Author: Robin Sloan
Length: 259 pages
Much like Armada to Ready Player One or Artemis to The Martian, I looked forward to reading Robin Sloan’s follow-up to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore. Unfortunately, much like the follow-up books by Ernest Cline and Andy Weir, respectively, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with Sloan’s Sourdough. I will give credit that Sloan’s quirky and charming style is still in high form here, it’s more that there wasn’t much of a central conflict that would have led to a satisfying ending. It’s almost like too many plotlines got into the mix, and it muddled everything up to the point where it would be too difficult to follow each to their logical conclusion.
Cline has video game references. Weir has accurate, hard sci-fi. If there’s one thing Sloan does well, it’s the fusion of analog and digital. From Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore, it was the appreciation of the printed book in the era of Google searches. In Sourdough, Sloan explores the future of food—which is perhaps the most analog of topics—by including some realistic and relatively soon-to-be-realized technological advances like nutrient gels, robotic cooking, and alternative growing environments. If this was the primary focus of the book, there could have been a great conflict between old and new instead of what felt like a rushed, gulping ending to a book I’d want to sip like great wine.
Sourdough was my “vacation book,” meaning that I was truly looking forward to reading it. I love the style Sloan uses, which is both humorous and light. This book was quite the quick read, but that was helped by the fact that I hardly put it down. It’s a little disappointing that some of the “mysteries” weren’t played up more (I never really did care who Mr. Marrow was), and that the ending felt a little out of left field, but I’m sure I’ll pick up Sloan’s next book, regardless. After all, I was still entertained with this one, even if it didn’t live up to the “Mr. Penumbra” expectation.
Another semi-adequate follow-up from one of my newer, favorite authors, I give Sourdough 3.5 stars out of 5.