Monday, January 6, 2014

on book 1

book 1 of 60: the circle by dave eggers

date started: 1.1.2014
date completed: 1.5.2014
i really want to like this book. it's an interesting topic--very relevant today as tech becomes increasingly ensconced in our daily lives, so i was hoping that the book would live up to its timely subject matter. unfortunately, the whole thing just fell flat for me.

while there are some parts and the book that are extremely relevant--mae's incessant sharing, crowd sourcing, etc.--the whole thing feels a bit underdeveloped.

the ending was predictable. the completely overworked symbolism of the shark and stenton was a giant snooze-fest--very heavy handed (the kind of thing even a beginning student would notice and think was too much).

add to this interesting, but completely unnecessary scenes--like with mae and the older couple on the boat--and you get the impression that this author had no idea of where the book was going. the scene between mae and the older couple feels like it should mean something; at the very least you expect to revisit these people later in the book.  it feels important, but eggers never revisits the scene or this couple.

most troubling is the characterization. mae is a flat character, static in her lack of thought. as a reader, you never care enough about mae (or any other character) to be affected by their decisions or thought processes. she is passive rather than active, a character upon whom things are carried out but who never takes initiative of her own--until the very last moments of the book when you are absolutely beyond caring.  i think the previously mentioned scene on the boat was meant to show mae's "edginess"--that she's willing to take risks and break the rules, but it did the opposite for me.  she had an opportunity in that moment to break free of the circle's tyranny, but she caved to the pressure, choosing to leave on time, return her rented kayak, and drive herself back to the circle's compound.  she is no more "edgy" than today's ubiquitous hipster.

while it might be easier to chalk this whole book up to social commentary on the surface level communication that now exists due to internet activity like social media, i think that's giving eggers far too much credit.  his characters don't work--they and the very plot of the text--elicit no emotion from the reader.

this book was an absolute struggle to get through.  i spent the entirety waiting for a profound, jaw-dropping moment that never came (and which should have, given the timely subject matter).  this book pushed no boundaries and wins no praise from this reviewer.

probable next read: the ocean at the end of the lane by neil gaiman (a book that most likely won't let me down!)

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