This is a novel about 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.
George Saunders says: [This book] is 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.
Penumbra is published in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It was selected for the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program and the Indie Next List. The Economist called it “a clever and whimsical tale with a big heart.” NPR says it’s full of “large-hearted magic”—how about that!
Get the book.
Penumbra is also available from Harper Collins in Canada, from Text Publishing in Australia, and (soon) from publishers in Italy, Germany, Brazil, South Korea, Finland, Greece, Israel, China, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, and Turkey. I’ll add links as they become available.
John Hodgman says: In a time when actual books are filling up tag-sale dollar boxes, alone with VHS tapes and old beepers, [this book] reminds us that there is an intimate, adventurous joy in the palpable, papery things called novels, and in the warm little secret societies we used to call ‘bookstores.’ Robin Sloan’s novel is delightfully funny, provocative, deft, and even thrilling. And for reasons more than just nostalgia, I could not stop turning these actual pages.
This book was edited by Sean McDonald at FSG. Lenni Wolff managed the copy-editing. Abby Kagan designed the interior of the FSG edition, and Rodrigo Corral created the glow-in-the-dark jacket. Brian Gittis managed U.S. publicity. Sarah Burnes at the Gernert Company made Penumbra happen. Finally, Rebecca Gardner and Will Roberts, also at Gernert, took the book to the world.
Nick Harkaway says: [It’s] a good-hearted, enjoyable book about the meeting of modern technology and medieval mystery, a tonal road map to the positive relationship between the old world and the new. It’s a book that gets it. Plus, you know: cryptographic cults, vertical bookshops, hot geeks, theft, and the pursuit of immortality. I loved it.
I wrote this book because it’s the one I wanted to read, and I tried to pack it full of the things I love: books and bookstores; design and typography; Silicon Valley and San Francisco; fantasy and science fiction; quests and projects. If you love those things too, I hope and believe you will enjoy a visit to the tall skinny bookstore next to the strip club.