibliophiles and/or those people who like to mess around with secret codes with hidden meanings. Following is actually the last paragraph in the book, but it perfectly describes the whole book, the atmosphere, the mystery and the wonder."A man walking fast down a dark lonely street. Quick steps and hard breathing, all wonder and need. A bell above a door and the tinkle it makes. A clerk and a ladder and warm golden light, and then: the right book exactly, at exactly the right time."If that doesn't describe the wonder and amazement a reader feels when they walk into their favourite bookstore, I don't know what does. The book is all about that, and about a mysterious society that has been around for 500 years, and the code-breaking exercises all members must attempt if they want to belong to the society. In amongst all the musty books, and strange people we find Clay Jannon, an under-employed, computer whiz who just happens to love books and the people who love books. Clay has found employment at a 24 hour bookstore located in San Francisco, where he meets all sorts of strange people, and a whole bunch of mysterious books that are apparently all in code. His curiousity sets him on a strange journey to try to find out the secrets hidden in the "waybacklist" in the store where he works. The mix of musty old books, and cutting edge technology was enthralling. If you are in the mood to read something a little different, you might try this book. Its mesmerizing and different, but well worth the effort.
  • (5/5)
    This was short-listed some years back for our community one-read book, didn't make the cut, and I'm going to push for it again.
    Short enough for our busy times, includes fun & current stuff (Google Body? Has it happened yet?), secret societies, books, and the characters are all folks I'd love to go meet at a bar.

    I've got my dad reading it (he's 85) to see how the senior crowd might like it.

    Wonderful life lessons. Read this, share it, don't keep it secret!
  • (5/5)
    This was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I put it on my "fantasy" shelf although the fantasy element is not as strong as it might seem at first. Clay, the protagonist, is a young San Franciscan enjoying his steady climb as a website designer at an upstart bagel company. Then, 2008 happens and Clay finds himself looking for a job. He wanders into Mr.Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore and is hired on the spot. But Mr. Penumbra's is not exactly an ordinary used bookstore. Along with a quirky collection of high quality recent and classic used books, Mr. Penumbra's store features towering murky shelves of books in code which can only be accessed by members of a shadowy group of special customers. These customers come in late at night, show their ID card and check out these coded books for "research." Encouraged by his set designer roommate and his friend Cat, who works at Google,Clay begins to explore the code, looking for a way in to the mysteries of the coded volumes. What he finds may endanger the books themselves, the bookstore, and possibly the life's work of Mr. Penumbra and his "special" customers. The narrative weaves cutting edge tech strategies with a true reverence for books and engaging characters. The writing finds just the right combination of rounded but understandable characters, the impetuosity of youth and the gentle patience of age. No new lessons hear, just a great story well-told. Lovely.
  • (5/5)
    As with almost all the best things in life, it is right there, hidden in plain sight.
  • (5/5)
    What a terrific book. I enjoyed this so much.Clay Jannon, like so many others, finds himself out of work. One day he happens upon a bookstore with a sign advertising a job.He is hired instantly, and returns home somewhat befuddled, only to become more so over the next few weeks as he begins to realize there is more to the store than meets the eye.Grab a copy and learn it's secrets.
  • (4/5)
    This book is strange, at least, it seems strange to me. I read it right to the very end although there were moments when I wondered why I was doing so. I suspect that for a certain group of readers this is a wonderful book - but I am not one of them! To give a brief outline of the story: Set in San Fransisco in the recent past, a young man gets a job as the night clerk at a 24hour bookshop. The shop has few current books for sale; customers are rare, and those that come seem to be returning books and borrowing others. It is all a bit weird, as is the boss of the shop Mr Penumbra. The young man - our hero - tries to find out what is the raison d'etra of the shop. This leads him on a challenging journey through the internet, and also through many ancient books. There in lies the tale.As I am of a generation for whom computer gaming is a closed book, and additionally 'Dungeons & Dragons', and quest games leave me cold. Also, I am not a fan of fantasy writing in general. So I am not best placed to critique the book. Every reader will have to judge for themself.
  • (4/5)
    Fun read full of interesting characters. Listened to the audible version as I was told it was entertaining. Fairly fast paced with no boring lags. The bookstore itself is quirky but the real fun lies in the search for immortality.
  • (5/5)
    This is a fantastic book with a clever twist of old knowledge and new technologies! Definitely recommended. The reign of books is not even close to ending.
  • (1/5)
    I really wanted to love this book. The story combines so many of my favorite things: books, the history of publishing, technology, art, and mysterious cults. That's why it was so deeply disappointing to realize that it was a 288-page-long advertisement for Google, written in the voice of someone who apparently does not recognize women as people. There's a whole unnecessary subplot around "boob modeling" for 3-D games. Terrific. The convenient love interest who works at Google has one memorable characteristic- she wears a red shirt. (I get it, she's expendable. I like Star Trek, too.) So many bibliophile books take place in women-free universes, but I almost think I prefer that over this universe in which women are objects (the main character even refers to his female roommate as an android.)

    When I finish a great book, I feel inspired, ready to tackle my own writing projects. This book made me want to burn my manuscript, just in case I let my story down this badly. This was such a great concept that I wish the author would have waited until he had some maturity, depth of understanding, and deeper knowledge before he tackled it. However, the intense branding of this book means it will be unintelligible in ten years, so maybe he can try again then.

    I am thankful I checked this book out from the library.
  • (3/5)
    4.5

    really fun to read. a little but slow at times but definitely worth reading. the narrator is fantastic. I love the way the story is put together. feels so seamless and current.
  • (2/5)
    Okay, I know a lot of people love this book. And I'm one of the few that did not like it that much. And I agree with one of the reviewer here that the book is like an ad for Google and Amazon. Anyway, this is a book club book of the month and got to admit that the premise was pretty good and I did like it the first few chapters. But I force myself to finish it. I was ready to give up a few times that's why it took me forever to finish the book.

    Okay, I get it... Clay is super smart. But all these jargon and reference about fonts and programming, etc. Made me feel like I need to take a computer course or something. I guess I'm not smart enough for this book.
  • (5/5)
    With its title, readers anticipate a lively tale about many, many books. Books do form the focus, yet it is more the story of computer expertise and, oddly, GOOGLE. Interwoven are lovely scenes of the art of a miniaturist.Told in first person real life, we follow the increasingly complex adventures of newly hired bookstore clerk, Clay Jannon, as he navigates a lot of strangeness. The book overflows with memorable quotes, beginning with "What do you seek...."Romance is not keenly developed, notably from Kat's perspective.