Sourdough

Easily the most delightful book I’ve read in years.

Assumed Audience: Readers of sci-fi or contemporary fiction or humor or any of the above, but especially students of human nature and recent (COVID?) converts to baking.

cover for Sourdough
Sourdough, Robin Sloan (2019)
Required
I don’t remember the last time I had so much just plain fun reading a novel — and while contemporary settings rarely grab my attention this one did. Somehow Sloan manages to pull that off… while featuring a possibly-sentient sourdough starter and good-naturedly poking holes in Silicon Valley culture. Go read it. Right now!

When Alan Jacobs recommends an author of fiction, you should take him seriously. Robin Sloan’s Sourdough is the second thing Jacobs has recommended that I’ve read — the first being Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars — and in both cases I’ve come away more than happy that I heeded Jacobs’ advice.

Sourdough is not a complicated book. I think it’s sci-fi, barely. It’s definitely contemporary fiction: the setting is unmistakably Silicon Valley in the present — with all its many beauties and horrors. The fascination with hacking our way into the future (and the ruthless optimism that we can do just that), the drive to put a particular class of technological advancement in front of every other human concern, the sheer unimaginable wealth involved in the pursuit of a technocracy perfected, and — especially — the confused notion that age-old human practices like cooking and eating and spending time with friends are outmoded and in desperate need of technological replacement: somehow, Sloan gets all of that in this slim little novel which made me laugh out loud more than any other book I can remember reading in the last decade.

Perhaps equally magical: he does it without a hint of malice or spite. This is folly,” he seems to say, but maybe the best way to make that clear is to laugh at it a bit and paint a picture of something lovelier still.” The result was a good novel, but a great book.