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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Book 64: UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman is the second book in the Unwind series, a trilogy set in a world where parents cannot abort their babies, but are legally allowed to send them to organ donation facilities (harvest camps) as early as their thirteenth birthday. I read and reviewed the first book in the series in January of this year and just loved it! I loved the characters, the plot twists, the dystopic elements, and the realism. Oh, the realism! That is what makes the book so terrifying; this could happen. With how divided (no pun intended…then again, only people who’ve read the series will get that, so is it a pun if no one but the reviewer gets it?) we are as a country on the topic of abortion, it isn’t too far-fetched an idea.

Unwind was originally a solo book, but Shusterman received so much feedback that he decided to turn it into a trilogy. I am not one to read series simply because I have too many other books to read, and I figure that if I read the first book in a series then I have enough info to perform quality Readers Advisory. BUT…Unwind had me hooked, so I just had to see what happened to Connor and Lev. UnWholly is exactly what a second book in a trilogy should be; it fully reviews the first book without just an obvious first chapter re-cap; introduces only a few, but very critical, new characters; and has plenty of action and plot twists; and ends with a true cliffhanger. I love this book and just cannot wait for the third. I just hope Shusterman doesn’t take 5 years to write it like he did with UnWholly.

As with Unwind, I will recommend UnWholly to teens (and adults who like YA lit) who like dystopia and stories where the teens are in charge. (A read-alike to this is the recently published Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne and Variant by Robison Wells.)

Book 46: Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson is the second of Wilson’s novels I’ve read this year. Earlier in 2012 I listened to the audiobook of his thriller Robopocalypse and enjoyed it. It was scary, well-written, and, worst thing? Believable. 

Amped follows along the same lines in that it is a truly believable situation: Americans who have been altered with neuro implants (brain implants that correct such disorders as ADHD, epilepsy, deafness, and more) are considered enemies of “pure” humans. The implant, originally considered advanced technology and medicine, became a source of hatred and discrimination for those who were not enhanced or amplified (hence the moniker “amped”). Those with the telltale scar on their temples, signs that they have had the operation, were forced from their homes by hostile neighbors and former friends who were angry that their mediocrity was enhanced by the presence of the amped people.

The book follows Owen, a 29 year old teacher whose father was the inventor of the implant. After his father’s murder, Owen flees the city to find the man who can give him answers as to what is really inside of his head. What he finds along the way is hostility, hatred, murder, and he must make a choice to fight or flee.

I received this book as an advanced reader copy (ARC) at the American Library Association Conference, so a big “thank you!” to the publisher Doubleday for the free read. Because it is an unfinished proof, I want to withhold judgement…but I cannot.

For how descriptive Robopocalypse was, I found Amped to be completely lacking in all details, including setting, character development, and character interactions. Owen’s internal thoughts are so obvious and boring, that I really hope they were just placeholders for the final, fully descriptive, content. I found Owen to be lackluster in completing the mission he (rather begrudgingly) undertook. I didn’t feel like his whole heart was in the mission, nor was it in the very disjointed romantic relationship he embarked (awkwardly) on.

I will still encourage readers of doomsday/dystopia to read his last novel, but I will omit Amped from my recommendation list. I would love to know if the final product was better than the ARC I read. But sadly, I won’t take the time to read it to find out.