– I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. –
Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.
Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.
When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?
I chose this book because…
Robin Sloan! I first read his Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore because it’s a favourite of quite a few of my friends so I wanted to check it out myself, and I ended up loving it, as a book lover and as someone interested in tech. I was unprepared for the tech aspect of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore but it was such a pleasant surprise. When I found out that Sloan was getting another book out, I was immediately intrigued just by the name of the author alone, but also because I am a lover of food (especially bread omg bread is life) and I’m still someone interested in tech. I’m excited to see what Sloan does for the world of food like he did for the world of books.
Upon reading it…
Even though I’d probably categorise this book as sci-fi, what with the food and technology, there was definitely also something a little fantastical about this story. When I started reading this book, I was thinking, What’s a starter? Sounds fake. But then again, I would have thought that proofing bread was fake if not for watching The Great British Bake Off. For those of you as clueless about bread as me, sourdough starter is in fact a real thing. But the Mazg sourdough starter has its own special qualities.
I enjoyed immersing myself in this wonderland of sourdough starters, intrigued by the food chemistry that was seemingly magic (for a n00b like me), as well as by the mysterious Mazg. Who were they and how did they come upon this sourdough starter and how does the starter do what it does and how and why is it superior to sourdough starters from other cultures? Lois, our protagonist, came upon the Mazg sourdough very suddenly and had to discover a lot for herself over time, so it was fun following along with her discovery process.
And unrelated but Slurry reminds me of Soylent and it’s funny because I have techy friends who are hooked on that stuff. Food science is real guys! Not magic! Just science!
Readers who enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore will enjoy Sourdough! There are similarities, such as the tone of writing (which is a huuuge part of my love for Sloan), and the fact that the story is about a seemingly ordinary part of life (in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore that’d be books, and in Sourdough that’d be bread) but has a touch of tech and a touch of magic and mystery—a secret world within the ordinary world. But this is a different mystery, so readers can look forward to a new adventure!
Here’s a thing I believe about people my age: we are the children of Hogwarts, and more than anything, we just want to be sorted.
We were on a quest to end work. And it would involve: a shit ton of work.
The internet: always proving that you’re not quite as special as you suspected.
These songs did not blubber. They calmly asserted that life was tragic, but at least there was wine in it.
We are both always trying to impress her AND not disappoint her, which can be a tricky combination.
“Culture,” he said. “It meant this–making cheese–before it meant that–art and opera.”