Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Writing: 5 Characters: 4 Plot: 3
New words to me:
Xenomorphs – strange or foreign forms
Pareidolia – seeing faces in unusual places, a type of apophenia
Botrytis: “noble rot” used by vintners
NSFW – not safe for work

Lois Clary is a Computer Science whiz from Michigan recently recruited to San Francisco to work on control systems for robot arms at General Dexterity. She is known as one of the “newly Dextrous” and is accompanied solely by a cactus named Kubrick. A menu for CLEMENT STREET SOUP AND SOURDOUGH appears on her doorway and her life takes a very interesting turn.

Story tendrils include … a love affair conducted almost in silence; the Lois Club serving as a kind of Greek chorus for the action; a magical tale about a mysterious people called the Mazg; a bizarre sourdough starter that seems to have a greater personality than one would expect from … bread; a literary paen to the microbial world in which we swim.

A good story, some quirky (though slightly one dimensional) characters, and excellent writing. The descriptions of baking and baking technology, SanFrancisco and environs, and (especially) the belletristic exploration of microbiomes are absolutely top notch. I’m unimpressed by the stereotyped (and somewhat uninformed) descriptions of working for an intense tech company and I was somewhat confused by the conflicting themes of robotics utility and the joy of individual labor, but it was an enjoyable read, I learned a lot about interesting subjects on the ride, and I was particularly impressed with the writing.

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