If you like romantic comedies, read this one. It's lovely, all the characters are likable, yet not too perfect. It's not too smarmy, it's funny, movesIf you like romantic comedies, read this one. It's lovely, all the characters are likable, yet not too perfect. It's not too smarmy, it's funny, moves along at a good clip with a great conciet driving it....more
I found The Circle rather weird. The story telling felt compelling, and quite page turning. I ploughed through quite quickly because I really wanted tI found The Circle rather weird. The story telling felt compelling, and quite page turning. I ploughed through quite quickly because I really wanted to know what would happen next. But fundamentally the book amounts to that genre of writing that should probably be called "straw-man fiction." I.e. when the author creates a world and characters to fill it, that make it just too easy for them to hammer home some point.
The point being, in this case, that centralized Big Data and gamification equals Danger Will Robinson!. It tries to follow in the dystopian footsteps of Orwell, more as an origin story for a future dystopia rather than that dismal place already arrived at. In the course of the book Eggers even gives us some of those Orwellian X is Y opposition formulations, to make this clear; in this case things like "Privacy is Theft," and "Secrets are Lies"
Eggers demonstrates lots of writing skill, creating a compelling near future world, a hero I really wanted to root for, good plot twists and, some decent character development, but, after getting through it, I feel like it ended up all painted on a kind of hollywood movie set.
Plenty of sci-fi worlds are built for the author's polemic ends, so that fact by itself didn't bug me. What did: the "straw-man" effect of conveniently ignoring things. For example: we are treated to a bunch of scenes in which the celebrity leaders of the GoogTwitInstaBook hegemony (The Circle) gather together the faithful employees for pep-rally type intros of new company products and directions. These scenes both depict, and follow tight scripts, with only one inexorable outcome: the sheeple abasing themselves before the God of the cool next thing. But where is the dissent? Especially, where is the dissent among the supposedly best and brightest who work at The Circle? It just doesn't ring true, and seems like a conveniently ignored item.
I'm also not complaining about this because I don't agree with Eggers' point. I do think there are plenty of real and serious dangers in Big Data, gamification and social media. It's just that book didn't really try to delve into the deep and interesting questions about how we might navigate through the downsides of these technologies toward their benefits. It just slugs us with impending dystopia.
Here's another example: one of the developments in the plot is the addition of "going clear" in which people (starting with politicians) stream audio and video of themselves pretty much 24x7 as a statement of "I don't have anything to hide." Of course the "pretty-much" means that they turn the cams off for 3 min in the bathroom, and (usually) at night. So, of course, some of the characters who've gone clear meet in the bathroom to talk during those few minutes of privacy. In the story, these moments are important for the conversations that happen there, but not in and of themselves. If only the book had been been called "The Bathroom" told us the story of a society in which bathrooms where the only place that privacy was possible, and we ended up with larger and larger bathrooms, where we spent more and more time... That's the kind of a place a seasoned sci-fi author would have gone, and would have produced a much more interesting book to my taste.
All that said, The Circle was a fun read, and certainly food for thought, but only as a light meal....more