Review: “The Oyster War” by Summer Brennan

The Oyster War: The True Story of a Small Farm, Big Politics, and the Future of Wilderness in AmericaThe Oyster War: The True Story of a Small Farm, Big Politics, and the Future of Wilderness in America by Summer Brennan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first heard of The Oyster War in an Indiegogo campaign with the title, “Help My Book Research on Oysters & Climate Change.” Its author, Summer Brennan, was looking for a bit of support so she could finish her book, and based on an intriguing description–

In a dispute that the Los Angeles Times called “a complex web of alleged conspiracies and politicking worthy of a Cold War spy novel,” a family-owned oyster farm in Northern California has been locked in a legal battle with the U.S. Government for the past ten years.

–I contributed enough to get a copy upon publishing. And I’m so glad I did.

The Oyster War, while a well-researched and finely written piece of journalism, is also a personal book for Brennan — she appears in first person occasionally, interacting with a part of the country that she grew up in and obviously adores. And it is that touch which admits to being drawn to one side or another, one argument or another, that allows for the “complex web” of people, places, ecosystems, government entities, historical characters, and (yes) oysters to be both compelling and fascinating. I say “side” as if there are two — there are many (and bless Brennan for providing a Dramatis Personae at the start as well as an index), some of which include seemingly contradictory bedfellows like Senator Dianne Feinstein and the Koch Brothers. Containing, like Whitman proclaimed, multitudes.

Anyone interested in what wilderness means in 2015, what local environmentalism means in the era of big business and small farms competing for scarce land, and what happens when a war breaks out over food should definitely pick up a copy.

However, I suspect the title will become out of date sooner or later — this “war” was likely only one battle in a wider struggle of food and environmental politics in the United States to come. More’s the reason to catch up on what’s ahead of us.

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Review: “The Martian” by Andy Weir

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This read like an SF novel of 40 years ago, in both a good and bad way. 5 stars for the awesome science, comic book references, and page-turning plot, but 1 star for the 1-dimensional characters, emotional shallowness, and casual sexism. Looking forward to the Matt Damon film, which I presume will be one of those rare occasions where the movie is better than the book.

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