The Winds of Winter Waiting Game

The Winds of Winter.jpg

By Dia Ascenzi

2016 has arrived, and with it comes the growing excitement for George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, book six of A Song of Ice and Fire. This is it: the year Martin hopes to have the book finished. Last year felt very, very long for many of us fans, as we hoped the book would be released before the new year. While little has definitively been revealed about the book’s release, Martin shares the opinion of his fans when he states, “I wish it was out now.” This gives many of us hope, but for those of us who had to wait six years for the fifth book, A Dance With Dragons, well, we are used to waiting. We expect it.

In his blog, Martin used to regularly update his fans on how the books were coming along, reassuring us all that he was working diligently to bring us more tales from Westeros. But when the show was released and the books and show alike became massively popular, George began to talk about his writing progress less and less. While I understand he is busy enough as it is, and we readers are not entitled to know every update in his writing process, it still frequently eats away at me, not having any idea when the book will be finished.  Every now and then, rumors will circulate about a suspected release date, but mostly all of these rumors are just that: rumors.

I vividly remember December of 2014 when, in the spirit of Christmas, Martin’s editors posted on Twitter talking about “the 12 days of Westeros.” Fans went ballistic. Reddit went haywire. Fans swore that, on the final day of these “twelve days,” Martin would announce a release date for The Winds of Winter. I was pretty hopeful, myself. The very next day, however, George R.R. Martin sent his regards. On his blog, Martin made a post saying there was no merit to these theories, and that it was a playful Christmas announcement. Countless hearts collectively broke with the announcement, a pain comparable to the Red Wedding. He went on to say that when the book is released, there will be no riddle, no hidden message, no countdown. He is not leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. When the book is done, he will announce it clear and simple on his blog. Until then, we must wait.

One popular series of gifs arose in response to Martin’s increasingly lengthy time between novels, titled George RR Martin hard at work on the new books. Rest assured, despite my initial impression that it was satire of his own making, this is not actually George R.R. Martin blowing bubbles, playing bongos, and jumping naked on a trampoline. The notorious hat makes it a convincing impression, but it is not Martin, no matter how much we kinda wish it were.

Season five of HBO’s Game of Thrones was a milestone for book-readers. It was the season that caught up with the books for most characters’ story arcs. This means that if The Winds of Winter does not come out before the show’s sixth season in April, the show will surpass the books. This may spoil the plot of the books, or it may be very different from the books. The show’s creators have the rights to do whatever they want. The terror in book fans everywhere is real, nonetheless. When the New Year hit, I was very hopeful that we would soon hear word that the book would be done shortly, and that for another year the books were safe from HBO spoilers. However, in this lengthy post, Martin breaks the news on his blog. Despite his greatest efforts, The Winds of Winter will not be done in time for the next season of the show. I am as heartbroken as you, despite Martin recently claiming, “no one could possibly be more disappointed than me.” At least he knows what happens to Tyrion and Arya and if L + R really = J (I mean, it has to, at this point… right?!). We still have to wait to know for sure. Whenever The Winds of Winter is released, it will be great. Until then, the Reddit-coined “hype-train” goes on.

The Winds of Winter is the sixth of seven planned books. It will be epic, and a lot of loose ends will be tied. Fan theories ten years in the making will be proven or disproven. Many readers and I have read the series multiple times, and will do so again in preparation for The Winds of Winter. One thing’s for sure. When the book’s finally released, you would be wise to read it as fast as possible, for the night is dark and full of spoilers.

Dave Eggers "The Circle" Pleases as you Unplug

By Kayleigh Karutis

Most millennials--most people, whether Gen X, Gen Y, baby boomers, or otherwise--are pretty much glued to their mobile devices these days. How many of us have captured a moment solely to share it on Facebook or Instagram? How many of us have then spent the time we should have spent enjoying our experience obsessively checking our phones to see how many likes or follows or retweets we’ve gotten?

The proliferation of social media in the past decade or so has led to unplug-yourself bootcamps and digital detoxes, all focused on restoring a sense of humanity in participants who’ve based their value on the number of followers their Twitter account has.

David Egger’s most recent book “The Circle,” soon to be a feature film starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, is a digital detox in word form. Need something to help break your addiction to your mobile devices and digital existence? Read this book. You may find your fingers no longer itch to tap the Facebook or Instagram icon on your phone quite as often.

The book focuses on the life and aspirations of protagonist Mae, a young woman beginning her first day of work at the Circle. The Circle is a futuristic tech and social media company that basically amounts to Google, Facebook, Twitter and Disneyland all rolled into one massive campus.

The cult-like aspects of the Circle’s culture begin to emerge from day one, as Mae is instructed to create (and then chided for not completing) a personal profile that acts as her face to the Circle community. She’s soon spending all her spare time focused on increasing her “Participation Rank” through commenting, liking and reposting content shared by other employees.

Soon enough she’s eschewing her own apartment, which has become increasingly neglected and, as a result, undesirable, to remain on campus at all times in the dorm-like domiciles created just for Circle employees. She dons a wearable camera that tracks her movements to all her followers, and the mantra “Secrets are lies, privacy is theft” becomes the rule of the day. She mocks her parents and former boyfriend for preferring a simpler life, and can’t understand why they don’t want to utilize the power of the network to solve every challenge they face.

Through it all, she’s engaging in a mysterious affair with a fellow Circler whose identity she can’t seem to ascertain, and whose messages grow increasingly worrisome as the Circle’s efforts to eliminate privacy grow.

Egger’s narrative follows the same pace of acceleration as our culture’s obsession with social media. The novel begins with a spark, then builds to a slow burn as the reader senses growing unease. The fire builds as Mae sinks further into the cult, whose motives she sometimes questions, only to dismiss her own concerns as silly. The reader may find that questions raised in previous pages now seem a bit less important, as the insidious Circle “logic” casts doubt upon doubt.

The fire builds faster as Mae descends into the Circle, and the narrative flies by until its abrupt and pivotal ending. It’s hard to put down, and the plot’s rapid acceleration only fans the flames. A reader might end up devouring the last hundred pages in one final, glutinous effort.

Everything about “The Circle” echoes the tendencies and emotions attached to social media. It’s so easy to become entrenched in it - to base ones opinion of themselves on how well or poorly their latest post performed. It can be vicious and unforgiving while simultaneously inspiring and affirming.

After putting “The Circle” down, you may want to unplug for a while. Don’t resist this urge. Instead, take solace in the fact that you’ve read a paper-and-ink work of fiction - and didn’t spend an hour scrolling through your newsfeed instead