Sunday, 31 December 2017

Sourdough - Robin Sloan

I’d never heard of Robin Sloan or any of his previous work so I had no expectations whatsoever of this book from Readers First before I started it. But I found it absolutely delightful. A wonderful piece of story telling, tender, simply told despite some of the complex science and technology. Uplifting and celebratory. It’s an unusual premise, possibly genre neutral although you could squeeze it into magical realism if you really wanted to.

I cannot think of another story where a sourdough starter is one of the main characters. If anyone else can I’m all ears! The other characters are quirky and slightly off centre but there are no nasty people in this book, no one is unkind to anyone else, no unpleasant happenings, no violence,  a gentle twist or two maybe but no one attempts to shock the reader with their behaviour.

Structurally conformist, no dual/multi chronologies. It’s straightforward first person narration with the inclusion of emails detailing the parallel lives and dreams of the two brothers who start this whole thing rolling by making Lois Clary custodian of their sourdough starter. Lois is a computer/software programmer/engineer, what she actually does is crucial to the plot so I’m keeping stumm. Lois is such a sweet character, conscientious, self effacing but seizing opportunities, solving problems and ultimately taking risks to follow ambition but ambition in a life affirming sense rather than the more cut throat, desire to reach the top type of ambition we hear much of today. And despite the book being a work concerning technology, set in San Francisco as well, there’s barely a mobile phone or tablet in evidence. No mention of social media. So refreshing. 

You can simply enjoy this novel as a story but if you want to delve a little deeper there is plenty to think about in terms of technology, living organisms and their needs, nutrition and addressing the feeding of a growing population. Heaven help us if Heston Blumenthal gets hold of this. It seriously might give him ideas. But, is that necessarily a bad thing? Read this book and make up your own minds!!

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