Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been reading a lot of very picturesque fiction. Quaint people in quaint places. Nostalgia. Beautiful stories, artfully told, deep and lovely messages woven into the fabric of every page. Lots of epistolary forms, letters shooting this way and that, drawing me deeper. Journeys through rugged internal landscapes.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is not one of them. It was a jarring shift from Queenie Hennessey to here.

But it was good. Penumbra reads more like a YA novel to me, but that may be more a product of my age than anything. Our hero is a twenty-something book lover in a techie future (present? not-too-distant future if it is.), caught up in the middle of a centuries-old mystery waiting to be solved. Secret societies, every kind of quirk, and marvelous architecture abound, but we are very firmly rooted in a technological time and an adolescent mind.

So, YA.

Or I’m just old.

Regardless, it did grab me after a while. It’s a quick read, Robin Sloan has a fresh voice, once you get used to the youth of it, and the story rumbles along without any unnecessary clutter getting in the way. I give him a huge thumbs up for being able (and willing) to portray a relationship without throwing sex in like a token bell-ringer. You just don’t need certain details, and Sloan’s omissions are intent and well-done.

I only gave it 4 stars. I’m not sure if that’s a fair assessment, coming off a run such that I’ve had recently. If I had the choice, I’d probably go with 4.5. But alas, I have to choose, so I go with 4. Penumbra is indeed a good read, even if it is not deeply emotional, challenging, and intense. It was a nice change of pace, a reminder that not everything has to be emotional, challenging, and intense.

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