Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Circle Completed

I finished "The Circle" (by Dave Eggers) yesterday, and boy was I impressed. It's a simple story, and for the most part it's told with style but minimal flourish. Although billed as a technothriller by some, it struck me as a coming-of-age story. Maybe Harry Potter and the Search Engine?

I'm going to have a tough time describing what really clicked for me about this story without delving into spoilers but I think I can describe quickly two things that any writer might be interested in.

First off, the use of comedy to sell the horrific is extremely well-done here. Eggers had any number of set-pieces relying on a slow, almost imperceptible drift towards absurdity. The bit with the ever expanding number of screens May (the novel's protagonist) uses was understated but hysterically funny. The novel straddles present and near-future, but the jokes help humanize the situation and ground the story in something approachable and relatable. Although many of the developments of the story are very tense and exciting, the essential satire of the book keeps that part of the story under wraps until it is too urgent and perilous to ignore.

The second thing is the masterful use of foreshadowing. Very little is wasted in May's journey. Even diversions like May's interest in Kayaking and encounters with the scruffy denizens of the Frisco Bay play incredibly important roles in the later sections of the book. Eggers uses imagery such as transparent sharks and circular trips to reinforce the themes of the book, always returning to an element introduced earlier again or even a third time to see how the imagery plays out.

***

Today's episode of "Agent Shield and Spaceman" starts Part Two of the web serial, catching up with three of the Section Starfire agents in the wake of the confrontation at Thulewaite's ranch. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy!



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