I’m glad to have read this after taking a bit of a break from reading comics. The art style and writing tone are well-paired, and leaning into the silliness of the Squirrel Girl character design by having her face off with Galactus of all villains was a great instinct.
The Shanghai setting is as much a character as any of the five protagonists—all of them Malaysian transplants who followed different paths to China—that circle each other in this novel. The narrative is interspersed with passages from a self-help/business-achievement memoir that tracks the trajectories of each of the main characters and eventually exposes the isolation and dissatisfaction inherent in the lives prescribed by the worldview in these books and in the rapid urbanization and globalization of China. The end felt a bit pat. I would have accepted less wrapping up, but there were a lot of open threads to tie together.
Robin Sloan may be my favorite active novelist. Reading Sourdough has made me want to pick up Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore for a third time. The quirky, questing enthusiasm of his characters and the narrow balance he strikes between small moments of magic tucked into a very recognizable quotidian present hit my pleasure-reading tastes squarely.