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Sourdough: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 272 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Robin Sloan’s 2017 book, “Sourdough”, is a wonderful blend of fantasy, science fiction and sly satire. It is hard to put down after sampling the first taste.
Set in the San Francisco Bay area, the story follows the unexpected journey of a young computer programmer, Lois Clary, fresh from Michigan, into a dark underworld of mysterious characters, maybe only Lewis Carroll could have imagined.
Lois is working hard writing code for programming industrial arms for General Dexterity (a slap at General Dynamics, anybody). She is living a spartan life rendering “proprioception” (Sloan’s word selection), or how we see our body working in space, into machine algorithms. For a more naturalistic take on this world you might try Ellen Ullman’s 2003 mystery, “The Bug.”
To keep herself going, Lois buys some “spicy soup” with sourdough bread from a Clement Street storefront kitchen run by two brothers, Beoreg and Chaiman, from a mysterious land of the Mazg. Soon she is entrusted with their sourdough starter and producing sample loafs that quickly become popular.
The starter and its yeasty offspring have unusual traits such as expressions peering out from the crusty surfaces. Or is it “pareidolia” – another Sloan selection – namely, our desire to see faces in anything?
Before long, like Hans Christian Anderson’s girl who trod on the loaf of bread, Lois is down the rabbit hole into the subterranean world of the Marrow Fair on Alameda Island. Its purpose is finding alternative approaches for creating anything food through modern technology and with unexpected amusing results.
Not to mention bone-shaped keys for opening doors that, when touched, say through speakers: “Still Too Skinny.” And a “yellow tape road” to follow.
The battle lines between individual and industrial approaches to creative solutions for producing palatable food satisfying consumer demand are eventually revealed with hilarious send-ups of personas epitomizing each side. By the end, there are twists reminiscent of the original “Ghostbusters” film.
And there are lots of quirky, entertaining denizens in this story’s world: the Lois Club, a gathering of women associated only by the first name, who are a sounding board chorus for the heroine; Faustofen, the oven in which Lois’ sourdough is baked; Charlotte Clingstone, owner/operator of Café Candide and an amalgam of many female chefs ever to appear on the Food TV Network.
The author has created an original take on a modern obsession and its philosophical offshoots serving with a trim, colorful, droll style that is easy to consume.
“Sourdough” is a repast you simply should not and, once sampled, cannot pass up.
If of the above makes any kind of sense to you, or you just enjoy a good uplifting and non-dark read, give this one a try.
I heartily recommend this book to those with a willing imagination.
Clearly I am in the minority given all of the positive reviews of this book but this one was not for me.