Book Review of “The Circle” by Dave Eggers

Mob rule with constant surveillance

The glamour of a Silicon Valley tech utopia rings true, and so does the emerging mob rule, and the shifting values of society, and the wedding of big corporation with surveillance government. These are all things that I think about a lot, since I explore mob rule and constant surveillance in my own writing. I am thrilled to see a successful author who dares to dig deep into those themes. I want to hug Dave Eggers just for that.

The Circle brings up great discussion points related to privacy, the spread of information, the peer pressure of social media, and public sharing of everything. The dialogue is very well-written and plausible, and the prose is smooth sailing, pulling me right along as a reader.

But there are some deeper flaws. The point-of-view character is Mae, and the author made her unreliable, lacking in personality, and sort of stupid. He clearly made her that way on purpose, and I’m guessing he did it to emphasize how an “ordinary person” can drink the Kool-Aid of a seeming utopia that exists at the expense of privacy. I like that character choice. It should have worked well … except Mae is barely plausible as an ordinary person. She accepts every suggestion and opinion of her bosses, and she’s oblivious to other people’s pain. She values privacy at first, but then capitulates without any thought or rationale. She has casual sex with strangers, without any of the worries that real women have. She’s just shallow. She comes across as a generic hot chick as written by a guy who probably views women with condescension.

This is a cautionary tale. In my opinion, it could come across as a stronger wake-up call to society if 1) the main character had stronger “nice-but-naive” traits, and 2) if the pro-privacy people in the book used stronger arguments. Not a single one of them mentions the major problems inherent in mob rule. Everyone in this book assumes that sharing everything ensures that crimes can be avoided, yet no one brings up the obvious argument that society decides what a crime is. In some countries, it’s a crime for women to laugh in public, or to get urgent medical care without a male chaperone. They never talk about that in their visions of a global utopia. The whole society is just apparently derp-de-derp oblivious.

It’s still a really good book, and a really relevant tale for our times. Please read it if you’re on the fence. I’d be happy to discuss it.

The Circle by Dave Eggers

Short Fiction “Across an Aeon” — Futuristica Anthology

I’m pleased to have a short science fiction story featured in Futuristica vol II, just published in May 2017 by Metasagas Press. “Across an Aeon” is about a woman who breaks laws to take a one-way trip to the far distant future in search of her missing husband and daughter. There she finds the unexpected and intertwined fates of humankind, the planet Earth, and what happened to the people she loves.

I’m really proud of this story. I think it’s one of my best short fiction pieces.

Time Travel Fiction

For some deeply buried psychological reason, I keep exploring time travel in my short fiction, although I avoid that can of worms in my novels. My previous short stories about time travel are freely available on Twilight Times and Escape Pod.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Chester Hoster and Katy Stauber at Metasagas Press for their work in editing and publishing the Futuristica anthologies. I really appreciate their generosity with contributor’s copies, and their dedication to communicating with the authors and staying professional in every respect. Shout-out to Zach Chapman, whose story about gaming and VR also appears in this anthology. I’m looking forward to reading it. And the rest of them!

E-Reader Simulator Across All Platforms

Apparently, there’s no such thing as a simulator for testing .epub files (e-books) across all e-reader platforms and devices, because that would make life too easy. Kindle has their Kindle Previewer tool, but where’s an equivalent simulator for testing .epub files on Kobo, Nook, and iBooks?

Well, you can use your phone + Dropbox. It’s a bit of a hassle, but you can check the quality of your e-book like a pro, and use these steps to send a product to your readers that you can be proud to stand behind.

  1. Install Dropbox on your phone or device, if it’s not there already. Install the Kobo reader app on your phone or device. Sign in and get it all set up. Do the same for the Nook reader app. If you’re on an iPhone or iPad, you should already have iBooks installed. Sign in and get yourself set up, if you haven’t already.
  2. Make a Dropbox folder for testing your ebook. Toss your .epub into that folder.
  3. On your phone/device: Open Dropbox and try to open your .epub. It says the file can’t be viewed.
  4. Select the three dots for settings > Export
  5. Select “Open In” (the Applications icon)
  6. Scroll through the app icons until you see “Copy to Kobo” or “Copy to Nook” or “Copy to iBooks”. Select one and your .epub will open in that application.

 

Thanks to NookPress for their useful article on Tools for Testing Your E-Books.

Maximus Post-Mortem

I had some great times and lived a lot of life in my 2000 Nissan Maxima.

There was that road trip through New Mexico in 2010 with my friends Amy and Brian, when we visited George R.R. Martin at his home office, and explored Taos and White Sands and Carlsbad Caverns.

And that 2009 road trip around Texas, from Austin to Corpus Christie to Houston and back, with my friend Kendra. We got pulled over late at night, and the cop seemed to think we must be Thelma and Lois.

And that 2008 road trip down Route 66, from Los Angeles to St. Louis, with my friend Valerie, when we hiked through the Painted Desert and stopped at ghost towns.

That Maxima took me to the Grand Canyon with Tom, and to San Francisco with Kate, and to the Sequoia Forest with Sarah, and to San Diego Comic Con several times, and through Joshua Tree forest, and along the Pacific Coast Highway, and many dozens of times through Topanga Canyon and Angeles Forest and Newport Beach.

I used that Maxima to commute to my first job in the video-game industry, at Paradox Development in Moorpark. If the 118 freeway was clogged, I used an alternate route that wound through orange groves and then up a steep switchback mountain pass, where I’d sometimes get stuck behind a slow-moving truck from the nearby mine.

That Maxima took me to clubs and movies in Burbank and Hollywood. I have so many memories of cruising in it down Sunset Blvd. or Mulholland Dr. or Fairfax, or visiting the Getty Museum, or Pasadena, or Santa Monica. So many memories of traffic on the Hollywood Freeway and the 5. There was that one nightmarish 7 hour long jam when the 5 freeway shut down when the Hollywood Bowl was letting out, and cars had to back off the freeway on ramps, one by one, to get out of the gridlock.

At some point in its life, the Maxima acquired the name Maximus. I drove Maximus from Springfield, Missouri to Austin, Texas. Maximus took me from Austin to San Antonio dozens of times, and also to Houston and Dallas and San Marcos and Corpus Christie.

After that crazy road trip through Chaco Canyon, where I drove 17 miles down a washboard dirt road with cattle and dust in the way, Maximus needed his first major repair. It was a catalytic converter, I think, and the suspension and muffler needed to be replaced.

Then Maximus needed CV axles replaced. The battery died, and then the alternator, late at night. Huge thanks to my friend Mike for fixing that. The tires began to go flat on a regular basis. I got a flat tire driving home from a New Year’s Eve party in 2015, which was fun with the fireworks going off everywhere.

I kept putting off buying a new car, because other things in life were so much more important and immediate. My career and my relationships needed attention. Maximus seemed fine after each repair, and I figured that I would know when Maximus stopped being reliable. He only had 135,000 miles on him. Surely he could go until 200,000. Heck, I have two different friends who drive Fords (an Expedition and an old pickup truck) with more than 250,000 miles on them.

Well, towards the end of 2016, I realized that I could no longer trust Maximus to keep going without a lot of major repair work. He might only be at 145,000 miles, but he was old, manufactured before the turn of the millennium. I’d rented cheap economic Versas that felt more spry than him, and they had modern bells and whistles, such as USB connections and Bluetooth. Maximus used to be a powerful, fast car. Now he’s slow to roll and slow to stop. When I took him to the local dealership for yet another repair, they gave me a list of recommended fixes that looked expensive enough to buy a younger car, and I knew it was time to send Maximus on to his final stages of life. I don’t know where’ll end up. But he’s gone now, sitting in a dealership lot, probably ready to be auctioned off or sold to someone in need.

Maximus the Maxima was a good car. I think he should have lasted longer, but I’m very glad to be driving something from this decade.

Maximus the Maxima

Maximus the Maxima

Book Review: Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen

Groom of the Tyrannosaur QueenGroom of the Tyrannosaur Queen by Daniel Bensen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book explores domination/subordination in a light-hearted way, there is some truly brilliant dialogue, and it also teaches you about dinosaurs. It’s not your typical rah-rah-brah testosterone fueled sci-fi, despite the pulpy cover. There is enough action to oversaturate a Michael Bay film, and there are cavemen and sexy princesses and high tech powersuits and, yes, a tyrannosaurus rex on a rampage during a stormy battle scene. And time travel. But come on, those things are all necessary to the story. They really are!

You know an author’s got amazing talent when they can tie all of those elements together into a coherent story that’s satisfying and fun to read.

My Blog is Special

I’m not the sort of person who overshares about my mundane life. I have a day job that I enjoy, I have wonderful friends, I have a love life, I come from a family, I used to own dogs, and I’m fully aware that all that stuff is irrelevant to a complete stranger. Sure, I could spice it up and make it all fascinating (I am a writer), but then truly personal details would slip into my posts, and I’m not comfortable with that.

At least not on social media.

This blog is my corner of the internet, so here I’ll take risks and touch on touchy topics. I solemnly vow that my blog posts (and my newsletter) will always contains substance and depth. If you just want my version of sarcastic quips and fun media, then follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Also, I’m not here to shout into the aether. I want discourse. I want interaction. The more comments I get, the more I’ll blog about worthwhile subjects.

Thank you for reading.

The Time Has Come

Thanks to developer Adam Thompson of First Earth Game, my website was converted from a hacked-together HTML framework to a professional-grade WordPress site, hosted on Digital Ocean. Artwork is by the ridiculously talented Byzwa Dher. I did the visual design. I’m so excited about this change!

ARCHIVE ON BLOGGER: abbybabble.blogspot.com

© 2017 Abby Goldsmith