The Name of the Wind, if you are late to the party like me, is probably the fantasy read you’ve been looking for. Wisconsin author Patrick Rothfuss brings us a gorgeously layered world, sharp humor, hard times, a sensible dose of the fae, realistic romance, truly scary darkness, a lot of good sense and a lot of good sense ignored. The novel is deeply satisfying, and sheer fun to read. Kvothe as a hero is everything we hope for him to be, and yet still many things beyond our reach–a believable hero of legend whose legends aren’t always true, but the truth, once revealed, is even better. The Name of the Wind will make you chuckle, cheer, sigh, and startle. I now understand the cult following of this series-in-progress. Demons! Taverns! Dragons! Troupes! Magic! Miss the childlike wonder that accompanied your reading of the Harry Potter series? Read this, and be convinced that J.K. Rowling isn’t the only wizard living among us.
The Circle is an uncanny parable for our times, and it leaves a disturbing metallic taste as well as a sense of bewildered confusion. Eggers’ compulsively readable novel provides much food for thought, even while skimping on character substance. The main character, Mae, is endlessly naive and effortlessly manipulated, not to mention fairly soulless. Most of the characters are similarly empty, or act in erratic, senseless ways. I wonder if Eggers intended them to be so vacuous… maybe it’s a commentary on the type of people created by a society that is obsessively driven by views, likes, and comments. I’m glad I read this novel–despite its flaws in craft, it offers a dystopian vision that deserves consideration. What happens when we no longer put a value on our personal privacy, on our freedom from being plugged into faux-social participation at all hours, on our division between our personal and work lives? What happens when you distill human beings into just so much information that can be bought, sold, and harnessed? If you want to see these scary, scary things… read The Circle. But you can take comfort in the fact that real people with free will would never behave like the majority of these characters do. At least, I have to hope so.