Shortlisted, L.A. Times Book Prize, Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, United States, 2012
A charming and hilarious adventure that has it all: secret societies, unbreakable codes, underground lairs, cutting-edge technology, the googleplex…and lots of books!
Clay Jannon, twenty-six and unemployed, reads books about vampire policemen and teenage wizards. Familiar, predictable books. Books that fit neatly into a section at the bookstore.
But he is about to encounter a new species of book entirely: secret, strange, and frantically sought-after.
These books will introduce him to the strangest, smartest girl he’s ever met. They will lead him across the country, through the shadowed spaces where old words hide. They will set him on a quest to unlock a secret held tight since the time of Gutenberg—a secret that touches us all.
But before that, these books will get him a job.
Welcome to Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.
This is an extract from Robin’s ‘The Story of My Book’ at readings.com.au:
I remember the moment very clearly. On November 15, 2008, my friend Rachel Leow posted a tweet that said simply: “just misread ‘24hr bookdrop’ as ‘24hr bookshop’. the disappointment is beyond words.”
I read this walking down a shady street, and it made me smile. It made me stop and think, too: What would a 24-hour bookstore look like, anyway? I imagined a seedy stretch of street, wide front windows, a few of those crazy rolling ladders…
Read more here.
‘Wonderful … flew through it in one sitting … The reader gets that deeply satisfying feeling of entering a wholly created world, and looking on in wonder as that world gets created by the author’s fearlessness and disregard for convention … It’s a lot of fun, a real tour de force.’George Saunders, Blip Magazine
‘I love this book … It’s a good-hearted, optimistic book about friendship and being alive and the lure of the mysterious. It’s a book that shows you Google the way Google sees itself, and bookshops the way bookshops ought to be. It’s a tonal roadmap to a positive relationship between the old world and the new. It’s a book that gets it. Plus, you know: book cults, vertical bookshops, hot geeks, theft, and the pursuit of immortality. This book is in my emotional heartland.’Nick Harkaway
‘Like all questing heroes, Clay takes on more than he bargained for and learns more than he expected, not least about himself. His story is an old-fashioned tale likably reconceived for the digital age, with the happy message that ingenuity and friendship translate across centuries and data platforms.’Publishers Weekly
‘Humorous from the outset, Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore is a rollicking, quirky and occasionally suspenseful novel, which provides the ongoing digital publishing discussion with a fresh voice and outlook.’artshub.com.au
‘…this is a really original category defying story: part fantasy, part geek quest. Old world knowledge meets new world technology. Bookstores and Google co-exist in peace and harmony. Friendship is celebrated, conflict resolved. What’s not to love? A pitch perfect blend of leather-bound mystery and online revelation that deserves more than cult status.’Caroline Baum, Booktopia Buzz
‘Robin Sloan’s delightful first novel articulates, in fun style, the collision of paper books and e-books. The protagonist is a tech nerd, but he’s also a book nerd, so both those who crave shiny new technologies and those who relish the scent of paper will find room in these pages.’Washington Post
‘The ties that bind the story are friendship and vitality for life. This is a clever and whimsical tale with a big heart.’Economist
‘Fuses the romance of musty tomes with the brave, new digital world and does so brilliantly.’Herald on Sunday, Auckland
‘Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is one of those instant geek classics that gets right into the romance and magic of high-tech…There is nothing in this book that I didn’t love.’Cory Doctorow