Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

This is my first novel, and it grew from a story posted on this very web­site into a New York Times Best Seller pub­lished in more than twenty countries.

It’s a tale of books and technology, cryp­tog­ra­phy and conspiracy, friend­ship and love. It begins in a mys­te­ri­ous San Fran­cisco bookstore, but quickly reaches out into the wider world and the shad­owed past. I talked about the ideas behind the book on NPR’s Morn­ing Edition and had a real-life bib­lio­phile adven­ture with the New York Times.

In Blip Magazine, George Saun­ders called Penumbra

a real tour-de-force, a beau­ti­ful fable that is given legs by the author’s bravado use of the real (Google is in there, for instance, the actual campus) to sell us on a shadow world of the unreal and the speculative. Robin Sloan comes across as so bighearted, so in love with the world — the ancient world, the con­tem­po­rary world — so in love with love, in love with friend­ship, in love with the idea that our tech­ni­cal abil­i­ties can serve as con­duits for beauty, that the reader is swept along by his enthusiasm. It’s a lot of fun — but it’s also a pow­er­ful read­ing expe­ri­ence with a wonderful undeniability.

Ajax Penumbra 1969

Bundled with the lat­est MCD edi­tion of Penumbra, you’ll find a short prequel. The story is set in San Fran­cisco, August 1969. A young man named Ajax Penum­bra arrives on the scene, look­ing not for free love but rather for a book: a very old vol­ume that might pos­sess strange powers. His search leads him to a tiny bookstore, taller than it is wide … 

November 2022, Berkeley