A Review: Mr. Prenumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules. 
I must point out, first and foremost, that this book cover is glow-in-the-dark. Seriously. I learned this when I took it into the room of our very dark cabin in the woods and realized there was a bright, almost fluorescent, light suddenly glowing from the tabletop. Very clever. Ok, so that isn't the most exciting part about the novel; although, I still think it's a neat little surprise for all the bookworms around the world. Perhaps it's a spoiler. Then again, I wouldn't want you to miss it. SO. Check it out :)

When Clay Jannon finds himself without a job when the economy takes a turn for the worst, he stumbles upon a position as overnight store clerk in a crowded and peculiar book shop in San Franciso. Mr. Prenumbra, the store's owner, asks him three questions:
  • What do you seek in these shelves? 
  • Tell me about a book you love?
  •  But can you climb a ladder?
Slowly he finds that the store's back shelves are filled with unfamiliar titles and strange visitors are more than everyday shoppers. A chance meeting with the brainy and beautiful Kat Potente, an employee of Google in data visualization, sparks a growing curiosity to uncover Mr. Prenumbra's secrets. Operating between new technology, and the ancient story of a pair that changed the world forever, Sloan takes readers on an exciting adventure in a world that the recent generations can relate to and bookworms will embrace.

First, let me say that I didn't know much about the premise going in. I generally prefer to learn as little as possible before beginning a book so I get to experience full shock value. With that in mind, I had a notion that it would be a title for bibliophiles, but had no idea that so much relevant jargon would be packed in. I work in the tech world, actually, perhaps not Google, but with a company that rivals it's size. While most of the conversations about google and plans for the future may have been somewhat exaggerated, I do believe that many of the stereotypes found in the text are something you'll encounter working in this field. I could visualize the characters and their movements in the space. I've heard arguments against the novel about how the use of platforms like Twitter and Facebook will date this novel, leaving it completely unrelatable in years to come. I don't know what the future holds for these two ventures, but I do think that Facebook will probably resonant in people's minds for years to come.  I found it refreshing to read a novel that did focus on present day, in a world I could relate to. Many bloggers rely on these social spaces to communicate and reach out so I felt much more connected to it. And the characters in the book did just that, with technology and with text.

So. While I did find the title enjoyable, I did encounter some issues. I found the narrator a little irritating. It seemed that he was less a grown man, and more a teenager. I enjoyed the eternal dialogue and the very real dissection of his place in a world where people are so incredibly talented and the competition stiff. I thought it was interesting that Sloan would highlight Clay's insecurities, mainly knowing that wasn't necessarily as smart as some of the individuals around him, namely Kat from Google, but continued to motivate and teach himself in order to move forward. These elements were redeeming. In the end, however, there's no real conflict in the story. And that bothered me. Everything seems to work out in just the way he needs it to and all is well. Furthermore, the conclusion was a little lackluster for all the build up. The last chapter was eloquent, but didn't save it in the end.

I think you should definitely pick it up if you enjoy books about technology, or books about books and the people who love them, or cute love stories that remind you of the Wonder Years, or if you're just looking for a book with a glow-in-the-dark cover.


  1. Sometimes it bothers me when books have mentions of current things (like a mention of Playstation in the third or fourth Harry Potter) - I'm not sure why, maybe because it feels "too" current. Though I do like recent books that talk about the recession - maybe it feels more personal? I don't know. Either way, I don't see why mentions of current technology should date a book out of existence. How many books from past centuries do we read despite their totally outdate technology? How many "classic" novels do our literature professors need to explain aspects of if we haven't already checked Wikipedia? Pretty much all of them. I don't think that decides what books will last as much as the question of whether the book says or does something that is lasting, which isn't to be found in the details.

    1. Depending on what the novel is about, I generally don't mind current jargon. I feel like I don't read too many novels that include this anyway so perhaps I was impressed because it was somewhat of a novelty for me. I totally had something about how books from the past are still read despite the fact that much of the content is no longer relevant, but ended up deleting it. Totally agree. I don't think this title will go down as lasting when it's all said and done. It was good but I've forgotten some of the characters name and a lot of the action. Entertaining, but not a classic.

  2. I do love books about books and I've heard mostly good things about this one. I'll most likely be reading it one of these days!

    1. Yes, very entertaining. I'm sure you could get through it in a sitting! Hope you enjoy. :)


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