The richest people in the galaxy have to make reservations years in advance to eat at the Sol Majestic, but each night the restaurant gives a free meal to whomever can best answer a simple question: Why do you love food?
When Kenna stumbles on the line of people waiting to answer this question, he is starving and barely alive. He's a member of a religious class called the Inevitable Philosophers, who used to command immense power but have since fallen out of favor, leaving Kenna and his parents scrounging to feed themselves. Despite their plight, Kenna's parents are still devoted to their personal "Inevitable Philosophies," simple ideas like "I will lead my people out of darkness" that form the foundation of all their actions and beliefs. Kenna, however, is struggling to keep the faith. Bewildered by the idea of enjoying the kind of exotic cuisine offered by a restaurant like the Sol Majestic, Kenna hopes that if he had "one good meal, to show [him] what life [he] could dream about," then maybe he'd discover his Philosophy. Much to his surprise, Kenna is swept into the hallowed halls of the Sol Majestic by its eccentric and volatile leader, Paulius, who introduces him to a world of not just fantastic food, but of friendship, love, and purpose. When Paulius decides to risk everything to host an epic meal in the traditional style of the Inevitable Philosophies, Kenna finds that the fates of the restaurant and his new group of friends all rest on his ability to fake a religion he isn't sure he can believe in anymore. The colorful cast of characters feels cartoonish at the beginning, and there are pivotal scenes that are too melodramatic to make an emotional impact. But as the story progresses, Kenna and his friends gain much-needed depth, and the villain introduced toward the end is all the more terrifying for being true to life. By the end, Steinmetz (The Uploaded, 2017, etc.) builds up to a suspenseful finale that's deliciously satisfying.
An uneven first course, but the meal as a whole is worth savoring.