I just finished reading Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I hated it, and I’m giving it one star because there’s no such thing as zero stars on here. If you’ve read it, you probably loved it, since the majority of the reviews online are glowing and gushing. You’re probably reading this review and calling me all sorts of names and wondering how I can even call myself a reader. And truthfully, it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I did hate this book so much.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is told from the point of view of Clay Jannon, a down-and-out web designer who takes a job at—you guessed it—Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore in San Francisco. Within a few short days, Clay realizes this isn’t an ordinary bookstore; in fact, there’s some sort of secret society that’s connected with the shop. Clay’s curiosity winds up getting his boss into some hot water, so Clay enlists his friends to help him solve the mystery of the secret society in order to help his boss, and maybe even discover the key to immortality in the process.
I didn’t feel even a tiny bit connected to any of the book’s characters. In fact, in the epilogue, the reader gets a quasi-detailed account on what happens to each of the characters. More than once, I found myself saying, “Who the heck is So-and-So?” The conversations between the characters did nothing to further the plot, and the descriptions of all of the different technologies that pop up in the book left me bored and confused. Overall, I just felt like there was way too much going on and in all different directions, but the author never took the time to really discuss things in full detail. Then again, I just finished reading Joyce Carol Oates’ Blonde, which gave hundreds upon hundreds of pages of details, so maybe I just need to try this book again.
…But not anytime soon.