Sourdough by Robin Sloan

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My Review:

Sourdough by Robin Sloan is perfect blend of culinary secrets and technological experiments.  Lois is a programmer who spends her endless days writing code and programming a robot arm.  She resorts to drinking a Slurry (an unappealing nutritional concoction) for lunch during the day, and ordering delivery of spicy soup with delicious bread from a neighborhood hole in the wall at night.  She falls into this comfortable routine and when the delivery guy tells her he and his brother, the chef, have to leave the country, she is distraught. Because she had become to them the “Number One Eater”, they are leaving her with a valuable secret…the special starter for the sourdough bread she adores, and they asked her to keep it alive.  Now burdened with the task of baking the perfect loaf, Lois builds an oven and teaches herself to bake.  The secret recipe they left her with is amazing and she begins selling the beautiful and tasty loaves to her company’s caterer, who encourages Lois to sell at the farmer’s market.  Working at the robotics company by day and baking at night, she has little sleep, but is energized.

The popular farmer’s market does not accept her but she is welcome at the mysterious underground market where food is being improved with technology, and unique and unusual products are being developed and sold.  Lois uses her engineering prowess to take on the job of programming the robotic arm to crack eggs, a challenging task, per the request of the market’s sinister leader, so the arm can assist her in the baking process.  Her love of baking and feeding people who enjoy her sourdough bread is overwhelmingly fulfilling and she leaves her programming job to bake full time.

This book was charming and fun, with several chapters devoted to The Lois Club, a club Lois was a member of where she attending meetings with other Lois’s in her neighborhood.  Working long hours and baking bread at night, Lois didn’t have much time to develop friendships so this group of women were her support.  Loved Robin Sloan’s quirky characters, the story of Lois and the inherited sourdough recipe and enjoyed the fast pace and charm!

I’m probably not going to start baking bread any time soon, although a loaf of warm sourdough with salted butter would be delicious…but having so many friends already with my same name, I am tempted to start a Jennifer Club!

 

As seen on Goodreads:

Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favourite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread.
Lois becomes the unlikely hero tasked to care for it, bake with it and keep this needy colony of microorganisms alive.  Soon she is baking loaves daily and taking them to the farmer’s market, where an exclusive close-knit club runs the show.
When Lois discovers another, more secret market, aiming to fuse food and technology, a whole other world opens up. But who are these people, exactly?

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About the Author:

Robin Sloan is the author of the novels Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough. He grew up near Detroit and now splits his time between the Bay Area and the internet.

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Technology Takes Over in The Circle and Ready Player One

 

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When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America–even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

 

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Dave Eggers is the author of ten books, including most recently Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, The Circle and A Hologram for the King, which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books, a quarterly journal of new writing (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern), and a monthly magazine, The Believer. McSweeney’s also publishes Voice of Witness, a nonprofit book series that uses oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. Eggers is the co-founder of 826 National, a network of eight tutoring centers around the country and ScholarMatch, a nonprofit organization designed to connect students with resources, schools and donors to make college possible. He lives in Northern California with his family.

 

 

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In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

 

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ERNEST CLINE is a novelist, screenwriter, father, and full-time geek. His first novel, Ready Player One, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, appeared on numerous “best of the year” lists, and is set to be adapted into a motion picture by Warner Bros. and director Steven Spielberg. His second novel, ARMADA, debuted at #4 on the NYT Bestseller list and is being made into a film by Universal Pictures. Ernie lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, a time-traveling DeLorean, and a large collection of classic video games.

 

My Thoughts on The Circle and Ready Player One:

I loved the way Dave Eggers and Ernest Cline took technology to the next level to create the settings in The Circle and Ready Player One and suggested both books for my teenagers.

Utopia or Dystopia?

While I was reading each of them I couldn’t help thinking this COULD be in our future.  Technology has grown so much in my lifetime, from dialing a princess phone, listening to cassette tapes and watching channels 2-13 on a tv I had to get up for to adjust the antennas and change the stations…to computers, iPhones, internet, FaceTime, avatars, Wiis and PS3s.  The digital capabilities are expanding so fast but there could be dangers. Losing privacy as Mae did in The Circle as well as being completely elusive and reclusive like Wade in Ready Player One could be detrimental for the development of physical and emotional connections due to the lack of actual in person relationships.

Today, Facebook live, FaceTime, the ability to Check in, track my phone, and location settings all could feel a little “Big Brother” ish.  Playing video games on a server with people from all over the world, representing yourself with an avatar you designed and speaking to them through the internet could be dangerous, creepy and addictive.  Both books suggest technological utopia resulting in societal dystopia and are terrifying, suspenseful, thought provoking reads for everyone in the family.