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

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Mystery, Books-about-books
Literary Awards: ALA Alex Award (2013), The Kitschies Nominee for Golden Tentacle (Debut) (2013), Japanese Booksellers Award Nominee for Translated Fiction (2015)
ISBN: 978-0374214913
304 pages
Goodreads: click here 
Book Depository: click here

Having read a fair amount of dystopian novels prior, I was in search of a book that was somewhat lighthearted, yet not losing that oomph so many such novels do. I tore through Goodreads, and my local library catalogue, and amidst the few titles that fit my ideal, this book caught my attention. A book about books, set in a cramped, dodgy bookstore with a mystery to boot? Sounds like an adventure.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is set in a world where technology is commonplace and books and other obsolete materials are rendered to vertical shelves, e.g. in Mr. Penumbra’s bookshop. Well, except these books are beautifully encrypted and its secrets are privy only to the members of an ancient secret society, The Unbroken Spine, dating back to a sixteen century Venetian printer Aldus Manutius. The catch is that successfully decrypting one book will not do, as all the books in the ‘Waybacklist’ contribute to the code in some way or other. Our protagonist and his team of tech-friends tries to cheat their way through the system through the use of technology, which works in the beginning to unlock the Founder’s Code, but fails at unlocking the secret to immortality.

But wait, there’s more!