From Robin Sloan, the New York Times bestselling author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, comes Sourdough, "a perfect parable for our times" (San Francisco Magazine): a delicious and funny novel about an overworked and under-socialized software engineer discovering a calling and a community as a baker.
Named One of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Southern Living
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 quickly close up shop. 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 to the General Dexterity cafeteria every day. Then the company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market—and a whole new world opens up.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Sourdough is an absolute delight of a story. Robin Sloan, author of the bestselling Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, both pokes fun at and celebrates San Francisco's tech industry and foodie culture. His heroine, Lois, is newly employed as a coder for a robotics company; her days are a blur of blinking screens, deadening hours, and Slurry, a nutritive gel that provides fuel in lieu of real food. But a heartfelt gift of sourdough starter changes her life—and catapults us into a wacky, wonderful, tasty adventure.
San Francisco's technology and food cultures collide and collude in Sloan's latest novel, following Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. Robotics programmer Lois Clary subsists on an unappetizing diet that includes frequent servings of Tetra Pak wrapped nutritional gel until she discovers the delicious, restorative comfort food sold at Clement Street Soup and Sourdough, a makeshift take-out enterprise operated by two immigrant brothers. Visa issues force the brothers to leave the country, but before they go they give Lois a crock of sourdough starter along with a CD of the music of their people, the mysterious Mazg. Lois's first attempt at baking bread produces an imperfect loaf with cracks in the crust that form the lines of a human face. Improving with practice, she earns a coveted place at Marrow Fair an innovative farmer's market offering Chernobyl honey, microbiotic lembas, and algorithmically optimized bagels but there's one condition. Marrow Fair's manager wants "robot bread." Lois must figure out how to program a robotic arm to perform kitchen tasks that require a delicate touch. Lois also faces another, more worrisome problem: the starter has become temperamental and demanding: underfed it looks depressed; overfed it spreads, grows tendrils, and forms faces with disturbing expressions. Through narrative and email correspondence, Sloan captures contemporary work environments, current reality, and future trends. It's a busy novel, crammed with some excellent bits (how robotics work, how farmers markets work) and some bits that are just creative hyperactivity (like the biogeneration of lembas). The book offers much to savor, but like the starter it proves rich and buoyant at first, then overreaches.
This is a good book. I rarely enjoy fiction but this was a good story. It didn’t keep me on edge or anything or up all night but I was persistant to finish it, I needed to know how it ends.
Love this author
I have read all the books and they are equally terrific.
Fascinating story. Well written. Kept me reading and laughing, (subtle humor, but so funny) into the night.