Thursday, August 5, 2010

Two Very Different Books

My reading tastes are fairly omnivorous, so here are the two I finished most recently (Jane Austen's "Persuasion" doesn't count, since I reread it).

John Scalzi's "The Last Colony" was quite enjoyable. It is third in a loosely connected series set in the same universe. Humanity has colonized the stars and now competes with other races for planetary territory by recruiting the elderly to serve as soldiers and giving them new, genetically enhanced bodies to fight with. An alliance of alien races called the Conclave has formed and declared that no nonmember species (including humans) will be allowed to colonize new worlds. John Perry (retired soldier) and his wife, Jane (retired Special Forces soldier) are enlisted to start a new colony in defiance of the bann. These books are like popcorn, but they also bring up some interesting ideas about leadership and governments. One of my favorite authors, Lois Bujold, says that Sci Fi/Fantasy books are really about politics and power, and there's plenty of that here.

Shay Saloman's "Little House on a Small Planet" was also interesting, although I wish it had more pictures. It's a book of anecdotes and interviews about and with people who live in small houses. It's an advocacy book about ignoring the call of the McMansion and living small; I found it less annoying than some (does that mean that it is really less annoying or just that I find it so because I agree with a lot of the ideals in it?). It made me think about life in general, what we value and how we order our lives. I live in what is, by American standards, a modest-sized house--about 1200 square feet--but nowhere near the 120 or 350 square feet size of some of the truly tiny houses profiled in the book. I know I could live in a smaller space--I have before--but it seems hard for me to make the change now. I guess it is because I like my neighborhood and don't really want to move. Maybe my inertia is just too great for the kinds of changes needed to downsize my house. The only way I could think of doing so was to build a guesthouse in the backyard and live in that. And I'd have to fight my husband over that, because he really wants a garage instead, so he has somewhere to work on cars!

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