The world would be a bit of a better place if everyone read this book. We can't change anything until we understand that everyone is fighting their ow...moreThe world would be a bit of a better place if everyone read this book. We can't change anything until we understand that everyone is fighting their own battle -- often those battles are what is most similar about every human being alive. (less)
If you are a Partridge fan, this is the funniest book ever. If you aren't, do yourself a favor and locate all the Alan Partridge series (plural). Ther...moreIf you are a Partridge fan, this is the funniest book ever. If you aren't, do yourself a favor and locate all the Alan Partridge series (plural). There's not many people who make me laugh as much as (Coogan as) Partridge. (less)
There's no other way to describe Dave Eggers' 'The Circle' other than to say "It's kind of our '1984.'" And then to follow that with some caveats.
Thi...moreThere's no other way to describe Dave Eggers' 'The Circle' other than to say "It's kind of our '1984.'" And then to follow that with some caveats.
This is probably the most far-out Dave Eggers book. Most of his books are very real and visceral to the point that you can't remember which of them are fiction and which are not (there seems to be a fine line with Eggers' books). This is definitely the most fantastical thing he's attempted, and, for the most part, he greatly succeeds in what (I think) he tried to accomplish: to make us re-think our attitudes towards the rapid encroachment of the internet, most importantly, social media, on our every day lives.
There has not been an invention in the past 100 years that has so drastically changed the way humans behave than the internet (and, by default, social media and big data). We've all heard seemingly progressive statements from internet gurus such as, "We're simply giving people the services they want," or in some cases (and more apropos to Eggers' book), "They don't know they want these services until we create them.'
As someone who has embraced social media and all of the diminished privacy that goes along with it, Eggers' book was a wake-up call. The book is, like those by Orwell and Swift, a satire of sorts, and a prophetic morality tale. I simultaneously bought and rejected many of Eggers' premises and suppositions about humanity's embracement of complete online transparency. And many will fault Eggers for just that: so much of his premise relies on the supposition that we humans that embrace progress will turn a blind eye to the evils that accompany transparency and the appreciation of mass accumulated data. While we can all appreciate data when it comes to scientific study or political analysis, we don't feel quite as good about it when it comes to giving up our private conversations and bedroom activities. In Eggers' world, the latter seems to be as benign as the former (or at least we've come to see it as such). That's one of the only flaws -- and we're willing to overlook it simply because the story, and the material, is so compelling.
No character in The Circle is very likable. I'm not sure what to make of that. Mae, the central character, is not terribly sympathetic. As a reader, I found myself shaking my head at her and disliking her more often than not. Maybe she reminds me of people I've worked with: people that are susceptible to the cult of personality, and who will change their views to gain their favor. Just because I'm familiar with Mae doesn't mean I'm empathetic to her.
It's a sign of a great storyteller when you are compelled to find out what happens to a bunch of characters that you don't particularly care for. It also says a lot for the subject matter, which has been broached by several great novelists, but never quite taken as head-on as in The Circle.
I don't necessarily think The Circle will end up as the 1984 of our generation, mostly because in ten years it will likely seem incredibly dated. Eggers relies too much on the current nature of social media and big data (with Google, Facebook, and Twitter basically merging into what is known as The Circle. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a great novel. It is. And it is a very 'now' novel that can have an impact, and I would go so far as to call it an IMPORTANT novel.
It should be one of those novels that causes a dialogue. The concerns that arise from the Circle are imminent and 100% valid. The world Eggers lays out for us is not ridiculously as far-out as we might think. And, as with Mae, how things go can hinge on whether or not we accept or reject the lure of unfettered transparency. (less)
I have tried to get into science fiction/fantasy in the past year, and I think I have just realized that I'm not that guy. I love Gaiman in theory, an...moreI have tried to get into science fiction/fantasy in the past year, and I think I have just realized that I'm not that guy. I love Gaiman in theory, and I love his children's books (and Coraline!), but this just didn't do for me what I expected it to do -- which maybe isn't fair on my part.
I had a similar reaction to the book Wool. I liked it, sure, but I wanted to be blown away. Same with American Gods. (less)
I really enjoyed this one. Walter employs ye olde nested dolls routine here (starting to get tiring as a device for me -- seems like everything I have...moreI really enjoyed this one. Walter employs ye olde nested dolls routine here (starting to get tiring as a device for me -- seems like everything I have read recently uses this). The novel is comprised of conventional narrative, excerpts from character-written plays, memoirs, novels, etc. The story jumps back and forth in time, and across the globe to Italy, where a good deal of the narrative takes place. This never becomes tedious as some reviewers have noted. I actually believe that without the structure, the story would have been much less compelling.
It's a funny, romantic, and intriguing puzzle of a book (not as heavy as say, Cloud Atlas), and Walter does a tremendous job with the arc of each character.
I feel like I'm one of the few people I know who did not give this five stars. I certainly give it five stars for ambition and for Mitchell's mastery...moreI feel like I'm one of the few people I know who did not give this five stars. I certainly give it five stars for ambition and for Mitchell's mastery of several different genres within one novel. It truly never felt forced -- the reader fells 100% submersed in these worlds that Mitchell has created.
It's truly a wonderful book, and I would recommend it to any readers of modern literary fiction. I think I was just prepped to expect that by the end I would feel like my ass had been handed to me. While I certainly enjoyed each of the 6 stories that comprise the nested doll structure (some more than others), I think I was expecting some kind of 'ta-da!' feeling at the end. While there are certainly many threads that connect each of the stories, and there are several themes running concurrently through each story, I wanted a 'holy shit' moment. I believe this was one of those 'it's not you, it's me' situations, where I should have just stayed away from blurbs, reviews...and, oh yeah, movie trailers.
It's a fine read. I'm being petulant. I look forward to reading more of Mitchell. This was my introduction to his work, although I do have a few others of his that were given to me. (less)
This is a very slim book. It almost feels like a pamphlet. Regardless, I read it slowly over the course of a few months. A page here, a page there. I...moreThis is a very slim book. It almost feels like a pamphlet. Regardless, I read it slowly over the course of a few months. A page here, a page there. I kind of prefer reading philosophical books that way -- writing that requires deep thinking often requires that I spend a lot of time digesting it. I don't pretend to be a deep thinker, and I realize many of my friends probably plowed through this in 30 minutes.
I'm a bit conflicted. As I set out reading the first few chapters, Harris nearly had me convinced that we do *not* actually have free will. This is, as he points out, certainly a bummer to us humans, who pride ourselves on our ability to make choices and to choose to live (or not) moral lives where we make good (and difficult) choices.
While I was half way through the book, I read a write-up of a study which indicates that perhaps some of the research that Harris uses in his argument might not have been definitive, and that researchers believe they may have located a mechanism that indicates a conscious decision prior to the brain's signaling to decide (which had previously been shown to precede our being conscious of having made a decision) - got it?
So, yeah. Harris' argument is absolutely a powerful one. He writes, as usual, with great clarity, and he is quite convincing. Had I not read some of the research that came to light after the publishing of this book, I might be of the camp that we *don't* truly have free will. As of now, I'm not so sure.
I wish more people would read this, however. It has a lot to say about how neuroscience plays into our decisions, and how so many of our decisions should not be reflections of us as moral or immoral beings, but rather a product of our genetics and our neurophysiology. This type of thinking should absolutely be taken into consideration in criminal courts -- not that we should ever excuse horrible acts (but rather, we should stress the importance of understanding their origins and how we might curtail them.)