Burmese Days – George Orwell. I read this book primarily because I saw an interesting looking travel book at Borders that is about following Orwell’s trail in modern Burma. I figured I needed the background before I could justify buying it. This is no where near as good as Orwell’s more famous works – 1984, Animal Farm – but still presents an interesting and remarkable critique of the British empire during its final glory days during the inter-war period. There were certainly cracks in the foundation of the empire after World War I, but few believed that independence was coming any time soon, mostly because Brits generally felt the natives weren’t intelligent enough to govern themselves. The book centers on the racism that dominates the thoughts of most ex-pats living abroad. They convene at the Club each day, to share each other’s company and remind themselves of their superiority to the Burmese and Indians they govern and work with. It’s difficult to believe the thought represented in this book was the predominant view of Europeans and Americans not too long ago, and still clung to by some.
Beyond the social critique, the book is a bit clumsy. Orwell’s mastery of language is apparent, but the plot is rather transparent – his foreshadowing is a little too forceful and it’s easy to see where things are headed. It will be interesting to see how the modern view of Burma compares to this view from a century ago.
Abandonded Book: The Star Fraction – Ken MacLeod. As we’ll discuss in greater depth later, I’ve been in the mood to read some science fiction lately. I found a list of some of the best current SF authors, saw MacLeod’s name and this book, the first in a trilogy, recommended, so I snapped it up. 50 pages in, I just couldn’t get into it. It’s not deep space SF – it takes place just 40 years into the future in Europe, where the maps and governments have changed and there are constant battles for supremacy. I found the writing heavy-handed and overly dense. So I quit.
Skimmed Book: Lifehacker – Gina Trapani. I skim the Lifehacker site each day, so thought I’d check out the book when I found it in the library. Lifehacking is the concept of using technology (usually) to make complex activities in your life more manageable. There are some good ideas in here, although despite being labeled as “cross-platform” on the cover, most are focused on the Windows world. Thus, I just skimmed to the things that I could do on a Mac, or off the computer, and skipped the rest.
The next three books I read are a part of a trilogy and demand their own entry later this week.