Robin Sloan’s first novel is currently sitting on my bookcase of books to be read, but I haven’t got to it yet (and yes, I have two bookcases *full* of unread books). I do plan to get to it, based on reviews I read.
Instead, I read his second novel first, in part because I could get the audiobook digitally from my library (although I did buy the trade paperback, the audio book fit my schedule better).
What can I say except that I loved Sourdough. It was quirky, and while I don’t bake, I very much identified with the protagonist, Lois. I’m a software tester for the government, while she’s a software developer in private industry, but I can empathise with the level of stress she’s under, having been under it myself, complete with the stomach issues.
My way of dealing with stress ended up being taking up knitting, while in her case, she is gifted with an unusual sourdough starter from a pair of brothers who make her favorite takeout but who end up having to leave the country because of problems with their work visas.
At first she makes sourdough for herself. Then the chef at the company cafeteria starts buying her sourdough. Then she gets pulled into an underground (figuratively and literally) market. Meanwhile, she’s still trying to figure out how to solve the egg problem at work (ie, teaching a robot arm to crack eggs instead of smashing them).
Along the way, she is trying to solve a number of mysteries. Why does the starter require music? Why do her loaves of bread have faces on them? Who runs the market? Where did the starter originally come from? And why does it seem strangely alive?
I was thoroughly sucked in, both by the narrator and the book itself. The audiobook even has some bonuses, such as actual ‘music of the Mazg’, which the starter needs to thrive, at least at first. As well, one plot point is a company that makes a food substitute called Slurry, which they market to techies with bad stomachs. There are occasional emails and advertisements from the that appear in the audiobook, but not the paperback.
All in all, I loved the book, and I look forward both to reading Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore and whatever he comes up with next.