sourdough

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

I haven't read Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (from which you've likely heard of Sloan) yet, but I can guarantee you, I will now!

When Macmillan offered Sourdough for early review, the synopsis was too strange and intriguing to pass up... and the novel certainly fulfills those expectations. 

A young woman, newly transplanted from Michigan to a massive tech company in San Francisco doesn't have the time (or possibly the nerve) to make new friends, and subsists on Slurry, the fictional version of Soylent. When she receives a delivery menu for a strange and unknown group, she becomes obsessed with their incredible bread and soup, eating it every night. When the two immigrant brothers, who have been making the food illegally in their apartment, have to leave the country, they leave their sourdough starter with her. 

"Vietnamese pho's healing powers, physical and psychic, make traditional chicken noodle soup seem like dishwater... then this spicy soup, in turn, dishwatered pho. It was an elixir. The sandwich was spicier still, thin-sliced vegetables slathered with a fluorescent red sauce, the burn buffered by thick slabs of bread artfully toasted."

The novel is a lovely blend of humor, food, technology, and magical realism. One can consider it magical realism, anyway, pretty much right up until the last couple of chapters. Then, it all bleeds a little bit. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed by the ending but certainly not enough to regret the rest of the reading, and I'm not really sure of how else he might have ended it, anyway. 

"Here's the thing I believe about people my age: we are the children of Hogwarts, and more than anything, we just want to be sorted."

"Two men stopped to assess the Vitruvian. It was a pair of the cold-eyed wraiths I worked with at General Dexterity. I knew them by their sneakers.

'Oh, sweet,' hooted one. 'Didn't expect to see a V3 here.'

'Look at that beast,' said the other. 

'It's so clunky, dude! The old motors were super slow.'

'Actually,' I said - oh, it felt good - 'the Vitruvian 3's motors are exactly the same as the V4's. They're all PKD 2891s. It's just that the V4's chassis is lighter.'

The wraiths noticed me for the first time. 'Wait,' said the first. 'I know you, right? You're... one of our marketing people?'

My face burned hot, but through force of will, I cooled my gaze to absolute zero kelvin. 'Actually.' It felt very good. 'I work on Control.'

The wraiths pulled knives from their waistbands and committed ritual suicide.

Actually, they backed slowly away, and I never saw them again."