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The Circle Hardcover – Big Book, October 8, 2013

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Editorial Reviews Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, October 2013: As a fiction writer, indie publishing icon and education activist Dave Eggers neither suffers fools gladly nor treads lightly. With his signature mix of intelligence and highly literate snark, he dives headlong into contemporary crises--Hurricane Katrina, the Sudanese civil war--through the lens of a single character whose perspective we get to know intimately. In his new novel, Eggers tackles a modern problem that doesn't always seem like one: our near constant hunger for communication. When Mae Holland takes a job at the Circle, a tech giant with a utopian culture and cultlike following (Eggers didn't call it Schmoogle, but may as well have), she quickly loses sight of her friends, family, and sense of self in favor of professional success and social acceptance. As her Circle star rises, Mae succumbs to the corporate code of full disclosure, eventually agreeing to "go transparent" and let the public watch--and comment on--her every move. "Privacy is theft," decrees the company motto; "Secrets are lies." It's not subtle, but neither were "Harrison Bergeron" and 1984, and in its best moments The Circle is equally terrifying. Let's just hope it's not prescient. --Mia Lipman

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Most of us imagine totalitarianism as something imposed upon us—but what if we’re complicit in our own oppression? That’s the scenario in Eggers’ ambitious, terrifying, and eerily plausible new novel. When Mae gets a job at the Circle, a Bay Area tech company that’s cornered the world market on social media and e-commerce, she’s elated, and not just because of the platinum health-care package. The gleaming campus is a wonder, and it seems as though there isn’t anything the company can’t do (and won’t try). But she soon learns that participation in social media is mandatory, not voluntary, and that could soon apply to the general population as well. For a monopoly, it’s a short step from sharing to surveillance, to a world without privacy. This isn’t a perfect book—the good guys lecture true-believer Mae, and a key metaphor is laboriously explained—but it’s brave and important and will draw comparisons to Brave New World and 1984. Eggers brilliantly depicts the Internet binges, torrents of information, and endless loops of feedback that increasingly characterize modern life. But perhaps most chilling of all is his notion that our ultimate undoing could be something so petty as our desperate desire for affirmation. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Eggers’ reputation as a novelist continues to grow. Expect this title to be talked about, as it has an announced first printing of 200,000 and the New York Times Magazine has first serial rights. --Keir Graff

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (October 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385351399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385351393
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,247 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including "Zeitoun," a nonfiction account a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina and "What Is the What," a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine ("The Believer"), and "Wholphin," a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

133 of 143 people found the following review helpful By Gary Schroeder on October 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Circle is Dave Eggers’ response to what’s happening to us all: the fundamental transformation of human society created by perpetual electronic connectedness. Surely you’ve felt it. I know I have...and I’m glad that a major novelist like Eggers has taken it on. Someone needs to.

Eggers wraps his criticism of this phenomenon around a company called The Circle, a thinly disguised version of Google. We experience the inner workings of The Circle through our protagonist Mae who has landed her dream job of being a “Circler,” one of the most coveted and hippest jobs that a young 20-something could hope for.

The Circle is, from the outset, a creepy sort of insulated company in which every possible need of the Circlers (almost all of whom are under 30) is provided for: on site parties headlined by notable performers, clothing stores stocking the latest products, residences and more. Circlers need never leave the campus (and why would they want to? Surely there could be no more exciting place in the world to be). Oh, one catch: make sure to always be participating in the company’s social media at all times; a failure to participate might indicate that you’re not a team player or might be antisocial. One thing the Circle cannot abide is a lack of complete participation at all times.

Mae quickly adapts to the ways of the Circle, easily embracing each new layer of required transparency and tracking. As a young person with nothing to hide, she can’t see any inherent difficulties in this prospect. Why wouldn’t you want to share as much as possible with everyone? Sharing--in the words of one of the Circle’s founders--is caring. Keeping information to yourself is actually an act of theft.
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235 of 259 people found the following review helpful By LTCL on October 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a little close to home for me since my daughter works for a social media mega company but I did think Dave Eggers spin on what social media could do to/for the world is interesting and a bit of a scary read. Mae starts her career after college with the help from a friend, Annie who is going places at a Silicon Valley mega social media corporation. The Circle seems harmless enough and has some really great perks - ice cream, state of the art workout facilities, fine dining and living quarters. Soon she finds herself surrounded by events she is "required" to attend and post online to bump her ratings in the Circle community. "Sharing is Caring" is one of the company's mottoes and as Mae soon discovers, her popularity and place in the company is slipping due to her perceived lack of interest in sharing every aspect of her day with the world. The Circle begins new programs to track and pry into every part of the world's life and soon some around her begin to rebel. Her family and old friends will have trouble dealing with this obsession Mae has with her job. There is also a mystery man who could turn out to be the best thing for her or get her fired. All is not what it seems within the company. Is it the beginning of a perfect world for all or will it be closer to George Orwell's "1984". "The Circle" will be enjoyed (or feared) by those just about to enter the job market, already in up to their neck or those that fear social media in general. As I turn to hit the button that will send this review to various social media, I am already thinking differently about all my smart devices and behavior.
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588 of 682 people found the following review helpful By Asher Kay on October 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
1. If a social media corporation were to achieve a complete monopoly of all public and private information, we'd be in danger of becoming a totalitarian society.

2. People often willingly give up their privacy for convenience, societal benefit, or a needy and self-centered desire for affirmation.

If these premises seem facile to you, you might not enjoy Dave Egger's new novel, the Circle.

The writing is straight, mainstream, third-person limited narration. You won't find any of the layered themes, complex metaphor, formal experimentalism, stylistic prose or psychological lyricism common in modern literary fiction. Whether you'll consider this a bug or a feature is mainly a matter of taste; but it's worth mentioning, given Eggers' McSweeney's pedigree (this is the first book I've read by Eggers, so I wasn't sure what to expect).

The protagonist is Mae Holland, an enthusiastic, naive and downright submissive young woman (surprise) who gets a job in customer service at the Circle, a company which, having subsumed Google, Facebook and Twitter, is on the brink of achieving the complete monopoly mentioned above. Mae does not think deeply or critically about anything that happens to her, and her motivations are often inexplicable. These are qualities that serve Eggers' narrative goals more effectively than they do the reader's enjoyment.

Eggers' goals seem to ride directly on the surface of the narrative. Almost every scene reads like a mini-lesson on the deceptive utopianism of the huge dot-coms, the superficiality and false emotional appeal of online "sharing", or the creepiness of voluntary corporate surveillance.
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