In The First Circle Bookclub!


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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13 Responses

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    I have fallen way behind, being just about to start The Emperor of the Earth. I did love the scene where the engineer who has nothing to lose tells off the big boss, in particular the bit about the old, crapy lathe’s breaking causing further delays because of the idiotic, disruptive sabotage investigation. It rang very true to many conversations I’ve had asking me how to get people to work harder. “Set goals and stick to them, shield them from stupid disruptions, and reward them for good work” never makes a dent. “Threaten them and harangue them about working harder” is much more congenial to the executive mind.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Say what you will about The Peter Principle: when your boss is your boss because he was better at your job than you are, you didn’t have crap like this.

      You just had incompetent management. You didn’t have ignorant/bullshitable management.Report

  2. aaron david says:

    I am in the same position as Mike S., having fallen back a little (first week of new company.) I really enjoyed the part of the engineers and leaders begging for more time, even though they know that the time asked for is not enough. I get the feeling that they know there will never be enough time, and they are just trying to keep the wolves at bay until a new project is needed, a more important project… And then this will make no difference anymore as they will be begging for time on that job.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to aaron david says:

      Yakanov gets into that, in his monologue to himself.

      The manager who consistently jumps from project to project to project and only sticks around for the first half? That’s something that has, apparently, existed since *FOREVER*.

      Dilbert was Russian.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        That was one of the things that killed Sun. Their policy for director-level and above was to rotate people around the company to “season” them for top management. The result was no loyalty down (thus none up) and no commitment to actually getting anything finished. (At least in software; given how impressive their server technology was, things must have been different in hardware.)Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          It’s quite easy to give a criticism of American Corporations that maps pretty effectively to criticisms of Stalinist Governance.

          You’d think that this would freak out American Corporate Management.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

            You know the joke about Brezhnev’s mother? She comes to visit him in Moscow. He shows her his huge office, takes her to a fancy restaurant in his chauffeured Rolls Royce, and then flies her down to his dacha on the Black Sea in his private jet.

            “Well, Mama, what do you think? Have I done well? Are you proud of me?”

            “Lyonya, it’s wonderful, but I’m so afraid.”

            “Afraid of what, Mama?”

            “What will happen to you if the Reds come back?”Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Maybe that was the point of chapter 20… and why they had to take it out.

              The minute you win the revolution? Get rid of the revolutionaries.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                There’s an SF book by CM Kornbluth called Not This August, which starts with the Soviet conquest of the U.S. We see a new commissar holding a town meeting. He begins by asking the local couple that had been spying for the Russians to come forward. He thanks them for their help, and then has them taken out and shot. You can’t trust people like that.Report

  3. Anne says:

    I’m behind as well just finishing up 21. Give Us Back the Death Penalty! One passage that stuck out to me was in 18. “Oh, Wonder-Working Steed” Bobynin says to Abakumov “In fact, you should get it into your head and pass it on to whoever needs to know above, that your power depends on not taking absolutely everything away from people. The man from whom you’ve taken everything is no longer in your power, he is free again.”Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Anne says:

      Absolutely. There’s a chapter from week one in which one of the prisoners, when arrested, actually looked forward to going to prison because, finally, he’d be able to say what he thought!

      Which encapsulates the entire distopia.Report

  4. Nathanael says:

    I love the Solzhenitsyn joke.

    I’m afraid that everything I read about the absurdities of Soviet Russia reminds me of the arbitrariness of OUR laws in the US these days. Prosecutors decide to go after you, suddenly you’re guilty of a dozen felonies! They decide not to, why you may have murdered someone in cold blood but it was just an innocent mistake!

    I see someone else has already commented on the similarity of US corporate governance to Stalinist governance.

    The US is *so* similar to Soviet Russia it’s not funny. Actually, I visited a lot of countries as a kid and that was really noticeable. England is a different culture. Mexico is a different culture. Spain is a different culture. Russia… is *familiar*, somehow. The multiculturalism (which doesn’t prevent lots of racism), the militarism, the giant roads, the Imperial attitude, the forms of corruption, the double-talk.. and Russia’s getting more similar every day as our police become scarier.Report