Review: Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan

There has always been a little obscure bookstore hidden amidst the hustle and bustle of San Francisco. Ajax Penumbra 1969 tells the story of recent college graduate Ajax Penumbra, who is working to acquire rare and occult books, and how he discovered the shop that would one day become Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

In this short novella, Ajax Penumbra is sent to California to try and find a mysterious book. Local, historic tidbits, engaging characters and a literary mystery add flavour to the story and keep readers turning the pages. For bibliophiles, the story includes many nods to the San Francisco literary scene, name-dropping bookshops like City Lights and its associated beatnik authors.

But the little bookstore Ajax stumbles in one night quite by chance is different from any he has seen. A popular hangout with local hippies at all hours of the day or night, it appears to be a normal, small, contemporary bookshop. But owner Mo and his clerk Corvina seem to know a lot more about rare books than they let on, and bit by bit, Penumbra gets drawn into the history of the store, the members-only books, and the secrets held on the high book stacks in the back of the shop.

The story finds the balance between literature and the emerging super-computers of the 1960s. Penumbra’s former college roommate is a big player in the world of computers and their friendship lets both of them see that rare, occult tomes and modern technology are not at odds at all.

Ajax Penumbra 1969 gives valuable insight into the character of Penumbra, especially if you are already familiar with Robin Sloan’s novel. Even as a standalone it is an intriguing read, albeit seemingly too short if you ignore the continuation in Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.

Penumbra, just like the little hidden-away bookstore, will keep you coming back for more to get to the bottom of the mysteries held within the depths and heights of the store’s book stacks.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Title: Ajax Penumbra 1969
Author: Robin Sloan
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Release Date: June 5, 2014
Pages: 99
ISBN:  978-1782395171

If We Were Having Coffee… On New Year’s 2017

Hello my lovely booklovers,


Welcome to the Weekend Coffee Share, a blog hop by the lovely Diana over at Part Time Monster. Every weekend we get together for virtual coffees and a little casual chat. How has this past week been for you?

If we were having coffee today, I’d invite you to have a nice hot cuppa with me, testing out my new Senseo which my family gave me for Christmas. They also got me about 9 different types of coffee, so we’d have lots to choose from, including hot cocoa. I can also make you tea (again, loads of flavours). It’s a crisp, clear day here in Germany, blue skies but about -3°C – if you’re up for it, I’d suggest wrapping up warm, grabbing our coffees and spending some time in the garden to enjoy the fresh air and clear our heads for the year ahead.

If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you that I have a lot planned for 2017, chief amongst those plans is to finally establish a proper posting schedule for reviews on this blog. Others include getting fit, writing more, changing jobs, possibly continuing my studies, and doing more for my mental health by making time to be creative.

And I am done apologising for being me. So from now on, I will be completely unapologetic and unashamed of my geekiness. I’m proud to be a geek girl, a reader, a writer, a lover of magical realism, fantasy, sci-fi, who gets obsessed with TV shows and characters and actors and likes to talk about all the things that interest me. 

If we were having coffee today, I’d tell you that I am challenging myself to read 70 books this year. I’m not going to go by themes this time, though. I currently own 733 books and I still have to read a few of them. And I actually already started. I decided to stay up after getting home from the New Year’s Eve celebrations and I started and finished reading Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan, the prequel to Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Let’s see how many books I can get through this year.

If we were having coffee today, we’d talk about the return of Sherlock tonight. I can’t wait, it’s been 3 years since the last full season. As a major fan of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, and having a literary crush on John Watson (which only intensified when they cast one of my favourite actors Martin Freeman to play him) I am so excited to see what the Baker Street Boys will get up to next.

Thank you for starting your year by having coffee with me! Check out the other Weekend Coffee Sharers as well, though!

Same time, next week?