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The Circle: First Impressions

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Edited: Oct 17, 2013, 3:25pm Top

Thoughts on the book as you're still reading? Tell us about it!


Edited: Oct 17, 2013, 3:20pm Top

hi there! first - apologies if this has been covered elsewhere in your pre-discussions. i am wondering if there is a reading schedule and how you would like participants to handle spoilers? i read the comment on the blog post that actual discussions won't really begin until the 18th of november, but i would love to know what's okay or to be avoided here until then. thanks!!

before i even begin the read, i am prepared to be creeped out a little bit and also to re-think everything i feel about social media and the online world. insert twilight zone theme here.

Oct 17, 2013, 3:25pm Top


Oct 17, 2013, 3:28pm Top

Off to check availability of this book @ my local libraries....just in case I don't happen to win one.

Edited: Oct 17, 2013, 5:36pm Top

re: # 2 - hi tim! well, yes, i understood that bit, but this thread is 'first impressions' so i didn't know if we are to talk about the book at all, or just share general feelings? i am totally not a fan of spoilers, so i have no intention of doing that, not to worry. caps not needed. heh! but i thought it best to ask for clarification on what's okay. thanks.

Oct 17, 2013, 5:49pm Top

>5 Booktrovert: This thread is more designed to talk about the book as you begin/progress reading it, but you're more than welcome to share your thoughts on it prior to starting reading, as well!

Oct 18, 2013, 10:03am Top

I take it this is not a happy book. I will look into the next scheduled read. Yall have fun.

Oct 18, 2013, 10:34am Top

I was reading the posts in the introductory thread, and Tim mentioned speculative fiction. I had a question about what he said, so I'm bringing it over here.

Quoting timspalding, #17: "Speculative fiction makes for great audiobooks--"

I guess I've been living under a rock, but the term "speculative fiction" is unfamiliar to me. What's the distinction between speculative fiction and utopian/dystopian fiction? Is speculative fiction just an umbrella category, and u/d fiction a smaller part of that? Or is there some nuance that I'm missing?

I'll admit straight up that I'm not a big fan of dystopian fiction, a genre which seems to be increasingly popular, especially with teens, and I'm just being honest when I say that I don't completely understand the appeal, or maybe my understanding of it is superficial. However, that said, I'm looking forward to reading something that I wouldn't normally read on my own, which is probably one of the best reasons for joining a book group. And while I often read "happy books" (#7--Hi. Y'all have fun too!) for entertainment, I also like to read books that encourage thinking about familiar ideas in new ways, which of course aren't always "happy."

I'm really looking forward to finding out what people here think of this book. Happy reading!

Oct 18, 2013, 10:39am Top

I think "speculative fiction" is an umbrella term form for science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.

Oct 18, 2013, 11:03am Top

>8 labwriter: I think it's important to distinguish between dystopias where the focus is actually on the world, and pseudo-dystopian YA romances that are just taking advantage of the popularity of the Hunger Games without any real concern for creating a coherent dystopian setting.

I'll be interested in hearing what people think about this book. I wonder to what extent it will even be necessary to read it to participate in the discussion, which I suspect will have a lot to do with the costs and benefits of social sharing. At least one of the reviews on Amazon made it sound like this is a message book where things like characters and story are very much secondary, and that might actually be a benefit for those of us who are unlikely to get a copy in time :P

Oct 18, 2013, 11:14am Top

>9 Nicole_VanK: You think right! It's a catchall term.

Oct 18, 2013, 11:20am Top

>9 Nicole_VanK: Cli-fi (science fiction regarding global climate change) is now a coined sub-genre. I-fi (internet science fiction)?

Oct 18, 2013, 11:59am Top

Makes you wonder what wifi stands for ;-)

Edited: Oct 18, 2013, 12:37pm Top

>13 Nicole_VanK: Wireless Fiction. Clearly. It's all about cell phones and radios and RFID chips.

Oct 18, 2013, 1:14pm Top

>13 Nicole_VanK: Don't worry, Doctor Who knows what's up with the WiFi.

Intro to "The Bells of St. John"

Oct 18, 2013, 1:40pm Top

I thought "internet science fiction" was basically the same as cyberpunk?

>15 leahbird: Well played.

Oct 18, 2013, 2:11pm Top

i am not totally sure, but in what i have read. 'speculative fiction' is a sub-genre within science fiction, but can occur across genres, like literary fiction. some authors (margaret atwood, in particular) prefer the term to 'scifi'. (whereas china miéville prefers the term 'weird fiction', heh!) as i understand it, speculative fiction is used when events in a book *could* happen. as opposed to scifi where, sometimes, things can be more far-fetched and outside the realm of possibility (or any time soon possible, anyway). i think speculative fiction is not quite so easy to define, because it crosses genres and can't be pigeonholed...so i suspect that is the appeal for authors writing in this area.

Oct 18, 2013, 3:12pm Top

See, no one's even started the book yet and we're having lovely discussions!

Oct 19, 2013, 6:19am Top

I've always sort of interpreted scifi as being more science-oriented, with scientific developments that are currently not present in the world (eg space travel) and speculative fiction more of a speculation on how the world could be, but not necessarily with great scientific advances. Like, it could also be a future in which we revert to stone-age-like situations, which would not be scifi because of the lack of 'sci'.
And I do agree it would be broader than dystopian/utopian, since often the term 'speculative fiction' is also used for stories that don't take place in the future, but in an alternate form of our own time. Or even an alternate version of the past, in which historical events take a different turn.
So, yeah, as said before, a broad term altogether, but I do think there is a distinction from scifi, and also from utopian/dystopian.

Oct 19, 2013, 10:36am Top

1. lorannen wrote: Thoughts on the book as you're still reading? Tell us about it!

I have a question about the strategy for posting comments about the book as we are going forward. If I'm reading lorannen's post at #1 correctly, it sounds as though any comments we have while we're "still reading" the book go here, without spoilers. So does that mean we should wait to create a new thread discussion until we have finished the book? It would help me out a lot if someone would explain how this is to work, since the group reads I've participated in here all seem to be set up a little bit differently.

Oct 19, 2013, 11:03am Top

I think we're just to hold off on new threads and actual discussion of the book until the date set, Nov 19th I believe.

Oct 19, 2013, 11:30am Top

Hi Leah. Thanks. I guess that date is posted somewhere, but I missed it.

Oct 19, 2013, 1:50pm Top

Can general non-spoiler threads be started before Nov. 19, though? E.g., "What other Eggers books have you read?" or something like that?

Edited: Oct 19, 2013, 7:54pm Top

>23 _Zoe_: Good point, Zoe. I see no reason why not. I just created the first two threads to get things started.

Oct 19, 2013, 9:20pm Top

Somebody higher up in this thread mentioned that there are so many YA dystopian novels out there. There really are. A friend of mine told me the other day that she was getting tired of all these books were people reach a certain age and then something happens to them so she was gong to read something different. I handed her my just finished copy of Master Butcher's Singing Club. That is not dystopian/utopian fiction at all.

Speculative fiction in my mind is a broad category that encompasses science fiction, but it also embraces fiction like Jose Saramago's Blindness, or the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I also think that Mary Shelley's book Frankenstein is speculative fiction. At the time she wrote that novel the genre of horror fiction hadn't even been invented. It is indeed a very broad category and some of the finest writers of the past and present write in this genre. I think that most fiction is speculative in some way.

Oct 20, 2013, 12:29pm Top

Is anyone planning on listening to this book instead of reading it? I have both print and audio on hold at my local library, but chances are I won't get either before November 18th.

I like to listen to books, but they usually are relatively light reads. For fact-dense ones or books I want to discuss, I generally like paper books so I can flip back and re-read parts, or e-books so I can highlight and bookmark.

Oct 20, 2013, 12:42pm Top

>25 benitastrnad: thanks for mentioning Master Butcher's Singing Club. Looks good, so added to the ol' wish list.

Oct 21, 2013, 11:48am Top

>26 TooBusyReading:

I'll be audiobooking it. First hour or so worked well in that format.

Oct 21, 2013, 11:50am Top

>26 TooBusyReading: Thank you, Tim. It's helpful to know that it's off to a good start in audio.

Oct 23, 2013, 7:30pm Top

I find it highly ironic that this book is being discussed on a social networking site.

Oct 23, 2013, 7:33pm Top

>30 nohrt4me2: Yeah, I think that was the point :)

Edited: Oct 24, 2013, 11:11am Top

First of all I should thank the LibraryThing for the selection of this book – otherwise it is unlikely I ever read it (at least in English)! I’ve just completed the first half of it (the 50% mark on my Kindle), and I can say that the book is easy to read, and interesting enough to keep attention. The idea that technology will improve everything in the life seems a bit primitive, as in fact the technology makes us probably stronger, but not better. The technology probably makes the world even more deceptive, as the real nature of the things or people is occurred hidden behind the virtual masks. For me it is also a rare experience to read the fiction literature in English (I am Russian and mostly read the technical literature in English). I was surprised that it was easy and interesting to read The Circle, so thanks Tim and LibraryThing again for this perfect idea and book selection.

Oct 25, 2013, 8:19am Top

I agree. It is an easy enough book to read. I probably wouldn't have picked it to read myself if not for my book club and now librarything is having a discussion about it, how awesome!

Oct 25, 2013, 11:27am Top

As mentioned in the "introduce yourself" thread, Eggers didn't feel a need to research much of the technical world before writing this book. I haven't started reading it yet, but have to assume that there have to be technical aspects to the story.

My first impression is this is arrogant of the author. Perhaps arrogant is too strong a word to use here, and maybe I'm completely off base, but I like to read books after the author has actually researched his subject. Thoughts?

Oct 25, 2013, 11:34am Top

>34 TooBusyReading: I've seen him in person twice and I agree with your impression.

Oct 25, 2013, 11:48am Top

>34 TooBusyReading: Yeah, I agree. I think realism is an important part of a good dystopia, and that includes actually researching the subject matter.

Oct 25, 2013, 1:10pm Top

re: #35, norabelle414

hi norabelle. i have also had the pleasure of seeing and meeting eggers a couple of times. i always feel the need to defend him when the charge of arrogance is levelled. From what i know, eggers is shy &/or introverted and finds social situations awkward/difficult so that is often interpreted as arrogance, since he may not come across as warm and effusive, in-person.

re: #34 - toobusyreading

hi there! eggers has been known to do lots of research with his books. eggers does not use twitter or Facebook and has gone on record as having serious concerns about the digital era we are currently living in. while i have not yet begun to read the book yet (next week!!), from what i have read, it's one view of the internet/technology that could be interpreted as a satire, speculating about what could be. given egger's online presence via mcsweeney's, he has some online experience.

this wired article was interesting (there are spoilers): http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/10/the-circle-review-dave-eggers/

this interview notes he worked on notes for about three years and did consult more tech-savvy people when he had questions, but that, for the most part, the novel is purely speculative: http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/behind-the-cover-story-dave-eggers-...

Oct 25, 2013, 1:21pm Top

Interesting, thank you. I used to be very shy and introverted, and that was often taken as arrogance when the opposite was more the case, so I can understand that assumption. I guess I'll just have to read the book and judge for myself. I'm sure we'll all have more to say once the post-reading discussion begins.

Oct 25, 2013, 1:26pm Top

I decided to try to track down what Eggers said about the non-research for this book, since it seemed like such an odd admission for an author to make. Even if it's true, why would he say it?

It turns out he was being accused of lifting parts of a book by Kate Losse, a memoir about her experience as an early facebook employee--The Boy Kings. So in pushing back against that accusation, he probably went too far, either admitting (or bragging) or however you want to characterize it, but saying that he did no research for the book.

Here's his denial:
I've just heard about the claims of Kate Losse that my novel, The Circle, was somehow based on a work of nonfiction she wrote. I want to make it clear that I have never read and have never heard of her book before today. I did not, in fact, read any books about any internet companies, or about the experiences of anyone working at any of these companies, either before or while writing The Circle. I avoided all such books, and did not even visit any tech campuses, expressly because I didn't want The Circle to seem to be based on any extant companies or upon the experiences of any employees of any extant companies. Because The Circle has not been released yet, it's my understanding that Kate Losse has not read my novel yet, so I trust that when she does read it she'll understand that I have not read, and certainly never lifted anything from, her book.
I find it curious that an author would admit to having done no research for his novel, especially a book like this one about social media. Maybe that's why the book seems so "thin" (I'm at about the 60% mark). But, more about that later.

Edited: Oct 25, 2013, 1:40pm Top

>37 Booktrovert:, 38. I'm very introverted and will never be anything but introverted (I honestly don't think the world needs more extroverts), but there's nothing shy about me. Many people conflate those two terms (I'm not saying that you are doing that here--maybe you were both shy and introverted); in truth, one has nothing to do with the other. And yes, people often mischaracterize my social awkwardness as arrogance, if they don't like me, and shyness, if they do, so I can sympathize with Eggers if that's the case with him.

Edited: Oct 25, 2013, 2:07pm Top

I don't know. Writing is imagining. To illustrate, my wife's first book, The Mermaids Singing, involved a teenager whose mother died of cancer and visits relatives in Ireland. At book readings people would ask about the dead mother as if it had happened to Lisa, when, of course, it had not. (At one reading she said "My mother's not dead. She's in the row behind you.") She created the story intentionally and creatively; and indeed, the mother died for a plot reason--to get the protagonist to Ireland without entanglements. Another fan wrote a long letter guessing at which west Ireland island was involved in another story. Although my wife spends a month in Inishbofin most years, the answer is "many and none"—she created it. And, FWIW, despite the main characters in Love in the Asylum, I am not a drug addict and Lisa does not have bipolar disorder.

There are authors who feel differently. Tom Wolfe's novels (Bonfire of the Vanities, A Man in Full, etc.) involved Wolfe doing deep research on financiers in New York, and upper-class and imprisoned Atlantans.

Anyway, not every novel needs to be that sort of novel. I am only part-way through, but I'm not reading The Circle as an expose or truer-than-life recreation.

Oct 25, 2013, 2:13pm Top

Can I say? I loved The Circle. I enjoyed it all the way through, found it interesting, thought-provoking, and exciting--and the prose is gorgeous. I don't care either way about whether the technological aspects are well- (or not-at-all) researched or accurate. They made their point and scared the bejeezus out of me in the process.

Oct 25, 2013, 3:02pm Top

>40 labwriter: Yes, I am still introverted and always will be but no longer shy, even though the two are often considered synonymous.

>Tim, I appreciate novels full of imagination and creativity, I just don't like incorrectness to be presented as fact. Fantasy, dystopian, that sort of thing always requires suspension of disbelief, and I can do that pretty easily.

From what I've seen already, I think this book is going to great for enlivening discussion, and I'm going to enjoy seeing what everyone has to say.

Edited: Oct 25, 2013, 5:39pm Top

re: #39 & #40, labwriter

hi there! i tried to differentiate, in my earlier comment, with the "&/or". i am also introverted, but not shy - i have had this same conversation many times, that they are quite different things. when i met eggers, he told me he is an introvert, but his publisher told me he's also shy (though i didn't come away with that impression from our meetings)....i can certainly appreciate the awkwardness social situations can create though. so i feel empathy for many authors who are introverted or tend towards introversion, then have to do these public events and readings. it's hard. and if they aren't bubbly and smiley and chatty...then people assume they are aloof, cold or arrogant, when, really, they're just trying to keep it all together.

i read about that allegation of plagiarizing but i don't know -- i think the internet and social media are fairly ripe situations for fiction writers right now. (mr. penumbra's 24-hour bookstore is a recent example too.)

in that wired link i shared a few posts back (it has spoilers) it does note people in tech, or with lots of tech. experience, may find the book light or silly.

re: #43 toobusyreading

but the circle is fiction so nothing is being presented as fact...i am with tim ( comment #41) there is creative license in fiction, for the purposes of storytelling. i feel as though striving for authenticity, which i think writers hope to do when they do so much research for their novels, is different than presenting fiction as fact. (does that make sense?) of course, i have heard that comment about suspending disbelief applied to many types of fiction and when a reader can't do that, it's such a shame. i have experienced it myself and it's frustrating.

Oct 25, 2013, 6:07pm Top

>41 timspalding: I think there's a difference between visiting Ireland repeatedly and then writing a story that's not set in any particular place in Ireland, and just not bothering to find out anything about how the tech world works when writing a book about the tech world. It will be interesting to hear the reactions from people who do work at Google etc.

I find that a lot of the success of a dystopia depends on how easily we can see it developing from the current world. I would have imagined that actually being familiar with the current situation would help with this, but perhaps not. I'll be able to make more informed comments in January or whenever I finally read the book. (I've avoided the spoiler link so far, but it will be interesting to read later on.)

Oct 25, 2013, 6:09pm Top

>41 timspalding: And, FWIW, despite the main characters in Love in the Asylum, I am not a drug addict and Lisa does not have bipolar disorder.

Are you sure about that? Because surely one only writes what one knows. ;)

Oct 25, 2013, 6:32pm Top

>45 _Zoe_: It depends. I semi-recently read a Rudy Rucker book from the 90s that was steeped in technology... and was probably severely dated within 5 yrs of publishing. All this terminology and explaining all these things that everyone knows, and these silly "nicknames" for things that are just laughable, and it was just miserable to get through all this very knowledgeable technology of the book. I did it because the underlying story was interesting, but holy cripes. If he'd only just kept it vague, it could have worked. It sounds like that's what Eggers did for his, and that seems a much wiser choice.

Oct 25, 2013, 7:01pm Top

>47 .Monkey.: Oh, I definitely agree with you about specific terminology and technology. I was thinking more about general culture. For example, I think that tech companies (thinking mainly of Google here, as the one I'm most familiar with) tend to offer their employees a lot of flexibility. They're trying to provide a good working environment because the employees they want are very much in demand.

And then from what I understand of the book, there's suddenly mandatory participation in certain things. Is it clear how the much-valued flexibility changed into mandatory participation, and why? Especially given that the protagonist is eager to embrace the whole world, why is the mandatory aspect necessary? Do highly-skilled Bay Area software engineers no longer have multiple employers competing for them, since this one company has taken over? But if so, why is this company still offering all its famous perks?

Basically, I'm wondering whether there's a clear path from the current world to that one—not only at the most basic level of "people keep giving up privacy", but in details?

Oct 25, 2013, 7:17pm Top

Ah, yeah. Well I guess you'll just have to read it and find out, or else watch the discussions to see. I'm pretty curious about the book myself, but given my library doesn't even have his other books, it'll probably be many years before I read it, heh.

Oct 25, 2013, 7:21pm Top

Yeah, I'm planning to read it eventually, even though the reviews I've read so far haven't exactly won me over. (I think I may just generally be burned out by bad dystopias recently, so I'm feeling extra cautious.)

I'm currently #290 of 94 on the library hold list, so I can hope to get my hands on a copy around early/mid December. Sigh.

Oct 25, 2013, 7:26pm Top

#47's comments make a lot of sense to me. This book, like any dystopian, begins with what's happening now and creates an imagined trajectory to an undesirable conclusion as a cautionary tale.

This book isn't about the evils of technology (technology is just a tool), nor is it a prediction of technology of the future. It's a cautionary tale about how people could rationalize their use of technological developments to manipulate human relationships, commerce, and government.

Nobody criticized 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 or even The Year of the Flood for riffing on technology as the tool of the state or the oligarchs. So I really hope this discussion isn't going to devolve into highly technical explanations of "how Dave Eggers is wrong about technology."

It's not about the machines; it's about the people who use them.

Sorry for writing a manifesto.

Oct 25, 2013, 7:33pm Top

>51 nohrt4me2: I don't think anyone suggested that Eggers' being wrong about technology was an issue. And I agree with you that it isn't about the machines. But it seems that Eggers' focus isn't the people who use them either, but rather the people who produce them. So in order for him to come up with a plausible trajectory from what's happening now to the undesirable future, I'd expect him to know something about what's happening now--not in terms of the technology itself, but in terms of the people who produce it. Because for whatever reason, he chose to set this story on a tech campus rather than in the world of the regular user.

Hopefully someone who's actually read the book can assure me that this plausible trajectory actually does exist :)

Oct 25, 2013, 10:00pm Top

First impression? This book is pretty thin gruel and has done nothing to change my low opinion of modern fiction. But I'm only on page 39; maybe things get better.

Edited: Oct 26, 2013, 12:07am Top

>44 Booktrovert:, re: 39, 41 i feel as though striving for authenticity, which i think writers hope to do when they do so much research for their novels, is different than presenting fiction as fact.

Excellent point, and I like the way you put it.

>41 timspalding:. Writing is imagining.

Sure, that's true, but in the case of this book, I imagine I will argue, when we get to that point, that Eggers' "imagination" does not carry the day--although to be fair, I'm not finished with the book yet, so perhaps I will feel differently when I've finished. I've already admitted elsewhere to not reading much dystopian fiction, but it seems to me that even dystopia needs some amount of verisimilitude to go along with the imagining. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief, but I'm not willing to suspend my brain.

>53 cpg:. But I'm only on page 39; maybe things get better.


Oct 26, 2013, 12:55am Top

I have to disagree that a dystopian novel's success is related to any ability to see a plausible way to get there. One of my favorite books is Jaspar Fforde's Shades of Grey about a distant future that is a colorocracy. One's position in society is based on what color in the spectrum you can see. I can't see any plausible way that society arose and that's part of the wonder of that book.

There are good dystopias and bad ones. In my opinion the good writers don't necessarily convince you that their world could exist, but that it does. I've only read a few pages of this book to whet my appetite, but I liked what I saw and have high hopes for a good story.

Oct 26, 2013, 5:13am Top

>55 tottman: I think it's a bit different depending on whether the main notion is a completely surreal fabrication or whether it's based on actual reality. Sure, you can make a dystopia on some imaginary created situation and then not really worry about how realistic that situation is, but if you're going to base it on something present in the world today and say right now we're at Point A and directly because of that, X yrs from now we wind up in Point B, you're going to have to flesh it out with realistic motives for arriving at that point (if you hope to successfully win over the majority of your readers, at least).

Oct 26, 2013, 7:16am Top

I just got my copy of the book.

My first impressions? It's very.... red

I'm about 2 thirds of the way through the well of lost plots so I'll start it as soon as I'm done.

Oct 26, 2013, 1:15pm Top

@52, 54, 56: I think the people who run "The Circle" are composites people who already exist or have existed. I don't want to give examples that would break the "no spoilers" rule.

The book, to me, muses on what would happen if those people were able to tap into the power of digital communication--the power of which is already self-evident--as well as a large pool of techno-savvy young people hard up for jobs, to achieve their own ends. (I hope that's not a spoiler ...)

Ach, the branching of the discussion is confusing already. Everyone is saying interesting things, even the people I disagree with. I hope some effort can be made to sort out discussion themes, or I will be hopelessly lost.

Oct 26, 2013, 2:32pm Top

I'm a third of the way into 'The Circle', and picked it up expecting to really enjoy it, given the subject matter, the positive press, and the comparisons to Orwell and the rest.

It's, ah, not living up to the hype for me, as of yet.

Oct 26, 2013, 2:59pm Top

I haven't started reading yet, but just wanted to get back to the 'no research' thing: I haven't read all the inteviews and stuff on the subject, but it seems to me like Eggers didn't really not do any research at all. He merely states that he stayed away from such companies himself because he didn't want his book to clearly be a picture of one of those companies, but doesn't actually say he did no research at all. He does state that he asked more 'expert' people on technological details, and I think we all have a general idea from the media of what modern, hip IT businesses look like.
I'm not sure of course, but it seems like he is more concerned about people interpreting his book as an attack on a specific company (and the accusation of plagiarism) and therefore states that he did not base his stories on any specific company, rather than him not having done any research at all. Anyway, that's just the feeling I get from the comments...

I was thinking about the fact/fiction thing, and it's really sort of a paradox. Whether we accept something in a novel very much depends on the type of novel it is; in a fantasy novel the strangest things can happen and we never bat an eye, but when in a realistic novel something happens which we know isn't possible, we feel that the author is doing something wrong and is somehow breaking a rule. It seems like how much factual background and plausibility is needed is very much dependent on the style of the novel.
Like I said, I haven't started reading so I can't really say anything yet, but not being very tech-savvy myself I probably won't be bothered if Eggers doesn't get all the details right. But I can imagine that if you are tech-savvy, it gets annoying when the author gets technological details wrong within a 'realistic' type of novel.

Oct 26, 2013, 3:37pm Top

>58 nohrt4me2: I definitely agree that it would be good to have some more focused discussion threads!

Various ideas:
What makes a good dystopia? (maybe also: what are some good and bad dystopias, and why?)
How important is realism in fiction?

I appreciated your description of the book ("The book, to me, muses on what would happen if those people were able to tap into the power of digital communication--the power of which is already self-evident--as well as a large pool of techno-savvy young people hard up for jobs, to achieve their own ends."), and didn't think it was a spoiler at all.

I do wonder about the idea of these young people hard up for jobs, though. Where did they come from? Right now, people with the technical skills to work at Google/FB/Twitter/etc. have no problem at all finding jobs. Or is Mae not doing technical work?

>60 Britt84: I agree with you that more things are acceptable in fantasy than in realistic fiction, but I think even in fantasy the author should follow the rules that he sets out. Once the basic premises have been established, things should develop coherently from there. I guess the difference with fantasy is that the author can choose how much he wants to reveal the basic premises to the reader, and there's no possibility of the reader having more knowledge of those premises than the author does.

Oct 26, 2013, 4:05pm Top

>61 _Zoe_: Right now, people with the technical skills to work at Google/FB/Twitter/etc. have no problem at all finding jobs.

Er, where are you getting this from?

Edited: Oct 26, 2013, 6:00pm Top

Right now, people with the technical skills to work at Google/FB/Twitter/etc. have no problem at all finding jobs.

Depends what you mean by "technical." Google and the lot employ all sorts. But I'd agree that top-notch programmers today have little problem finding a job, especially if they live where the jobs are. More generally, while you can never generalize people's experiences away, statistically-speaking the economy is great for the highly educated--who hardly experienced a recession--but not for everyone else. See http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/05/03/business/Education-and-Employment....

Oct 26, 2013, 6:21pm Top

6 months ago when I was in Seattle there was an article in the paper about programmers in that area who were unable to get jobs. A the same time several of the big tech companies in the area were in Washington D.C. lobbying to have quotes raised (or lowered) so that they could hire people from outside of the country. Apparently, in there view, there was a shortage of H1B's to accommodate the shortage of programmers in the U.S.

I tend to believe in greed. Greed means that companies want to hire the most qualified person for the least amount of money. If they can get qualified workers from outside the U.S. for less money they will do so, and it won't matter how much education you have in high demand jobs. We had a student working for us who graduated last December with a degree in Computer Science who was unable to get a job. We aren't exactly in a high tech area, but it is a university and we need programmers. However, nobody was hiring because of the sequester. He was unable to move because his significant other was still in school. One year later he is still looking for a job.

Edited: Oct 26, 2013, 7:11pm Top

>64 benitastrnad:. nobody was hiring because of the sequester

There are a lot of reasons companies aren't hiring. Please {{rolls eyes}}.

Oct 26, 2013, 7:39pm Top

Just ordered my copy, should be here by Wednesday. Time to try something new; quite a timely book. Should be very interesting.

Oct 26, 2013, 9:18pm Top

@60, I think there might be a thread on Orwell and Eggers.

One of the things that struck me as especially Orwellian (for good or ill) in "The Circle" was the way various characters opined at length about their views of the socio-economic/political scene, just as they do in "1984."

Eggers is in his early 40s, I believe, just a few years younger than Orwell was when he wrote "1984," which was published when he was 46.

Both were relatively young writers (though Orwell died from TB the year "1984" was published), and were clearly and earnestly disturbed by developments in their own time.

I think it is also interesting that Winston Smith works in communications making "corrections" to historical documents, while Eggers' book is also deeply concerned with communication and its manipulation.

Oct 26, 2013, 9:21pm Top

I'm talking about people who have a four-year computer science degree from a good university (presumably with good grades too, though I have no information about that).

My brother and my fiancé both work at Google. My fiancé was finishing college and looking for jobs at the end of 2008/beginning of 2009. He doesn't know offhand of anyone in his cohort who struggled to find employment, at what was supposedly the worst period in recent economic history—recruiters were coming to them.

The reason Google and other companies offer so many perks and pay so well is because they're competing with each other for employees. If they could easily find people willing to do the same work for less, they'd hire those people instead.

Oct 27, 2013, 8:30am Top

The Circle seems to paint a picture where the company can choose out of so many applicants that the applicants become fanboys. That the company still offers great perks is just adding to the desire of many to apply.

Reading this dystopia compels me to really make an effort at reading other classic dystopia's.
I know about these ones, but are there any others?

1984 - George Orwell
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Oct 27, 2013, 11:55am Top

>69 JerryMmm:

It's probably not in the classic category (yet!) but I really enjoyed the first two books in Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy .. Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood

Oct 27, 2013, 12:00pm Top

@69 - These are a few of my favorites

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
Player Piano - Kurt Vonnegut

If you find you like The Handmaid's Tale you might also enjoy her MaddAddam trilogy. I've read the first in the series and have the other two at the top of my TBR stack.

I'd also rec William Gibson's Neuromancer if you're interested in a SciFi flavored take - Noir-ish Corporate dystopia where information and the control of its flow is the most valuable commodity.

Oct 27, 2013, 12:43pm Top

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Newer but noteworthy:
The Giver by Lois Lowry (although this is a middle grade reader, it's still my favorite book at 30)
The Children of Men by PD James
The Wool triology by Hugh Howey

Oct 27, 2013, 1:18pm Top

I'd second most of those except oryx and crake which I didn't get on with. I gave up quite near the beginning as I just wasn't taken with the style. Do you think I should try again?

Oct 27, 2013, 1:40pm Top

I, too, wasn't a fan of Oryx and Crake and have not read subsequent novels. However, Atwood does make one think about topics such as genetic manipulation to produce the kind of animals that make the most sense for industry and not for the animals, and how advertising effect what we buy as much as what we know about our world. Chicken McNuggets must be good for us because they taste so good. Right? Nevermind what we do to animals and ourselves as a result.

Oct 27, 2013, 2:02pm Top

Oct 27, 2013, 2:03pm Top

A Handmaids Tale was fantastic and certainly made me think. I should look into her other writings as I'm sure there are loads of great ones there. I wouldn't want to write her off just for Oryx and Crake.

The giver and Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry are also excellent. I haven't finished the series yet.

I enjoyed Wool but I wouldn't say it was so profound. I didn't come away different to when I started.

Oct 27, 2013, 2:12pm Top

Some lesser-known corporate dystopian novels: Jennifer Government, The Futurist, and, in short story form, some of the offerings in Persuasion Nation.

Based on conversations on other LT threads, I think many readers were left a bit cold by Oryx and Crake. I think Atwood makes up for it in Year of the Flood, the best entry in the trilogy. Maddaddam, meh. The imaginative threads that run through all three books are very good; it's the character development that seems a bit rocky. Just my two cents.

Edited: Oct 28, 2013, 12:19am Top

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Oct 28, 2013, 12:21am Top

My immediate thought on reading the ? synopsis I'd that it reminded me of J-pod by Douglas Coupland

Oct 29, 2013, 5:23pm Top

Just received my copy from Amazon and it looks interesting. After looking at the synopsis on the book, this new work seems to be almost like a suspenseful mystery; and I love mysteries. Questions to ask: the circle, what influence does it have on its employees? What effect does working at the circle have on Mae's personal and professional lives? How is the circle similar to 1984? Does Dave Eggers have some insight into our future world or is it just speculation ? I'm really interested in seeing what others think of the book, because The Circle isn't my usual type of reading....so I'm going into unfamiliar territory.

Oct 29, 2013, 7:17pm Top

I think the book can certainly be viewed as a mystery, Jane-nut!

Oct 30, 2013, 6:48am Top

I started reading the book today. It seems more lightweight than I expected but the protagonist has only just reached the end of her first day at The Circle so I will not rush to judgement.

Oct 30, 2013, 4:19pm Top

I haven't started yet, but I do have a first impression. I really like the cover. Reminds me of circuits/pathways, vaguely Oriental, vaguely religious...maybe a little menacing. I like the strong color too.

Oct 30, 2013, 4:38pm Top

I've made it to the halfway point. Is it weird that I don't like any of the characters? Particularly Mae.

Oct 30, 2013, 7:22pm Top

Lorannen: Not even Mae's parents?

Oct 30, 2013, 8:14pm Top

Dust jackets always fascinate me. I noticed this cover right away as well. First off, I liked the color. then I noticed the symbol. I thought it was some kind of oriental religious symbol and so stopped to look at the book and read the front flap. I also like the feel of the cover. Sort of slick but not. This is a good example of a cover that fits the book. I wonder if it influenced any buyers? Did somebody say "Oh I love that cover!" and buy it just for that reason?

The cover for Sea of Poppies was beautiful too. I would have purchased it just for that one reason.

Oct 30, 2013, 8:54pm Top

>84 lorannen: Not weird. At some point I'd love to have a conversation about whether this indicates a viable choice or a weakness on the part of the author, but it would get spoileriffic here.

Oct 31, 2013, 8:54am Top

Hehe, I liked this line in an Amazon review: "I'd call her one-dimensional but that would be an insult to the first dimension."

Oct 31, 2013, 9:14am Top

300-page update:

All the shallowness and lack of redeeming qualities I sensed early on, now with sex scenes ghostwritten by 2 Live Crew. It's been a long time since I've read a book I loathed this much. My original plan was to finish early and send my copy to an LTer who couldn't afford one of their own; my new plan is to finish it and throw it away.

Oct 31, 2013, 9:42am Top

It's interesting; I'm pretty confident that I won't like this book, based on everything I've read so far, but I still plan to read it so that I can participate in the discussion. I'm not making much progress in the library hold line, but my sister managed to win one of the ER copies so I can get it from her at Christmas.

Oct 31, 2013, 10:00am Top

Also, fun with polls!

Vote: I've read the book already

Current tally: Yes 10, No 22, Undecided 2

Oct 31, 2013, 10:00am Top

Vote: I expect to have read the book by November 18

Current tally: Yes 22, No 9, Undecided 3

Oct 31, 2013, 10:00am Top

Vote: I'd like to read the book but won't be able to read it by November 18

Current tally: Yes 7, No 10, Undecided 2

Oct 31, 2013, 10:01am Top

Vote: I don't intend to read this book

Current tally: Yes 6, No 15, Undecided 3

Edited: Oct 31, 2013, 10:41am Top

This book has potential for one that will make for good discussions in a group read, since it's evident from the comments both here and in the Introductions thread that reactions are going to run the gamut from people who can hardly put the book down to those who can barely get through the book, if at all.

If I had only a few days to read this book before the discussions started, I wouldn't make it through, since I'm finding that I can read only a very little bit of this at a time. After about two weeks or so of steady reading (small amounts each day), I'm finally at 87%. Frankly, I've been bored to tears since about 30% or so into this thing, and that's probably being kind to the author. I've found myself looking for things to do like organize my sock drawer so that I wouldn't have to read.

>84 lorannen:. I don't like any of the characters. . . . Particularly Mae.

I couldn't agree with you more. And no, I don't "like" her parents, either. They are simply less unlikeable than most of the others, but I honestly find them rather pathetic.

>87 emmaliminal:. An unlikeable protagonist is a challenge for both the writer and the reader, but certainly we can probably all think of main characters who we love to hate. Mae isn't interesting enough or complex enough to "hate"; my feelings for her hover around total to near-total indifference. Does Eggers actually know any women?

I hope to do a reread of Orwell's 1984 (first published in 1948) before we start the discussion of Eggers' book. I'm really disturbed by the (positive) comparisons I've read of Eggers and Orwell.

That said, I would just add that obviously there are a lot of people who have reacted positively to this book--for example, this thing is Amazon's Best Book of the Month for October 2013. I'd love to know how they come up with books for the Best Book of the Month category.

Edited: Oct 31, 2013, 12:15pm Top

>85 nohrt4me2: Good point. I do feel sad for them, and definitely don't dislike them. They actually make me quite sad, and I think I tend to try not to think about them when they're not immediately present on the page.

>95 labwriter: Your response to 87 is spot-on. I totally agree.

Oct 31, 2013, 2:22pm Top

>95 labwriter:/96 Granted your point about unsympathetic protagonists, think back to those same books with leading characters you didn't find likable but still enjoyed reading: did you find yourself unmoved by all the other characters in them, too? *That* is the authorial choice I'm suggesting was either weaksauce (my vote) or possibly a rhetorical ploy, a marked feature of the dystopia, etc. Like, as in, you could write a paper for senior lit class that started "'The theme of this book is 'Social media will make us all really boring, pointless people' and one way you can tell is that all the characters are really boring and pointless" and get an A.

Edited: Oct 31, 2013, 6:29pm Top

>97 emmaliminal:. Did I find myself unmoved by all the other characters? Of course not. Think, for example, Crime and Punishment. In fact, I was "moved" even by the unlikeable Raskalnikov. But Mae whatever her last name is? No, I'm not moved by her.

Oct 31, 2013, 3:14pm Top

Aside: Touchstone defaults have some serious problems. (Crime and Punishment)

Oct 31, 2013, 3:54pm Top

>98 labwriter: Mae's last name is "Holland"; a country perhaps best known in the American literary imagination for wooden shoes, the world's first proper economic bubble (based on tulip bulbs), and being precariously situated with regards to the sea, such that heroic little boys are occasionally needed to save the country from certain destruction by plugging their fingers into holes in the dikes. And blondes, which is a mildly interesting detail given Mae's olive skin and black hair.

Oct 31, 2013, 9:40pm Top

So are you saying that Mae's surname has some kind of symbolic meaning? Of so what? Are your examples analogies?

Nov 1, 2013, 6:06am Top

I would hope not, that would mean to my mind the author has a rather dim view of my country.
Because I have a rather dim view of his main character, a fangirl devoid of any capability to think critical thoughts.

While more and more the people here seem indeed incapable of thinking outside the box, I don't believe this is an exclusively Dutch problem..

Nov 1, 2013, 8:43am Top

>100 emmaliminal:. And blondes

Be careful with stereotypes. This is my 100% Dutch grandmother from Friesland, the Netherlands. Not blonde, not blue-eyed, and I don't even see any wooden shoes on her feet.

Edited: Nov 1, 2013, 11:28am Top

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Nov 1, 2013, 9:47am Top

>101 benitastrnad:-102-103: I'm not saying that the things I mention are the only things anyone anywhere associates with Holland, or that the author definitely means to associate those things with Mae; I am only speculating. I do think that absent any other context, most Americans, if they think of anything at all when they read the word "Holland", will think fleetingly of wooden shoes, tulip mania, boys saving dikes with their fingers, and/or blondes. These are our ordinary pop-cultural references. And I think it's safe to say that this book is about a phenomenon grounded in American pop culture, wouldn't you?

If you want to go deeper into this shallow topic, the protagonist's full name is "Maebelline Renner Holland", and you could make a case that the name indicates how shallow the character is intended to be. Her first name is a misspelling of one of the US's most famous cheap and heavily marketed makeup brands, whose slogan, "Maybe she's born with it -- maybe it's Mabelline!" also sort of works for a character who has no idea who she is or where her boundaries are. And even without the pop-culture references, Holland is a pretty bland geographical invocation, relatively speaking -- "Laos" or "Teuton" for instance could suggest some more complexity or family depth.
I dunno about Renner.

I'm not too serious about this!

Nov 1, 2013, 9:51am Top

a fangirl devoid of any capability to think critical thoughts

I'm still confused about how a person like this is supposed to have gotten a job there. What does she do? And are there similar positions at Google/FB/etc. right now?

Nov 1, 2013, 10:12am Top

Not arguing the point about what Americans think when they see the word Holland, just adding that some LTers might think of a certain programmer/developer/designer.

Edited: Nov 1, 2013, 10:39am Top

Obligatory link: How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard.

I'm still confused about how a person like this is supposed to have gotten a job there.

Her friend got in early and has a high-level job.

Nov 1, 2013, 10:53am Top

Heh. But honestly, from everything I've read, it sounds like this is more of a message book—beware of social media oversharing—than one where things like character and plot are interesting/important. How much does reading it really matter?

It would be fun to see how much I could participate in the actual discussion without reading the book, except I'll probably avoid the spoiler threads until I do actually get to read the book in mid-December.

Nov 1, 2013, 12:05pm Top

>109 _Zoe_: "it sounds like this is more of a message book—beware of social media oversharing—than one where things like character and plot are interesting/important"

Bingo. The authors I love (mainly 19th century English) are commonly criticized for their didacticism, but in this regard they pale in comparison to Eggers. And the great Regency/Victorian era authors at least make up for it with keen observation, beautiful language, original insights into the human condition, and occasionally an admirable character or two. Eggers has none of these.

Edited: Nov 1, 2013, 1:43pm Top

>102 JerryMmm: "...a fangirl devoid of any capability to think critical thoughts." I don't know that I quite agree with this assessment of her. I don't think she's stupid or vapid, exactly, but she is definitely naïve, and, in my estimation, constantly stuck holding the Idiot Ball.

Nov 1, 2013, 2:58pm Top

This is my first participation in an online book discussion, and I have to say I'm struck by how, well, mean-spirited so much of it is.

For example, why would you even want to participate in a group discussion of a book you haven't read? And why would you put forth such vehemently, well, opinionated opinions about a book you've never read?

This particular style of "criticism" makes me really uncomfortable, as if--without even really knowing whereof you speak, since you haven't yet read the book--you're criticizing me for liking it. (Granted, that's ultimately on me and not you, but seriously--why don't you read the book before jumping in on how much you hate and scorn it?)

I know my participation or lack thereof won't make any real difference in any of the other participants' lives, but I think I'm going to bow out if the discussions continue in this vein for much longer.

Nov 1, 2013, 3:11pm Top

I have read the book. I'm upset with the author for the money, time, and brain cells I've wasted on it, hence the vehemence of my opinions.

Nov 1, 2013, 3:14pm Top

>112 BeckyJG: As I understand it, the book was chosen because of the issues: it's relevant to LT as a social media site. These are issues of general interest to LT users, beyond the specific book.

I want to participate in the discussion because it's a major new LT undertaking and because it's interesting to talk about issues with other LT users.

I haven't read the book because Tim chose one that isn't readily available. I would obviously prefer to participate in the discussion having read the book, but that hasn't been something that LT is concerned about.

I think it would be excessively exclusionary for LT not only to choose a book that isn't readily available, but to say that people who haven't read it aren't even allowed to participate in the discussion on the non-spoiler thread.

Note that there are also plenty of people who have read the book and still don't like it. I'm not the one who described the protagonist as "a fangirl devoid of any capability to think critical thoughts". I'd go so far to say that the most vehement criticism comes from people who have actually read it, so if you can't handle that, getting rid of the people who haven't read the book (i.e., me) isn't going to help you.

I don't think Tim chose this book with the idea that everyone would agree happily about it. The idea is to foster discussion. Of course, I think there are plenty of other dystopias that foster discussion without being so widely disliked, but that's a risk that comes with choosing a book without waiting even a month to see the reviews. I know Tim hates ratings, but even he might admit that a 3.37 average rating is very low. And I presume those ratings come from people who have actually read it.

Nov 1, 2013, 3:32pm Top

>112 BeckyJG: Though I'll agree that it's odd to have an opinion about a book you haven't read, we are currently still not at the real discussion threads, but only at first impressions. You don't need to read the entire book to have a first impression (in fact, I'd say a first impression sort of necessarily comes before that point). Real discussion will be started as of November 18, so if you wish to talk more about contents and talk with people who did read the book, pehaps it would be an idea for you to wait until then, and see how you like the discussions at that point...

That being said, I think the book addresses a lot of issues which one can have an opinion about without having read this particular novel, so I'd say discussion can be open to anyone. Sure, if you haven't read this novel you might not be able to go into specifics about the book itself, but I'm sure there are many ways in which you will be able to contribute to discussions.

Edited: Nov 1, 2013, 3:47pm Top

>112 BeckyJG:. Becky, I'm asking this with all due respect for your post and your feelings. Is your post an example of the sort of "vein" you would like to see for the comments here? It seems fine to me, but it also seems a little edgy, calling out people for being "mean-spirited." Look up the logical fallacy, argumentum ad hominem.

Some people have a natural "edge," and they let it show, and I don't have any problem with that, because I do as well. If other people here (yourself, perhaps?) are feeling "criticized" for not liking the book by others who have expressed their dislike, then I would say--Get a thicker skin. This conversation is not about you--it's not personal. It's simply about people expressing their points of view.

Your post seems ironic to me since people of "The Circle" would love to have everyone agree with one world view. That's not who we are here, and I haven't heard anyone here be disrespectful.

Becky, I would really encourage you not to run away from this group, and also to work at backing up your arguments about how different aspects of this book (or comments about this book) strike you. Additionally, if you find that debating points of view not in agreement with your own makes you uncomfortable, then I respectfully suggest that you engage in more of that kind of debate, not less. And this group, it seems to me, is a very good place for that. I really hope you'll stick it out and add your comments.

Nov 1, 2013, 4:11pm Top

>116 labwriter: Very well said.

Nov 1, 2013, 5:11pm Top

Duly noted, both your points (but really--argumentum ad hominem?) and your condescending tone. You are indeed correct about my thin skin (yeah, I've been working on that one for years), so I think it would be better if I left you all to it.

So, have fun! Enjoy the discussion, and I hope you enjoy the book as well.

Nov 1, 2013, 7:50pm Top

I am the one who called her a fangirl etc, and I have read the book.

I like the book, generally. But I identify far more with the ex than with miss emptyhead.
And I like it more for the theme and the warnings about privacy etc than for the writing, characters and plot.

You don't need to think critically to work in customer relations. Especially if your company is just so damn good at what it does. :rolleyes:

Nov 1, 2013, 8:52pm Top

I guess that I am thick-skinned or perhaps only thick-headed but I didn't see meanness in this thread, just different first impressions on a book most of us have not read yet. First impressions are only that, just as we have first impressions of people but are often wrong when we get to know them. Only time and reading will tell, and even then, we will all have different viewpoints.

Becky, I do hope you change your mind and decide to play with us.

Nov 1, 2013, 9:45pm Top

I would say that this discussion is a prime example of the kind of world that most of the social media outlets I have seen promotes - That of react first and think later. In a world where you don't have to look people in the eye, you can say or write whatever you want and then back away from it with no loss of face and no consequences, such as hurt feelings, other than the few wasted minutes it took to make the posting.

I think that disagreeing about a book and its contents is part of the discussion process, however, dropping provocative empty headed phrases such as posted above is not discussion. It is simply stirring up controversy for the sake of seeing how people react, and is the digital version of yelling fire in a crowded building. I might think that the book is overblown claptrap but if I say so I will tell my fellow discussion members why I think that in a nicer way than was done up thread. In short, discussion is all about opinion, but decorum still rules.

I also think that some of the upthread discussion got a little heavy-handed and off-the-track, hence the reason for the question I asked about the literary symbolism of the protagonists surname. This is a literary discussion - not a Saturday Night Live Put-Down Fest, and my question was an attempt to get the discussion back onto literary ground. That attempt was ignored. I have participated in many LT Group Discussions and there have been heated exchanges about passages found in books but most of these do not fall into the realm of insulting groups of people and then attacking those who disagree. We need to be careful that doesn't happen with this book discussion.

I applaud the LT staff for selecting this book and would like to remind everybody that the real discussion doesn't start until November 18. It is clear from the reactions that are already registered on this thread that the book elicits strong feelings so that bodes well for future discussion.

By-the-way, when somebody says the word holland I think Holland, Michigan and Holstein/Friesian cows.

Nov 1, 2013, 11:50pm Top

>121 benitastrnad: I disagree that harsh language has no purpose beyond deliberate provocation. See #111, for example, where lorannen disagrees with the expression and gives her own opinion about the character. I think this is perfectly valid discussion.

As for the more "literary discussion" about the character name, your questions about that weren't ignored at all. #105 is a lengthy response to your #101. I'm not sure how much farther we can push that line of thought, or how productive it is to try. But I'm sure people who have something to say on the matter will do so. Similarly, people who have something to say about the protagonist will say it—even if it's not positive.

I find the criticisms of the discussion to be far less constructive (and certainly far more off-track) than the criticisms of the book, no matter how harsh the latter may be.

Edited: Nov 2, 2013, 12:12am Top

Good grief—get along, people. It's really not that hard to attend to how your remarks are likely to land. And I for one am going to refuse to be provoked, or chase the argument. I too have seen it before.

This thread is for first impressions—any more out there, as people get into the book? We can, perhaps, start to form some discussion questions from them soon.

Nov 2, 2013, 12:27am Top

There were some general discussions at the beginning of this thread that could be broken out into new threads, about dystopias, speculative fiction, the role of research in fiction, etc.

I'd personally be in favour of having more general (i.e., non-spoiler) discussions in addition to the focused discussion. There's obviously a bit of bias in this, but I do think it helps to generate interest in the book in general, by giving people an entry point into the discussion. Participation doesn't have to be binary. And I saw at least one user mention yesterday(?) that she had finally decided to read the book after following the discussion in this thread.

It's unclear to me how formally structured this is, and in particular whether users are encouraged to create threads themselves, or whether we should just wait and see what comes from on high.

Nov 2, 2013, 12:56am Top

This user has been removed as spam.

Edited: Nov 2, 2013, 2:10am Top

>124 _Zoe_: I think, since this is our first attempt at One LT, One Book, we're sorting of playing "wait and see" with regard to structure. I certainly hope all members feel comfortable creating other threads themselves. That said, we'll also be throwing out a handful of more specific topics on the 18th. I think Tim was starting to hint at developing said topics in the last bit of his previous comment.

Nov 2, 2013, 4:17am Top

Having reached the 15% mark I'm finding it's like a cartoon.. Microsoft/Google meets Disneyland. I think I've even come across Micky and Minnie.

Nov 2, 2013, 7:41am Top

This discussion has made me curious about the book so I checked my public library's catalog again and they now have it. So I'll give it a try.

Nov 2, 2013, 8:57am Top

>123 timspalding: It's really not that hard to attend to how your remarks are likely to land.
Giggle! Hi there, Pot, I'm Kettle.

I mean no offense with my comments about Mae's name, and I'm not making remarks just to get a rise out of people. Authors presumably do think hard about how to name their characters and while I doubt this name rises to the level of overt symbolism, I don't doubt that the author considered how the name would at least subconsciously strike readers. I'm nattering on about this small detail because I think it's representative of some larger themes in the book but doesn't get into any spoilers. In plain language, one of my first impressions was that the author chose a protagonist who is unsympathetically shallow and naive. As I went on to read the book, I felt that the author's choice was unsuccessful and not well supported, and I got annoyed with him for it. I'd love to discuss this -- the choice of protagonist, how successful it was, whether the author supported it well, and the reaction I had to it -- in further detail later on. I'd also like to discuss the choice I think the author made not to include any alternate sympathetic characters with which the reader might identify.

Nov 2, 2013, 10:04am Top

Shallow, as in flat, like The Netherlands. I can see the link :)

There was no intention on may part to be deliberately antagonistic or in any way trolling. The limitations of a first impression thread where you can't spoil is that there will be seemingly bold statements about characters or plot or theme, without the opportunity to back them up with examples and reasoning.

Nov 2, 2013, 10:23am Top

Half way through and growing increasingly intolerant of any of the characters and much of the style. I think that this is not the response that Eggers seeks.

Edited: Nov 2, 2013, 11:11am Top

>127 suniru:. Microsoft/Google meets Disneyland

Very good! made me laugh

Nov 2, 2013, 11:48am Top

>130 JerryMmm:: hey, we have, like, hills! :)

I think you have a point in that the 'no-spoiler' thing sort of precludes any lengthy argumentation with reference to the text.
The point made about Mae's name did make me think, but I haven't read the novel yet, so I can't really comment on it. I'm definitely planning to keep it in mind when I start reading though, but I'm afraid any real discussion will really need to wait till the 18th...

And I'm totally going to watch out for mickey and minnie ;)

Nov 2, 2013, 11:56am Top

129: the choice of protagonist, how successful it was

Well, for sheer sake of the story, regardless of the message, it’d seem preferable, from the author’s point of view, for readers to care what happens to the characters. I don’t, and comments here indicate that I’m with a majority.

If the message is the shallowness of a virtual smilies-and-frownies world, this might be more convincingly conveyed if Mae had begun as a person with internal dynamics and agency, and lost these qualities as she got sucked into the company culture.

So far (I’m approaching 2/3 through), this book does not rise to the level of dystopia. It rises to the level of a ridiculous corporation: disorganized (new rules appear suddenly or after they’ve been inadvertently broken) with silly incentives (the grade-inflated rating system). The sort of corporation (I’ve been there) where employees surreptitiously or openly (depending on the degree of monitoring) decorate their cubicles with posters from despair.com.

Nov 2, 2013, 12:55pm Top

>134 qebo: "for sheer sake of the story, regardless of the message, it’d seem preferable, from the author’s point of view, for readers to care what happens to the characters."

When I'm reading George Eliot or Charles Dickens in the evening, I have to choose my stopping point carefully so as not to lose sleep over the circumstances in which the characters find themselves. That wasn't a problem with this book.

Nov 2, 2013, 2:29pm Top


Nov 2, 2013, 2:52pm Top

52: Hopefully someone who's actually read the book can assure me that this plausible trajectory actually does exist :)
It doesn’t. For one thing, Mae has a foot-in-the door job in customer service; this is not typically a position in which employees have much autonomy or experience great job satisfaction, so any dystopian aspects of the corporation have to be considered accordingly. For another thing, the backstory (early in the book) is that The Circle was built on an identification system that forced everyone out of anonymity, thus eliminating the problem of people being jerks on the internet. So rather immediately, one questions the author’s grasp of human nature.

Edited: Nov 2, 2013, 3:13pm Top

The Circle was built on an identification system that forced everyone out of anonymity, thus eliminating the problem of people being jerks on the internet

I think this is hyperbole, but it has a lot of truth to it. Every time a paper or whatever has moved from standard comment systems to a Facebook-only system, things got much more polite quickly. There are, of course, SOME people who are willing to be assholes in public, with their comments tied forever to their names, and Googleable by their future employers. (Me, perhaps.) But most are not, and the effects of this shift have been noted repeatedly in contexts both popular and academic. In other words, Eggers is plugging into a known effect, and his narrative voice is extrapolating or exaggerating it.

Nov 2, 2013, 3:31pm Top

138: Googleable by their future employers. (Me, perhaps.)
Are you anticipating a future employer?

I think this is hyperbole, but it has a lot of truth to it.
Sure, but nudged in an improved direction is not the same as eliminated entirely in a single-sentence swoop so now we can move on. And even with real names, people have a range of behaviors and a range of tolerances, and perhaps the range changes when some of it can’t be kept private.

this shift have been noted repeatedly in contexts both popular and academic
In support of this, I recall reading somewhere, re crime prevention, a question of whether increasing surveillance or police presence in high crime areas just causes a shift in location, and the answer is no; it actually does reduce crime overall. Statistically speaking anyway; I don’t recall numbers.

Nov 2, 2013, 3:38pm Top

>138 timspalding: Facebook-only system ... much more polite ... Eggers is plugging into a known effect, and his narrative voice is extrapolating or exaggerating it.

I think the degree to which he exaggerates is overdoing it. A lot. Specifically, a known-identity system might ameliorate jackassedness, but as far as I can tell and going by the examples we already have, it doesn't make people less likely to get openly pissed off and chatty about it when they think they're being bullied or used by The Man. I just can't believe that the corporation would not seen as The Man by ... more characters than Eggers chose to do so, especially since his characters include an audience of millions.

Can't you think of a half-dozen protests against Facebook conducted on Facebook itself? Have you already hidden the feeds from all your Facebook friends who would warn you to COPY and PASTE this declaration that according to the Geneva Convention you do not give permission for your words to be used etc. etc.?

Human nature: we don't root for Goliath, we root for the little guy. Eggers edited this out of the human condition in this novel and it feels weird.

Edited: Nov 2, 2013, 3:56pm Top

Are you anticipating a future employer?

Probably, but I've largely made the decision to "go clear." Anyone with a little time on their hands can assemble a dossier of my relations and opinions, and some of my best and worst moments. My decision to make a social site, and not to play Wizard of Oz with it, had that consequence. Fortunately, my online trail largely begins after my most embarrassing years—so no sexts, or pictures of my hair on fire (Shirky reference), and my few poems online are not traceable to me. I know a fair number of tech people in this position, but I don't think it's a tenable stance for most people out there, and indeed the ways that the online world can dog you has cost very many extremities of pain.

Sure, but nudged in an improved direction is not the same as eliminated entirely in a single-sentence swoop so now we can move on

I suppose I'm reading it with different expectations as to realism than you are.

In support of this, I recall reading somewhere, re crime prevention, a question of whether increasing surveillance or police presence in high crime areas just causes a shift in location, and the answer is no; it actually does reduce crime overall. Statistically speaking anyway; I don’t recall numbers.

Online, the shift has largely been to homophily. I can't tell you how many friends I have on Facebook whose feeds are an Orwellian Two Minute Hate. Given my social context, they're all hating from the far left to the right—conservatives, republicans, Christians, theists generally, etc. No doubt if I had a different social context, it would be against liberals, feminists, Obama, etc. The switch to homophily has meant a decrease in interpersonal hostility—their friends are all of the same view, so the comments are mostly supportive. But I am not infrequently stunned by the levels of vilification and dehumanization they exhibit*. I prefer the older world of online anonymity and confluence, where people sometimes argue with people different from them, not hate on those different from them with those similar.

*For example, I expect everyone to hate on Ted Cruz--a politican I dislike too. But it's amusing to hear from friends of mine who went to third-tier colleges because their parents could pay full fare that Cruz is a "moron." I'm pretty sure someone who rose from the bottom of the American social ladder to graduate cum laude from Princeton, and magna cum laude at Harvard Law, where he edited the Harvard Law Review, is not a "moron."

Edited: Nov 2, 2013, 4:10pm Top

Re homophily on Facebook, a tech tip: If you genuinely prefer a broader social context, always switch your feed to sort by MOST RECENT instead of the default TOP STORIES. TOP STORIES is a finely tuned homophily-production engine.

ETA: I bet there are a lot more people with interesting views among your Facebook friends than you realize, in other words.

Edited: Nov 2, 2013, 4:49pm Top

>142 emmaliminal: Great observation concerning the FB feed--I only discovered this option myself a few weeks ago.

>141 timspalding: This seems to be common effect of surveillance/observation, whether or not the observers or subjects are actively aware of their own intentional participation in it--it has noticeably moderating' effects on etiquette and behavior (maybe not in over-policed neighborhoods, but I can't speak to that) and can even edge opinions towards what may feel like mutually supported positions or at least perceived majorities. It can homogenize and strengthen particular views, which is not ipso facto a bad thing, unless those views are particularly misinformed and throttle those of others. Then comes the very tendentious and difficult question of arbitration and authority, which is a whole other can of worms.

In any case I agree with these views concerning the the adverse effects of social homophily in a transparent internet space, at least as it pertains to the distribution of opinion. You know, it may sound a bit trite, but when I think of all this discipline and punishment from my comes to mind immediately, especially its discussions of such things as "permanent documentation" of the individual. I'm very unsure that Eggers did, however some aspects of the novel jut out to me at least as similar, and I guess I do give him props for that--It pays to now a little about the utilitarian/enlightenment England. Considering the noticeably rising tide of paranoia in the past year or so, which may just be now more vocalized, Eggers may just be adding to it himself.

So as I read this novel, so far as I am examining it as a manifestation of near-future dystopian literature, I'm making an active effort in comparing the strengths of Eggers's brands (Circle brands, etc) to neologisms in 1984. So far I haven't been able to swallow many of them easily.

edited for a typo

Nov 2, 2013, 5:26pm Top

>143 matthewmason:, Considering the noticeably rising tide of paranoia in the past year or so, which may just be now more vocalized, Eggers may just be adding to it himself.

I'm very interested in what you have to say in your post here, although it takes a bit of work to unpack exactly what you're saying. I will admit that I've never been a big fan of Foucault. Would you mind being a bit more specific about the sentence above? Particularly your reference to "in the past year or so"? Please.type.slowly. Heh.

Nov 2, 2013, 7:12pm Top

>143 matthewmason: I think it's more than a bit dismissive to call it a "rising tide of paranoia." Surely you've heard the quote "it's not paranoid if they're out to get ya" or however exactly it goes? It's been & being revealed time and again just how much all of our data is being collected by various entities.

Nov 2, 2013, 7:26pm Top

>145 .Monkey.:. {grin} Yes, you understood where I was going with that--a quibble with the "paranoid" phrase. Yesterday I was talking on the phone to my sister about her recent car-buying saga. After that phone call, and for the rest of the day, I received random emails about purchasing a car, financing a car, etc. Am I really paranoid if I think that my personal phone calls and information are known and used by some outside entity?

Nov 2, 2013, 7:29pm Top

hah. That's a new one for me, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that was the case. After all, gmail has been targeting its ads based on the content of users' emails for years, why should we think that kind of thing doesn't go further?

Nov 2, 2013, 8:00pm Top

>144 labwriter:

Maybe rising concern over privacy, rather than paranoia, is a better way of putting it! It's being done, after all. I was meditating over one possible influence... and there could be many besides Foucault, too.

Some of his observations concerning meticulous ordering of personal information might ring a bell when reading Eggers, or that could just be me musing away in my faux philosopher hat.

But on a more literary influence note, there's a short story I read a about a year ago called The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster (yes, strangely the same guy who wrote A Room With a View). It's a real masterpiece, in a number of ways, considering it was published in 1909, well before We and Brave New World. It develops ideas like universal connectivity, instant messaging, and personal issues that really remind me of Mae's situation. Mankind has retreated underground to live in individual, cubical like dwellings, universally connected by a single machine. Dilbert jokes aside, its a really short story well worth reading.

Nov 2, 2013, 8:08pm Top

I have now finished the book. I think that it raises a whole lot of questions but I am glad that Eggers has stopped shouting at me as if I am an idiot.

Nov 3, 2013, 1:07am Top

>148 matthewmason: Thanks for the tip about the Forster.

Nov 3, 2013, 12:21pm Top

Oh I agree about The Machine Stops. I read it for the first time a couple decades ago, but the imagery and concepts stayed with me. Especially the isolation with extreme connectivity. I think I have a PDF of it that I snagged somewhere, but I don't know if it's available on Project Gutenberg yet.

Nov 3, 2013, 1:13pm Top

>151 Bookmarque:. The Machine Stops It can be downloaded free as an eBook. I bought it last night for my Kindle for 99 cents, and I pretty quickly got through about half of it. To my great unsurprise, the writing is excellent (E.M. Forster, Howards End). Written in 1909, the ideas in this story are nothing short of prescient. Great reading!

Nov 3, 2013, 2:34pm Top

I'm about to start the book and after skimming this thread have my anti-luddite/anti-preachiness hackles raised.
Great book suggestions though - I will definitely look for the Forster.
Another Atwood I love that falls in the spec vein is "The Blind Assassin" - an excellent book.

Edited: Nov 3, 2013, 4:15pm Top

> 148 Great suggestion, thank you. Downloaded a public domain copy of The Machine Stops from the Mobile Reads library, and enjoyed it immensely.

Price for the ebook edition of The Circle has dropped to $6.50 US at Sony, Barnes & Noble and Amazon, by the way.

ETA - Doubleplusungood is my second First Impression. My third is a desire to re-read 1984.

Edited: Nov 3, 2013, 6:18pm Top

I apologize if this comment has been made (I don't think it has but there are 100 odd comments that were potentially filled with varying amounts of arguing that I skipped). The concept of this forum actually made me chuckle because it exactly represents the main theme behind The Circle (company, not book). The fact that we are forming a group to create a collectiveness follows along the same vein. Obviously this thread is not so malevolent as The Circle, but it was just a thought!

Nov 3, 2013, 6:38pm Top

I'm a little puzzled by the criticism that Eggers is heavy-handed (a "cartoon," "shouting" at people).

The classic dystopian novels ("Brave New World," "1984") were not what you'd call masterpieces of subtlety. They are heavy-handed and didactic, often veering into long manifesto-type speeches by various characters.

You want subtlety, read Henry James, not dystopians.

OTOH, the NYT had little good to say about the novel today in it's review of books. Can't get the link off Google yet. There are spoilers in the review.

Nov 3, 2013, 8:48pm Top

>155 QueenAlyss:

Well, right. Also, I have a camera in your house.

>156 nohrt4me2:

Oh, good. My copy is still on the porch. I'll check it out.

Nov 3, 2013, 10:46pm Top

Timspalding, you had a very boring day of watching me read and paint today. it'd almost be more fun to watch the weather or check your favorite local spot *chuckles*

But sometimes I do wonder if we actually are down the same path as this novel. Right now, Google has made it seem that I must have a google+ account in order to have full functionality of everything that I have synced with my gmail (phone, tablet, chrome). I'm not quite sure what to make of this so I've left it. But google now permeates so much of my online life (mostly limited to recipes, books, and fitness) and it's very strange. My gmail gives me ads in my own inbox, googlenow goes through my internet history and recommends concerts and such. Hell, I basically don't even know why yahoo, bing, and all of the other search engines stay afloat (although I hear that Yahoo might be breaking ground).

》156. I agree, Even though this book is nothing compared to the elegance of Orwell, I think that it has a great impact once you just take the idea and run. Eggers presented the premise of a very real potential in very minimal terms. And no, his facts are not correct when matched with the stats from today. But I don't think that that is what is important and it almost fits with the story that he isn't factual or researched, given that the people in this story are completely overloaded with facts.

Nov 4, 2013, 5:23am Top

So, I've -finally- started reading, and I have to say, my real first impression is:
There's got to be something wrong here... I mean, we're in this place where everybody is nice, everybody likes everybody, nobody asks questions, and nobody is critical about anything. Maybe I'm just cynical, but really, there's got to be a catch. And seriously, why is everybody simply agreeing with everything and nobody asking questions or anything?

Other than that, so far I find the book intriguing and I'm not very bothered with Mae (yet). I can think of a lot of things we could discuss that this novel touches upon, so I feel it's a really good choice for a group read, and am looking forward to the 18th...

Nov 4, 2013, 9:21am Top

This morning I finished installing the new Apple "Maverick" operating system, with its subtle, disconcerting shift—a continuing shift, but still discernible—from software you own on a computer to a service you subscribe to. Then I called the Portland Water District—i.e., a utility—and had a great personal interaction, followed by a request to rate the call, done by a machine, and composed of a series of rapid-fire questions to which the only answers were 1-5.

Anyway, it gave me a definite Circle sensation…

Nov 4, 2013, 5:36pm Top

>160 timspalding: absolutely! I do feel that the story in itself, and The Circle as a company, really aren't that far-fetched, and the book does force you to think about these issues.
I have finished the first 'book' today, and I have to say that I do in fact enjoy the book. I agree that Mae isn't very likeable, and sometimes very exasperating (and the same counts for other characters), but still, I like the way Eggers puts his story together and how he makes Mae slide deeper and deeper into the Circle, taking over more and more of their ideas and practices.

Nov 4, 2013, 10:55pm Top

Timspalding, you just made me think about how it really all is a circle. It never ends if we are continuously sending these "quid pro quos" (as one interaction stated) then when does it ever stop? I think Mae showed this very well because she seemed incapable of not returning all 5 billion messages, responses, sub responses (sent because the response had no response), etc. so her circle never ended. Her family was a great contrast too.

》159/161. I agree, it really isn't far fetched. There seem to be a lot of issues that the populace allow to slide without asking questions. Many of those people would never even have a clue if the information wasn't pasted in front of their faces on a tv screen thanks to someone else with the initiative to question.

》160. How does that make you feel about your iphone, shifting from an object that is completely yours to something that could theoretically be taken away at any given moment? This was a big argument against electronic books because these puplishers and stores theoretically have the power to deny you access. I actually feel bad that I own about 20 ebooks but it's just so handy for school and traveling. (my precious books must stay perfect...)

Nov 5, 2013, 7:34am Top

I'm halfway through the book and am finding it interesting. It's unlikely that I would have read this book on my own, so thanks LT! I see The Circle as a modern day 1984. (When 1984 was first-written, much of the technology was inconceivable to the readers.)

As a retired IT professional, I know that, when I started in the business, I never conceived that much of today's technology would exist. In 1990, when data transmission speeds were measured in "bits per second", and 4800 bps was standard, I worked on the design of a system that required much greater speeds. We were told by the "visionaries" not to worry about transmission speed, that by the time we got to implementation, the technology would exist, and now it does!

I can understand the author's lack of research - while some of the technology that he proposes may be in the planning stages, he would not have access to any of the details about it, since it is being developed under strict military/corporate security.

The core message here is one of data privacy - be careful what you wish for, you might just get it!

Edited: Nov 5, 2013, 9:48am Top

The novel is not very concerned with the "how" of the technology—either technically or socially. If Eggers were Clay Shirky, he'd make something like the "going clear" trend more plausible. I'd suggest, however, that we're missing something if we focus on this sort of thing.

Has anyone read We by Jevgeni Zamjatin recently? I need to re-read it, but there are certainly parallels. (And is either We or 1984 really plausible?)

Nov 5, 2013, 11:23am Top

>164 timspalding:. I'd suggest, however, that we're missing something if we focus on this sort of thing.

I'm a little bit frustrated about where this discussion is going in a thread marked "first impressions." I think issues about what the "focus" of our discussions should or shouldn't be is premature; additionally, I think that anyone posting here should focus on whatever is interesting to them about the book, which will be far easier to do and undoubtedly more productive when we actually "start" the discussions. It's hard to argue the other side of this issue without reference to specific examples, which naturally wouldn't be appropriate for a non-spoiler thread--although I would agree with you 100%, that Eggers "is not very concerned" with the "how"--or with a lot of other things, for that matter.

Edited: Nov 5, 2013, 11:47am Top

>165 labwriter:

Forgive me for unclarity. I wasn't using "focus on this sort of thing" as any sort of comment on how comment should go, or etc. I meant that "as critics" we're missing something if we focus on it.

Nov 5, 2013, 1:02pm Top

I read 1984 in 8th grade, which was some time ago. I have never read We. So I’m not in a position to compare. Issues of privacy, security, identity, etc are well worth discussing, and may be easier to discuss with reference to The Circle when spoilers can be included. My general assessment, for this non-spoiler first (and in my case last also) impressions thread, is that the novel, as a novel, IMO of course, is so eye-rollingly sloppy about hows and whys that it’s difficult to accept as a serious critique of social trends, even where I agree that the trends are of concern.

Tim, if there are specific things that you personally want to talk about in this thread, then go for it. Post 164 & 166 come across more as though you’re trying to redirect the conversation. This is your baby as a concept and as a choice. Is your role facilitator or participant?

I actually think this book, despite my opinion of it, was an excellent choice to kick off OLTOB.

Nov 5, 2013, 1:07pm Top

I've read 1984 and We in the past 10 years, but not The Circle. Super helpful, I know ;-)

One of my libraries has ordered some additional copies so there is a chance I might be able to pick up the book before the 18th.

Nov 5, 2013, 1:58pm Top

Yes, I think We, the granddaddy of all dystopians, informed "1984," "BNW" and, of course, "The Circle."

I am interested in some FIRST IMPRESSIONS (lest anyone think I'm not working within parameters; so many Type A's on here sometimes, hee) that some women have had about Mae. It struck me that the story would have been entirely different had Mae been male. Which would be a tangential but certainly interesting discussion.

Nov 5, 2013, 2:50pm Top

I finished the book last night..so I am all out of first impressions. Should be fun to discuss and I'm looking forward to seeing how the threads will be set up. Hmm..maybe one called "smile" and one called "frown"..

Nov 5, 2013, 2:57pm Top

170: maybe one called "smile" and one called "frown"

Nov 5, 2013, 5:13pm Top

>170 suniru:

Exactly. However, you missed the Portugal interest brunch.

Nov 5, 2013, 5:18pm Top

Finally! I have rec'd notification from my library that the ebook is available, but now I have so many others lined up. I'll still try to sneak it in somehow.

Nov 5, 2013, 6:32pm Top

> 148 E.M Forester was a chap?!

Nov 5, 2013, 6:41pm Top

>174 RuthieD: Yes, E.M. Forster, aka Edward Morgan Forster.

Nov 5, 2013, 8:11pm Top

》 169. Personally, I found that Mae fit the story (maybe a little stereotypically). If she had been more assertive in her future (she's obviously grasping at straws in the beginning) then maybe she wouldn't have felt such a large need to impress nor would she have "owed as much" to those involved in the project.

However, on your point of a male lead, I feel like it would have been the same. A few of the romantic bits might have felt different to the reader but I find that her eventual sidekick is her male equivalent and the story probably would have progressed the same.

Edited: Nov 6, 2013, 12:59am Top

>169 nohrt4me2: So, I've thought about this a bit and feel like there's three main points that strike me about Mae. Now, these will be rather blunt statements without any argumentation, since I'm not allowed to give any spoilers, but I'm perfectly willing to talk about this more after the 18th.
For your information: I've finished the first part of the book.
* to me, she seems rather unintelligent/uneducated/uncritical for someone who allegedly did a bachelor at a top college
* she doesn't seem to have any meaningful, adult relationships; her relationship with her parents and with Annie seem to be on the level of an adolescent type of relationship, and her relationships with men so far have been only about sex
* I find her terribly self-involved
All in all, I sometimes feel that she seems more like a 15-year-old than a 24-year-old. Aside, I agree with earlier comments of her being shallow; she doesn't seem to have any hobbies or interests (except for kayaking), no deeper relationships, a rather limited emotional life, and within this first part there really isn't much character development going on.
I don't think my ideas about her would have been very different had she been a male character...

As QueenAlyss (#176) says, I think in a way Egger needed a protagonist like this for the story; I don't know how the story develops further of course, but I do feel like he needed someone who wouldn't be overly critical and would 'go along' with the ideas of the Circle, at least in the beginning of the story. This is something that many writers of dystopias do: the protagonist who initially supports 'the system', but then comes to realize it's wrong and goes against it. Not sure if Mae will go against it in the later parts of the book, but I am sort of guessing she will :P

Nov 6, 2013, 4:27am Top

>177 Britt84: Age really doesn't have much to do with how well one forges relationships with others. It's dependent on personality type, among other things.

Nov 6, 2013, 1:14pm Top

69: "The Circle seems to paint a picture where the company can choose out of so many applicants that the applicants become fanboys. That the company still offers great perks is just adding to the desire of many to apply."

I am, somewhat unsettlingly, put in mind of myself and the hundreds of other applicants for the recent LT job posting . . .


Nov 6, 2013, 2:50pm Top

I'm really enjoying the book so far. But one complaint that hasn't been brought up yet (I don't think):
I'm not keen on books without chapters or clear points to stop reading. I suppose the ongoing text mirrors the continuous, one could say relentless, nature of the circle.

Nov 7, 2013, 1:28am Top

>178 .Monkey.: Well, I sort of agree and disagree :) It definitely depends on personality, of course, I didn't mean to say that that doesn't play a role. And your past experiences and other 'environmental' influences; I guess there's many things that influence how you relate to others, and I definitely agree that personality is very important in that.
However, I do think that as people grow older their relationships also change. I mean, when you grow older you also grow more mature emotionally and socially, and you yourself change, so I do feel that that has an influence on your relationships with others.
Of course there's huge individual variation and I don't mean to say that there aren't young people who have very deep and meaningful relationships (and older people who only have superficial relationships) but in general I do think age is one of the factors that have an influence. I'm not an expert on social psychology or anything, so I might be wrong, and I hope I'm not offending anyone, it's just what I think :)

Nov 7, 2013, 6:11am Top

>180 eclecticdodo:. I had a similar reaction about the lack of chapter breaks/headings, reading on my Kindle. This is a long book, and the lack of chapter breaks made it a more tedious read.

Edited: Nov 7, 2013, 10:10am Top

>180 eclecticdodo:

It's VERY nicely broken up in audiobook. Looking at the printed copy, I see there are scene shifts, marked with three asterisks, centered. These correspond to the numbered sections in the audiobook. I agree in preferring numbered chapters.

Nov 7, 2013, 10:35am Top

180: The Nook e-book has inconspicuous visual breaks (a skipped line w/o mark, easy to miss), and you don’t know until you get there because the TOC lists only sections I (p 7), II (p206), III (p 328). I’ve read other e-books with similar and worse formatting, so didn’t blame this on the author.

Edited: Nov 7, 2013, 11:07am Top

I had a problem pacing in general, regardless of physical demarcations; I tend to find breaks in plot that feel natural to me, and I had a hard time finding them in this novels flow.

A good example is Eggers's insistence on iterating the things Mae does at work--maybe he is actually up to sometime stylistically here. A sort of phenomenology of "plugging into" Customer Experience/Social Media..

Edited: Nov 7, 2013, 11:49am Top

>183 timspalding:. Well, Tim, a) I wouldn't spend my audiobook credits for a book like this; and b) the Kindle version simply has a couple of line breaks between scene shifts--nothing else--much the same, it sounds, as the Nook's inconspicuous breaks. I remember reading and reading in this thing until I finally realized that I'd been waiting to get to the end of the chapter for about 50 pages, and--no soap. No chapters. It's an interesting point you make about the audiobook. Maybe people who listen to this thing have a better experience than those who read it. Maybe.

>184 qebo:. I blame this on the author, because if you look at the TOC, what you find is Book I, Book II, and Book III. (Although you might not have a TOC in your version.)

>185 matthewmason:. A very good point about the pacing of the narrative. I would think as I was reading, OK, I'll break when we come to a scene change--and then the thing would just drone on and on. If it's a stylistic thing, the reason was lost on me.

Nov 7, 2013, 2:40pm Top

>185 matthewmason: "I had a problem pacing in general, regardless of physical demarcations; I tend to find breaks in plot that feel natural to me, and I had a hard time finding them in this novels flow. "

Exactly. Although there are occasional line breaks they don't make satisfying points to pause. I guess I like some sort of mini-conclusion before I go to sleep.

Nov 7, 2013, 3:28pm Top

Here' what I posted on another page:

I just finished The Circle for the One Library Thing - One Book discussion, so no spoilers here. I'm very surprised that I enjoyed it so much. It's not my usual genre. The book has it's flaws: an admitted lack of research by the author, weak characters and weak character development, and no chapters - just 3 parts to the whole book! But the story was intriguing and thought-provoking as it describes a dystopian world with no data privacy. 4 stars!!!!

Nov 9, 2013, 9:21am Top

alright - i finally started reading this last night - and ended up staying up way too late. it's a fast, compelling read for me. i found it hard to set it down at any point as there wasn't really a natural break in the story, until i reached part two. but that's not really a big criticism. the story was/is holding my interest and though i feel i know where it's going, i am still curious to get wherever it's leading. i am not getting hung up on the technological stuff at all, and have been fine setting aside my usual 'yeah, but…' tendencies. i hope it will end up being a solid read, once it all comes together.

Nov 12, 2013, 1:46pm Top

In related news, last week YouTube started requiring people to use their Google identity to make comments to prevent harassment and trolling (like the TruYou system in the book). Also, as of today Microsoft is getting rid of their "Stack Ranking" system of grading employees (like the PartiRank system in the book).

Nov 12, 2013, 8:50pm Top

I just found this article today (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-205_162-57611950/google-tattoo-sticker-sized-voice-t...). It's a Google Tattoo, which is essentially like a micro chip that you willingly attach to yourself. Obviously it doesn't work quite like that but it has the capability to connect to your devices and may have the ability to detect lies.

Nov 14, 2013, 10:51am Top

Nov 14, 2013, 7:03pm Top

I've just finished the book, and I'll save any spoilers or in-depth discussion for later when we get into the meat of the book, but my first impression is that I liked the imagery on the first page, and it promised good things.

Nov 17, 2013, 2:30pm Top

I enjoyed this book. A page turner (which is what I was looking for in the first place) and what happens to some of the characters also shocked me a little. Got me thinking about online behaviour too!
I followed it up with George Gissing's The Odd Women - wow!
Fingers crossed for some good discussion on The Circle.

Dec 18, 2013, 12:17pm Top

I finally have a copy of the book in my possession—borrowed from a family member since the library hold still hasn't come in. And I figure I might as well post here even though I'm late.

So, I made it to page 21 before finding the basic premise ridiculous. Apparently the basic, appealing concept that made this company so successful was the fact that it provided a convenient system for doing all your online activities under a single log-in, using your real name. "The era of false identities, identity theft, multiple user names, complicated passwords and payment systems was over." Um, I'm pretty sure Google+ tried to go the connect-all-your-things-with-your-real-name route, and it was basically a flop, because people don't want to do that. So many articles have been written on the value of pseudonymity. If we're supposed to accept that everyone just gladly adopted this system for the convenience, I think the book fails as a dystopia because the basic premise is unbelievable. But maybe there will be more elaboration about how they won people over.

I would have found it more believable if it had been based on a FB approach: here's one site that uses your real name, in a private setting, that you're (probably) already using—and so it can gradually reach out its tentacles into more things, and encourage people to use their real names publicly too, and just generally increase its influence and erode privacy bit by bit. But the idea that everyone would just gladly jump into a newly-created no-more-privacy structure, for the convenience? I don't buy it.

Dec 18, 2013, 12:50pm Top

I disagree that Google+ flopped because it tried any particular approach. It flopped because it largely overlapped in functionality with a social network that already existed, and which was vastly more valuable because--all things being equal--value in social networks is largely function of how many people are using it.

Dec 18, 2013, 1:02pm Top

Well, that was the reason I didn't use it, anyway—and I was actively hoping for an alternative to FB. A decent number of my friends signed up initially, but I abandoned it when I saw that a casual comment on someone's post would then show up prominently in Google searches for my name.

Anyway, your point about social network value being dependent on people using it largely supports my argument, I think. People go along with FB's erosions of privacy because it's already so embedded in their lives. I find it hard to imagine a huge level of excitement building around the idea of giving up privacy just for its own sake, because people are tired of using different names on different sites.

Dec 18, 2013, 1:13pm Top

I don't think Google+ is a flop; it's just not exactly like Facebook and so people see it as a failure. I use Google+ frequently, as do many of my friends, and it is much more integrated into the other things I do than Facebook is. I use Facebook as a standalone entity but Google+ is much more linked with my email, calendar, phone, photos, etc. I hardly notice how much I use it because I don't go out of my way to use it - I'm just doing my normal thing and Google+ is along for the ride.

Google is still in the slow but steady process of linking everything to people's real names. Starting a couple months ago, for example, you must use your real name when posting comments on YouTube. And Google now offers real, physical debit cards connected to your Google Wallet account. It's never going to be fast process, but it is moving consistently forward.

Dec 18, 2013, 1:32pm Top

Google is still in the slow but steady process of linking everything to people's real names. Starting a couple months ago, for example, you must use your real name when posting comments on YouTube.

Right, but people hate this—not everyone, but at least a sizeable minority. Google is forcing them to do it, and they go along because they don't really have a choice; they aren't actively signing up for a new service for the purpose of giving up their privacy.

I think the idea that we get caught up in these webs unintentionally is the really disturbing part, and it's important to ask how invested we have to be before we no longer have a choice: would I be willing to stop using Google entirely? Probably not, though I'm happy never to post a comment on YouTube. But what if they bought Twitter, and forced me to use my real name there? I would certainly think twice, and probably use Twitter much less than before.

The assumption that people don't care at all, and will just jump at the chance to give up all online anonymity/pseudonymity, seems seriously flawed to me, and disappointingly skips over the serious issues that we're facing right now.

Dec 18, 2013, 1:39pm Top

I wrote this before, and it's my reply to Zoe's approach:
I think my enjoyment is related to how I read it--as a dystopic fantasy, not bad realism. The book is not believable, but neither are most dystopias. Nineteen Eighty-Four is not believable. Zamyatin's We isn't believable. The Hunger Games isn't believable--or for that matter, very good. The Circle's world is a world without countervailing forces—no privacy push-back, no Justice Department, no real competitors, etc. That said, I found the non-realism generally true--true in the way Nineteen Eighty-Four is, or rather was, true. And insofar as it was "true," it was also scary.

Dec 18, 2013, 1:48pm Top

I think dystopias that are set farther in the future, or in fantasy worlds more distant from our own, can get away with looser standards of realism. I have nothing against fantasy in general. But if the idea is that we might be looking at a time 10 years from now, I expect to see some logical way to get there from here.

Examples of books that I think have done well at believable dystopia: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (which I believe is available for free, incidentally) and pretty much anything by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Dec 18, 2013, 2:02pm Top

>199 _Zoe_: It doesn't have to be as straightforward as that. For example, Twitter could make it optional/recommended to use real names, and eventually anyone who doesn't use their real name could become ostracized. I think there are a lot of ways in which it could come about. I had a lot of problems with the book, but the initial premise seems plausible enough to me.

Dec 18, 2013, 2:15pm Top

Yeah, there are all sorts of ways to get there from here. I guess I can in theory just imagine other paths, because his actual outcome doesn't seem crazy to me. I'm just sad because I find one of the most interesting things about a dystopia to be the question of how we got there from here.

If we're suddenly 100 years in the future and the process of how we got there is glossed over, I don't mind as long as I can see how that future state would be considered desirable by people today. I actually wonder whether I would have preferred for Eggers to leave us to imagine the intermediate step, so that I could have pretended it was gradual encroachment by Google/FB, instead of being told that people were just super gung-ho about it from the beginning.

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