The Circle by Dave Eggers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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Oh wait, we all know that, that's why we're drawn to its dark, dark powers. We love to be frightened by a totalitarian regime based on widespread shaming and a few likes.
Seriously, this book has some really great prose going on, imminently readable, with wonderful characters and a very good progression of plot... kinda like sitting in the cold water as a pot starts heating up. We see all the great stuff that this new omnipresent social media/accounting has brought to us, with mini cameras shareable as Facebook apps, fantastic data-sharing apps, and, of course, 1984. This book takes it all the way, giving us the step by step progression of great ideas and then knocks on our door, meeting us with a huge shark face and a bunch of shark poop trailing behind him, telling us how much he loved our neighbors.
It's not impossible. I mean, we've had great ideas turn into amazing nightmares ever since we started telling stories. I appreciated the inversion of David Brin's completely visible society, the running with the ball almost all the way through the novel, and then, SLAM, it's taken down in a paranoid frenzy, at least for the reader, telling us to be scared.
Sure, it makes for a scary dystopia. The points made on either side of a complete accounting of evil-doing is pretty powerful, and timely, and well written.
Unfortunately, the only thing that prevents me from giving this a full 5 stars is the fact that it's pretty old news. :) And I don't believe that a company called The Circle would ever have gotten as far as it did. It was a nice thought experiment, though, and pretty decent SF. Or wait, was this supposed to be Mainstream? Sheeet... nah, this was pretty much entirely SF. Firmly in the category of Cautionary Tale. Trying to convince me of something in a dramatic way.
Okay! Got it! Now where should I put this Cautionary Tale? Um.. under popcorn fiction? Um, fairly amusing Social Media Slamming? Cultish Brainwashing? Golly... I have so many choices.
The dark ending might get people upset, but I'm fine with it. It's an old established rule for this type of tale. At least it's updated for Social Media versus the horrible, horrible effects of TV watching for ultimate brainwashing techniques, or the fact that radio signals are sent out there to reprogram our brain waves (and hence the tin-foil hats) or the fact that the cotton gin is destroying the working man and we must all rise up and destroy all such machinery, now, now, NOW!
Of course, Frankenstein was a good tale in this vein, too, as was LoTR, so perhaps it doesn't rank up with the very best, but I can say that The Circle was entertaining, though. :)
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