Friday, May 19, 2017

Dave Eggers' "The Circle": Audiobook Review

the circle eggers
When I found this at my library online, I wondered why the queue for copies put me at #163. I had wanted to read this since I saw the first chapter excerpted in the NYT Magazine back near its 2013 publication. I dimly recalled that many scoffed at its Silicon Valley speculation, but it intrigued me.

I chose it as I'd liked Dion Graham's entertaining audio reading of a Neil DeGrasse Tyson book. He brings to "The Circle" a range of California-speak techies, as well as some international types. He's adept at conveying Mae Holland's voice and indirect first-person interior monologues, as the events are told from her perspective. As the fresh new hire, we see through her eyes and ears the ambitious projects of a firm that has in the near-future become the one-stop shop for goods, transactions, and socializing. The rapid transition from a do-good company to a benign surveillance operation appears convincing, given the acceleration towards relentless glad-handing, monetization, and capitalizing on one's own "brand." The pace becomes nearly inhuman, as those in The Circle seeks its "completion."

Dave Eggers takes his time over these 13.5 hours as heard here, and his careful explanation of how this corporation combines the earnest wish to possess all knowledge for of course the betterment of all, the corporate drive for perfection, the demand for ubiquity, and eventually the perceived will of the informed populace works well to keep you wondering what's next for Mae and her fevered peers.

As she says late on, "you're surrounded--by friends!" Privacy turns suspect, for what do honest folks mean to keep from the scrutiny of billions of "watchers" online? Rank has its privileges, Sharing is caring, why should what people do be left private? The common good is perceived to depend upon data-mining of all that humans have done or witnessed. Transparency. Is there any opt-out left?

For 12.5 hours, this set-up won me over. The problem is that the last hour of the audio, the last portion of the narrative, has the protagonist in my opinion making a decision that while not totally out of character seems churlish and childish. This may show her flaw. But the events that wrap up this, reminiscent of parts of "Brave New World"'s dramatized divide as debated between the Savage and the technocracy, seem to hurry along plot points, It also compresses some characters into foreshortened depictions not in line with earlier depth. I ended this wondering if there's a sequel. I'd like to find out a lot more. For now, not having any idea of the fact there's a 2017 series starting up, I may prefer to hide that visual depiction away, and choose my own depictions. Eggers writes this with clear details, as if he's preparing for a screenplay, and it translates the action and settings well.
(Amazon US 5-22-17)

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