I was about to call this book a "page-turner", but then I realized that, since I read it on my Kindle, I did not in fact "turn" anything, nor did thisI was about to call this book a "page-turner", but then I realized that, since I read it on my Kindle, I did not in fact "turn" anything, nor did this particular work of fiction even come with the "Real Page Numbers" (tm) featured in some Kindle literature. I am thus reduced to referring to it as a "real screen-tapper" or a "compulsive left-swiper".
The premise is compelling, the plot starts at 11 and doesn't really stop, and there's enough mystery to keep you guessing at what's going to happen next. My first guess at "what was really happening" was wrong, which was pleasing, as I enjoy being surprised and have at this point read enough young dystopia that I've developed a nasty habit of guessing the next tragedy.
The author likes to keep his characters in non-stop mortal peril, which certainly keeps you reading, and he kills them off just often enough to keep you from presuming that everyone's going to make it. It's a cliche way to create tension but it's very effective. Towards the end of the book I was reading it everywhere, like some kind of junkie.
Now, the prose is not going to win any awards. This book is begging to be made into a movie; it's nonstop action, mostly one-dimensional characters, heavy on the verbs and low on the introspection. My main beef with this book, however, is tough to reveal without spoilers.
(view spoiler)[The premise is compelling at first but then just a little ... hard to swallow. What kind of engineers could build an indefinitely self-sustaining subterranean structure, but *not* some way to clean camera lenses remotely? And where do they get a limitless supply of the displays and other gear for the cleaning suits? It doesn't sound like they can produce anything high-tech in the silos. The whole master plan relies on a variety of secrets that are hard to keep, which is convenient for the plot but unravels in ways that seem almost inevitable. (hide spoiler)]
All told, though, a first-rate screen-tapper. Especially recommended for anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games; the tone, style, and pacing seemed very similar. ...more
First off, I'm a Microsoft veteran of almost 10 years and current resident of the Seattle area, and I don't know if Semple lives in the area or not buFirst off, I'm a Microsoft veteran of almost 10 years and current resident of the Seattle area, and I don't know if Semple lives in the area or not but holy cow, *she did her research*. The details about Microsoft and the city across the pond from it are absolutely spot on. It was almost worth reading this book for the warm, nostalgic glow it gave me about my own city.
Even if you don't live in Seattle, it's a good read. It's one of those books where you don't actually get an impartial narrator but instead piece together the story yourself via a collection of letters, faxes, postcards, and only the occasional narration by a character. As a result there are plenty of surprises and new perspectives to keep things interesting, and a page-turning plot to back them. This story does not tackle Important Issues of What It Means to Be Human, but as a pitch-perfect tale of the life of the slightly privileged, it's hard to criticize. Absolutely worth a read. Especially if it's raining....more
If I had to subtitle The Circle, I’d call it “A Brave New World for the Facebook generation, except not set so far into the future”.
The Circle is anIf I had to subtitle The Circle, I’d call it “A Brave New World for the Facebook generation, except not set so far into the future”.
The Circle is an amplified combination of Facebook and Google, a company fueled by near-monopolistic control of the online identity and search industries. Its campus is a sprawling, palatial utopia where the world’s brightest minds are solving every problem, large and small, with fervent and religious application of data capture, data analysis, and data visibility.
The plot of the book flounders a bit. Mae, the main character, is relatable at first, a girl from a small town entering life at the Circle with wide-eyed humility. But she becomes less and less relatable as the book progresses, as the plot becomes only superficially about her, following instead the larger machinations of the Circle. Like those in Atlas Shrugged, The Circle’s characters suffer from increasing doses of long soliloquies, in this case largely about the wonders of openness, transparency, and knowing.
You’d think a book like this would devolve into a diatribe against online sharing and privacy invasions and wind up recommending we all follow Thoreau’s lead and move into cabins, but you’d be wrong. Eggers’ treatment of the issues is just as nuanced and complex as the issues themselves, and in the end the book’s lack of a gripping plot is more than made up for by its philosophical leanings. The Circle is, in the end, a terrifying spectre, but it’s not made out to be intentionally or wholly evil; the few who oppose it are portrayed neither as heroes nor as crackpots. The whole thing comes off as a thought experiment, and it’s well worth a read if you’ve ever wondered how and what should be captured, stored, or shared, now that nearly everything can be.
Finally, I know Eggers is a formidable writer with many acclaimed books and runs entire organizations devoted to writing, but I couldn’t help but wish at many points that someone would have leaned over his shoulder and suggested that he trim this one up a little. At nearly 500 pages it’s a slow-burner and I think it could have retained every bit of its punch as a shorter work. ...more
I first entered the business world in the 90s, and by that time this book (written in 89) was probably at the peak of its popularity. Everyone was talI first entered the business world in the 90s, and by that time this book (written in 89) was probably at the peak of its popularity. Everyone was talking about mission statements, scribbling in their FranklinCovey planners about their Weekly Goals, thinking win/win, being proactive, and definitely improving value through dynamic relationships and synergistic collaboration with strategic partners. Writing lofty, content-free business doublespeak was becoming an art form. The word "paradigm", used so frequently by Covey in this book, was nearly synonymous with management-by-keywords.
My revulsion to these keywords was so strong that I barely made it through the first chapter or so of this book. It's very difficult to take what Covey says seriously when, even a couple decades later, his language feels like an ill-fitting business suit. All the cool companies are wearing jeans now, Covey!
But I'm glad I got past it. Covey points out often that many self-help books are all about personality and behavior--the impression you create, behaviors to simulate, ways to be seen as a capable, rising star. He offers no quick fixes, promises that everything will take lots of work, and suggests some bedrock principles to work on. There's a Puritan work ethic in there that I can admire.
There is some keenly insightful work here. Covey has read lots of books on success, and worked with lots of people and organizations. He isn't spouting off personal theories but speaking from a great deal of experience. Your mileage may very, but I found his ideas very helpful--this book deserves its status as a classic. ...more
A great collection of some of Gladwell's shorter-form writing. I think this format suits him well; he is a gifted at documenting the small, counter-inA great collection of some of Gladwell's shorter-form writing. I think this format suits him well; he is a gifted at documenting the small, counter-intuitive truth, and not all small, counter-intuitive truths deserve a whole book.
In some cases his background as a journalist (and not a "real" researcher) shows; my favorite example from this book is one in which a financial quant uses the word "eigenvalue", which Gladwell records phonetically--"igon value". It's telling that no one in the entire chain from author to publication knew the correct term.
Gladwell is an excellent storyteller and a master of the twist-that-reveals-truth; while these days he is sometimes scoffed at (as, indeed, I have just scoffed at him), if you take his extrapolations with a grain of salt and read his writing as the layman's journalism/popular science that it is, it's really quite good. ...more
If John Brandon writes like anyone, he writes like Kurt Vonnegut. The content is completely different, of course, but the structure of the sentence isIf John Brandon writes like anyone, he writes like Kurt Vonnegut. The content is completely different, of course, but the structure of the sentence is remarkably similar. Short, simple sentences, often beginning with the name of a character, full of matter-of-fact detail, and frequent little bursts of philosophy.
My first book by Brandon was Citrus County, and while that one was a page-turner, this one has very low tension. If it were a movie, it would be one of those indie flicks with lingering camera shots of squinty-eyed actors sitting in a small town gazing meaningfully out a window or doing something poetic by themselves. This book has lots of little spurts of plot growing all over the place but in the end it is (to me) an atmospheric work.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Brandon has gotten more adept at deftly telling a lot of stories at once. There are many characters here and he cuts back and forth between them a lot. That and the easy-reading descriptions make reading this book about as easy as watching television, except in this case you have the vague sense that someone wiser than you is trying to get something across about people, and about hope, and about waiting. No morals or philosophizing here, just a few hundred pages of meditation.
I think Brandon could do all this and write a page-turner, too (because he did, in fact, do all this and write a page-turner too) so I'm only giving this three stars. But it's not because I'm not a fan of Mr. Brandon's. I'm down to one unread book by him, and I'm going to savor it....more
This book reads, at first, like Murakami fan-fiction. Surreal left-turns in the narrative, a young and incredulous narrator, specific brands of cigareThis book reads, at first, like Murakami fan-fiction. Surreal left-turns in the narrative, a young and incredulous narrator, specific brands of cigarettes, a tinge of the supernatural, and it's even set in Japan! If you've read Murakami you'll recognize a nod or two to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
But Mitchell's a gifted author in his own right. This is a good story, with action, sadness, hope, and pretty much anything you could ask of a good yarn. Like most of Mitchell's work, it feels just a little longer than it should be, but the writing is intelligent and you probably won't mind. Four stars....more