circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers is the story of Mae Holland – a twenty-something working at The Circle, a GoogleAppleMicrosoft-like conglomerate that is the technology center of the country, nay, the world. Mae is awe-struck over the vastness of The Circle’s campus, and of its presence in nearly every aspect of a person’s life. After Mae’s arrival at The Circle, her colleagues push out such inventions as SeeChange (a tiny, inexpensive camera that anyone can install anywhere, including around their necks to promote transparency) and TruYouth (a tracking device injected into the bone of every infant so they can never be lost, but the device also tracks their academic standings, health records, and more). They sound harmless – helpful even – but Mae’s ex-boyfriend Mercer believes otherwise and fears The Circle’s all-encompassing control.

Mae doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid at first. She goes an entire weekend without sending one Zing (Tweet?), posting one Smile (“Like”?), or uploading pictures of her meals, her kayak trip, or of another daily activity. She is reprimanded by higher-ups who feel that her lack of posting shows she doesn’t care about sharing her experience with others. Her best friend, Annie, a heavy-hitter at The Circle, encourages her to do more with The Circle’s social scene, and Mae quickly becomes entranced by the place.

Then she goes transparent, being the first non-Congressperson to wear SeeChange for all of her waking hours. Her life is filmed, but a couple people are afraid of what will come next for The Circle, and the world, if such technology is commonplace.

The Circle is by the great Dave Eggers – Zeitoun is one of the most intriguing and affecting nonfiction books I’ve read. But unfortunately I felt this most recent one was a bit contrived. Maybe I read too much dystopia as it is, because this felt like just another on the pile. A technology company takes over the world by creating seemingly-harmless products, but those who want to maintain their privacy freak out and think it’s the end of the world. And even the “bad guys” aren’t that bad. They truly think they are doing good – keeping children safe from kidnappers, aiding in the health care system, forcing the government to be transparent and accountable for their actions – so you can’t hate them (although you do find them a bit odd and obsessed).

Recommended for:
Anyone who isn’t burned out from other dystopia or controlling-technology books. Definitely teens who like to read adult novels. Except for a couple PG sex inferences, this one is appropriate for older teens.

Read-alikes:
Machine Man
by Max Barry and Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson.

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Oh, the places we will go!

I re shelved an Internet DIY book today and laughed out loud when I saw that it was published in 2001. My first thought was that the idea of a book being outdated six years after it was published was crazy, but then I started thinking about other books that I’ve refused to read because of their age. As a history major I am constantly researching, and one of my stipulations for a book I use as a reference is its date of publication. (The exception to this rule is primary sources such as The Mallieus Maleficarium, Vindication of a Woman’s Rights, etc. You can never ignore a good primary resource!) Considering the rate at which people are discovering and learning about past civilizations/events, the books historians are writing are quickly becoming outdated. For example, I went to Philadelphia in May to see the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute of Science. I took three books with me on the topic of King Tut and the information that varied between the three was astounding! The one that corresponded most with the exhibit (considered to have the most up-to-date facts on the King and the era in which he ruled) was the one most recently written.
Technological advances are pushing society ahead at such a quick pace we barely have time to look back and remember what it was like without such equipment. We have robots that can walk on Mars and send information to NASA that instantly negates or confirms every idea ever considered; information in science textbooks is instantly outdated and children are learning incorrect information. The same goes for computer programming or “how to” guides because of the type and amount of new methods and products that are designed every day. This keeps computer programmers from becoming specialists on any one product or program because their expertise will not be expert after a few months time.
Upon graduating from St. Mary’s College in 2009 I will be going to another institution in hopes of earning my Masters in Information and Library Sciences. In doing so, I hope to learn the best ways in which to stay abreast of the mudslide of information being published every day.