on October 17, 2013
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 worse....you 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. Each piece of information you hide robs someone somewhere of the opportunity to benefit from your knowledge.
The Circle is always debuting new technological marvels, each released to the public in a way that will be familiar to most readers: the dramatic Steve Jobs-style personal product reveal. The applause is always thunderous. Crowds can never get their hands on the new product fast enough. Each new product is pitched as the obvious solution to a pressing problem...child abductions, home violence, neighborhood crime. And on the surface, they are, but there’s always the flip side; each a fresh incursion into privacy, a further reduction in the amount of public space in which people can hide.
Eggers introduces Mae’s ex-boyfriend Mercer as a foil to her unbridled enthusiasm for the works of the The Circle. He’s one of the only characters in the novel to ask questions, to object to this blind worship of technology and electronic monitoring. There are so many turns at which a normal person would be horrified at the prospect of The Circle’s growing power but Eggers allows only one or two characters to ever voice concern. He’s chosen instead to present the view through the eyes of the techno-faithful, showing how acceptance of such privacy incursions could be not only accepted but actively embraced. This point of view is all the more chilling. Mae’s view and that of her fellow Circlers is the perspective of youth and inexperience. They’re exhilarated to be a part of something so dramatically transformative. Their generation will put the world’s ills right. Finally human beings have the tools to fix their world’s shortcomings and they are the carriers of light.
Of course, The Circle is a dystopian novel. Like all such novels it does its best to hold a dark mirror up to present circumstances and encourage the reader to think about what they see. It is ham-handed in places and I occasionally felt like I was being beaten over the head with the message, but then again some of its more outrageous exaggerations of online culture are not really that far off the mark. We do live in a world full of techno-profits who promise to eradicate the ills of society through the aggregation of data...ever growing avalanches of data, what we eat, when we eat it, where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, what we purchase, who we know and what we think.
Eggers shouts at us to step back, take a breath and ask “what have we done?”.
on October 8, 2013
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.
on October 13, 2013
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. Many passages set the narrative baggage mostly aside and are rendered either as polemic dialogues or speeches delivered by one of the characters. There are also many product presentations, designed to bring the creepiness into maximum relief. There's also a little sex and a lot of longing for a man.
In an interview, Eggers stated (seemingly with with pride) that he did not research technology or technology companies to write the book. The result is a skewed, pop-cultural vision of the corporate campus (few developers are to be seen, and no one is depicted actually writing code); a cartoonish start-up culture that doesn't mine into the strangeness that can be found in memoirs on the subject; and a few truly wince-inducing concepts about computer technology ("the cloud", for example, somehow does not require physical storage).
The lack of focus on the way technology actually works and the way software companies actually think is not a criticism in itself. But it leads to a lack of engagement with the truly complicated moral, social and political issues that arise with online privacy, over-sharing and corporate ethics. The treatment of these issues in the Circle is simplistic and one-sided. And there is little to be found *aside from* the treatment of these issues.
Beyond the transparent preachiness, the most disappointing part of the Circle, for me, was Mae herself. Although Eggers sometimes beautifully documents her thoughts (especially her rationalizations and distorted perceptions of others), she is, at bottom, not much more than a vehicle for what Eggers wants to say. There is no real fight - from Mae, the public or the government - against what the Circle is trying to do. If I should rightly be afraid that a company like the Circle will drive us all off a cliff, I'd be better-served by a novel in which the author doesn't simply hand them the keys.
on October 17, 2013
I was excited to read this story, and the concept in this day and age, about divulging too much personal information is very timely. However, I had hoped for more intrigue, subtle allusions and tighter writing. In the end, it all seemed too basic and obvious. Might make a good movie, but needs a more exciting ending...
on October 27, 2013
Caution: SPOILERS. I was bored in the beginning, especially with description of the campus. Then, Mae meets Kalden. I'm interested in who he is, and learning about the implications of the Circle. I think to myself: this is going to be a great thriller. They're going to expose this company for what it is! Then we spend the rest of the book bogged down in new Circle programs and discover our main character has no critical thinking skills. Every time there's a red flag, she doesn't seem to care. Every time she is confronted with something that gives rise to feelings, she throws herself into her work, which we have to read pages of boring details on. I don't care about the customers! She stops caring about her father altogether and even gets back together with that creep Francis. Then, an old boyfriend dies and again, no questions from her. She's so one-dimensional it makes you sick. You think, I'll stick with this and it will get better. Nope. Wrong! What a disappointing read. P.S. NO ONE wants to watch the view inside the bathroom stall! What the hell?
on December 11, 2013
This is supposedly a dystopian novel about a social media company called the Circle (Google thinly disguised, I guess) in which complete transparency is the ultimate goal - encapsulated in the aphorism "All that happens will be known." Privacy as we know it will no longer exist. With the help of her friend Annie, Mae gets a job at the Circle and is immediately enthralled by the company, its culture, and everyone who works there.
The premise of the book is interesting - the execution, however, is terrible. The characters are one-dimensional, the writing amateurish, the dialogue flat and dull.
Here's an excerpt: ""Mae kissed him again. She was in a kissing mood, and knowing that Francis wouldn't make any aggressive moves, she felt at ease, kissing him more, knowing it would be only kissing tonight. She threw herself into the kissing, making it mean lust, and friendship, and the possibility of love, and kissed him while thinking of his face, wondering if his eyes were open, if he cared about the passersby who clucked or who hooted but still passed by."
No - this is not a Harlequin romance for and about tweens. The characters are supposedly among the best and brightest, working for the ultimate cutting-edge company. But they sound like lemmings, blindly and unquestioningly toeing the company line. At a company meeting, everyone wildly cheers when one of the company's leaders demonstrates a camera no larger than a lollipop that can be hidden anywhere. No one questions the implications of such a device.
I have read 116 pages of this drivel. I can't go on. I can't imagine it gets any better.
"The Circle" by Dave Eggers is an exciting story that in many ways brings the memories of the cult novel "1984" by George Orwell.
The book's main character is young woman Mae who finished college and plan to start her career. With the help of her friend, she will start working at the company named "The Circle" that provides everything anyone can need for a comfortable and relaxed work.
Although she cannot believe how fortunate she was to start working there, she will quickly realize that the success on her work position is associated with activities that are anything but voluntary, like attending events and sharing everything with the Circle community, about each and every minute of her life, or just like company motto is saying: "Sharing is Caring".
Slowly she began to be obsessed with her job that leads to conflicts with her family and friends who can no longer recognize her.
And when "The Circle" will release some new programs in order to find out every detail of everyone's life, little by little it becomes clear that the company's objectives are far different and more serious than what can be seen on the surface...
"The Circle" is a book with a bit predictable plot but still it will keep you to turn the pages until its end that is probably the weakest (at least for me) or the best part of the book. But this is a matter of taste and I don't want you to spoil the thrill of reading by disclosing any details.
Nevertheless, it's exciting, fun to read although somehow creepy due to above-mentioned similarity to some other actual companies and their products. Similarity that can lead human society to the world of total transparency, where people don't have any secrets, but don't have any life and privacy either. The world of Orwell's "1984" that makes this book in some way the prequel of what Orwell wrote.
Therefore, this is the book you will remember for some time, not so much for its literary value as much because a lot of things described inside are similar to the events that are happening or might happen around us.
Due to that, I recommend you to read this book, and of course to share your opinion afterwards, just like I did, because by sharing you will show you are caring...
on October 17, 2013
Other reviews have adequately summarized the story, and the simplistic, readable way it is told. I can oniy add that you can see around the corners the writer erects. Little happens in this book that is surprising.
I would like to see this book required reading as early as 6th or 7th grade. where I do not think these issues are adequately discussed. I know I read this book on a Kindle, and Amazon knows how long it took me to read it, what I highlighted, and how to collate my purchase of this book with other purchases to offer me other goods it thinks I might buy. I am not sure that most kids that post, text, email, petition, Facebook. and whatever else get that they are leaving breadcrumbs behind that will leave a record of everywhere they have been Nor do I think they understand it is not the government, or just the government, they should be on guard against, but everyone they communicate with digitally. This book might be a great way to get that across to those who cannot figure that out on their own.
on October 16, 2013
The satire about the wonders of working in one of those high tech companies was perfect and could have been better developed with fuller characters so that it could have been a book that stood on its own.
Most people are able to project just how the mindset shown can and does extend itself into government and certainly other authors have done a much better job of exploring that than Eggers does here.
Just seems like a rushed book that needed a great deal more work before it was published.
on October 13, 2013
Mae Holland has just started to work in the Customer Experience Department at "The Circle". She is eager to fit in and believes she is lucky to be working "for the only company that really mattered at all". When she steps into the elevator she is greeted with a holographic image of her name and high school yearbook photo. The campus has every possible perk to keep the employees working and hanging out day and night - cafés, gyms, outdoor recreation, concerts, club meetings, beer bashes, etc.
The Circle appears to be a composite of every social media and ecommerce company you can name - Facebook, Google, Twitter, MySpace, Amazon, Flickr, Yahoo, Yelp, Reddit, et al. The most dominant and ubiquitous tools offered by the Circle are free, but you have to use them as yourself, your "TruYou". The era of false identities, multiple user names and internet trolls is over. Mae's job consists of monitoring multiple screens on her desk and answering a deluge of customer questions as deftly and quickly as possible. The Circle takes pride in the fact that the customer queries are not answered by a robot. Mae's output is measured on the quantity of responses that she handles as well as the customer rating on the usefulness of her responses. She starts to believe that her work is important and meaningful.
Soon after arriving at the Circle, Mae also discovers that it's not sufficient to just sit at her desk and respond to customers; she is also expected to participate in the community aspects of the Circle and maintain a visible on-line presence. She becomes obsessed with increasing her PartiRank (participation rank) by attending functions, posting pictures and zings, commenting on everything around her, reading others feeds, etc. It's an exhausting, all-consuming but at times exhilarating environment that Mae thrives in. She soon reaches the lofty status of the T2K (top 2,000) among the 11,000+ Circlers - a group almost maniacal in their social activity and elite in their corresponding followers. Her days are a relentless cycle of smiles, frowns, comments, votes, surveys and other on-line interactions.
One of the products promoted by the Circle is a live feed from a camera worn around the neck that broadcasts at all times until the Circler turns it off at bedtime. Mae feels privileged to have been selected to wear one, and completely buys into the mantra of total transparency and sharing espoused by The Circle.
Mae eventually clashes with her parents and old boyfriend, Mercer, who decry the social mania that has infected Mae. Mercer accuses her of having been brainwashed by a cult, but she thinks he's a backwards bore who just doesn't understand the value of complete transparency and sharing. She truly believes the company motto: "Sharing is Caring".
Eggers has written Mae as a one-dimensional character, a pawn in a social structure that has lost its moral compass. None of the characters in the novel are particularly realistic or likeable, but their one-dimensionality seems to emphasize their loss of some basic human element.
I raced through the book, and could hardly bear to put it down. Indeed, the story is far-fetched, but with a certain ring of truth and a message of the dystopian future that awaits us if monopolistic companies become too powerful and we allow our humanity to be subsumed by technology. Intrigue builds throughout the novel until a "show down" of sorts, though it wasn't the climactic resolution that I was expecting.
Eggers is a skillful and insightful writer, one of the most articulate social commenters of our time. He has created a fantasy world of on-line "sharing" gone awry. You can either scoff at it as far-fetched fiction, or regard it as a prophetic warning of the shape of our future. Read this compelling book and decide for yourself.