The Circle

The Circle

by Dave Eggers


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Now a Major Motion Picture starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. A bestselling dystopian novel that tackles surveillance, privacy and the frightening intrusions of technology in our lives.

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345807298
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/22/2014
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 31,951
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Dave Eggers grew up near Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house in San Francisco that produces books, a quarterly journal of new writing (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern), and a monthly magazine, The Believer. McSweeney’s publishes Voice of Witness, a nonprofit book series that uses oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. In 2002, he cofounded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit youth writing and tutoring center in San Francisco’s Mission District. Sister centers have since opened in seven other American cities under the umbrella of 826 National, and like-minded centers have opened in Dublin, London, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Birmingham, Alabama, among other locations. His work has been nominated for the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and has won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, France’s Prix Médicis, Germany’s Albatross Prize, the National Magazine Award, and the American Book Award. Eggers lives in Northern California with his family.

Read an Excerpt

My god, Mae thought. It’s heaven.

The campus was vast and rambling, wild with Pacific color, and yet the smallest detail had been carefully considered, shaped by the most eloquent hands. On land that had once been a shipyard, then a ­drive-­in movie theater, then a flea market, then blight, there were now soft green hills and a Calatrava fountain. And a picnic area, with tables arranged in concentric circles. And tennis courts, clay and grass. And a volleyball court, where tiny children from the company’s daycare center were running, squealing, weaving like water. Amid all this was a workplace, too, four hundred acres of brushed steel and glass on the headquarters of the most influential company in the world. The sky above was spotless and blue.

Mae was making her way through all of this, walking from the parking lot to the main hall, trying to look as if she belonged. The walkway wound around lemon and orange trees and its quiet red cobblestones were replaced, occasionally, by tiles with imploring messages of inspiration. “Dream,” one said, the word ­laser-­cut into the red stone. “Participate,” said another. There were dozens: “Find Community.” “Innovate.” “Imagine.” She just missed stepping on the hand of a young man in a grey jumpsuit; he was installing a new stone that said “Breathe.”

On a sunny Monday in June, Mae stopped in front of the main door, standing below the logo etched into the glass above. Though the company was less than six years old, its name and ­logo—­a circle surrounding a knitted grid, with a small ‘c’ in the ­center—­were already among the ­best-­known in the world. There were more than ten thousand employees on this, the main campus, but the Circle had offices all over the globe, and was hiring hundreds of gifted young minds every week. It had been voted the world’s most admired company four years running.

Mae ­wouldn’t have thought she had a chance to work at such a place, but for Annie. Annie was two years older and they’d roomed together for three semesters in college, in an ugly building made habitable through their extraordinary bond, something like friends, something like sisters or cousins who wished they were siblings and would have reason never to be apart. Their first month living together, Mae had broken her jaw one twilight, after fainting, ­flu-­ridden and underfed, during finals. Annie had told her to stay in bed, but Mae had gone to the ­7-­Eleven for caffeine and woke up on the sidewalk, under a tree. Annie took her to the hospital, and waited as they wired her jaw, and then stayed with Mae, sleeping next to her, in a wooden chair, all night, and then at home, for days, had fed Mae through a straw. It was a fierce level of commitment and competence that Mae had never seen from someone her age or near her age, and Mae was thereafter loyal in a way she’d never known she could be.

While Mae was still at Carleton, meandering between majors, from art history to marketing to ­psychology—­getting her degree in psych with no plans to go further in the ­field—­Annie had graduated, gotten her MBA from Stanford and was recruited everywhere, but particularly at the Circle, and had landed here days after graduation. Now she had some lofty ­title—­Director of Ensuring the Future, Annie ­joked—­and had urged Mae to apply for a job. Mae did so, and though Annie insisted she pulled no strings, Mae was sure that Annie had, and she felt indebted beyond all measure. A million people, a billion, wanted to be where Mae was at this moment, entering this atrium, thirty feet high and shot through with California light, on her first day working for the only company that ­really mattered at all.

She pushed open the heavy door. The front hall was as long as a parade, as tall as a cathedral. There were offices everywhere above, four floors high on either side, every wall made of glass. Briefly dizzy, she looked downward, and in the immaculate glossy floor, she saw her own face reflected, looking worried. She shaped her mouth into a smile, feeling a presence behind her.

“You must be Mae.”

Mae turned to find a beautiful young head floating atop a scarlet scarf and white silk blouse.

“I’m Renata,” she said.

“Hi Renata. I’m looking ­for—­”

“Annie. I know. She’s on her way.” A sound, a digital droplet, came from Renata’s ear. “She’s actually...” Renata was looking at Mae but was seeing something else. Retinal interface, Mae assumed. Another innovation born here.

“She’s in the Old West,” Renata said, focusing on Mae again, “but she’ll be here soon.”

Mae smiled. “I hope she’s got some hardtack and a sturdy horse.”

Renata smiled politely but did not laugh. Mae knew the company’s practice of naming each portion of the campus after a historical era; it was a way to make an enormous place less impersonal, less corporate. It beat Building ­3B-­East, where Mae had last worked. Her final day at the public utility in her hometown had been only three weeks ­ago—­they’d been stupefied when she gave ­notice—­but already it seemed impossible she’d wasted so much of her life there. Good riddance, Mae thought, to that gulag and all it represented.

Renata was still getting signals from her earpiece. “Oh wait,” she said, “now she’s saying she’s still tied up over there.” Renata looked at Mae with a radiant smile. “Why don’t I take you to your desk? She says she’ll meet you there in an hour or so.”

Mae thrilled a bit at those words, your desk, and immediately she thought of her dad. He was proud. So proud, he’d said on her voicemail; he must have left the message at four a.m. She’d gotten it when she’d woken up. So very proud, he’d said, choking up. Mae was two years out of college and here she was, gainfully employed by the Circle, with her own health insurance, her own apartment in the city, being no burden to her parents, who had plenty else to worry about.

Mae followed Renata out of the atrium. On the lawn, under dappled light, a pair of young people were sitting on a manmade hill, holding some kind of clear tablet, talking with great intensity.

“You’ll be in the Renaissance, over here,” Renata said, pointing across the lawn, to a building of glass and oxidized copper. “This is where all the Customer Experience people are. You’ve visited before?”

Mae nodded. “I have. A few times, but not this building.”

“So you’ve seen the pool, the sports area.” Renata waved her hand off ­toward a blue parallelogram and an angular building, the gym, rising behind it. “Over there there’s the yoga studio, crossfit, Pilates, massages, spinning. I heard you spin? Behind that there’s the bocce courts, and the new tetherball setup. The cafeteria’s just across the grass...” Renata pointed to the lush rolling green, with a handful of young people, dressed professionally and splayed about like sunbathers. “And here we are.”

They stood before the Renaissance, another building with a ­forty-­foot atrium, a Calder mobile turning slowly above.

“Oh, I love Calder,” Mae said.

Renata smiled. “I know you do.” They looked up at it together. “This one used to hang in the French parliament. Something like that.”

The wind that had followed them in now turned the mobile such that an arm pointed to Mae, as if welcoming her personally. Renata took her elbow. “Ready? Up this way.”

They entered an elevator of glass, tinted faintly orange. Lights flickered on and Mae saw her name appear on the walls, along with her high school yearbook photo. Welcome Mae Holland. A sound, something like a gasp, left Mae’s throat. She ­hadn’t seen that photo in years, and had been happy for its absence. This must have been Annie’s doing, assaulting her with it again. The picture was indeed ­Mae—­her wide mouth, her thin lips, her olive skin, her black hair, but in this photo, more so than in life, her high cheekbones gave her a look of severity, her brown eyes not smiling, only small and cold, ready for war. Since the ­photo—­she was eighteen then, angry and ­unsure—­Mae had gained ­much-­needed weight, her face had softened and curves appeared, curves that brought the attention of men of myriad ages and motives. She’d tried, since high school, to be more open, more accepting, and seeing it here, this document of a ­long-­ago era when she assumed the worst of the world, rattled her. Just when she ­couldn’t stand it anymore, the photo disappeared.

“Yeah, everything’s on sensors,” Renata said. “The elevator reads your ID, and then says hello. Annie gave us that photo. You guys must be tight if she’s got high school pictures of you. Anyway, hope you don’t mind. We do that for visitors, mostly. They’re usually impressed.”

As the elevator rose, the day’s featured activities appeared on every elevator wall, the images and text traveling from one panel to the next. With each announcement, there was video, photos, animation, music. There was a screening of ­Koyaanisqatsi at noon, a ­self-­massage demonstration at one, core strengthening at three. A congressman Mae ­hadn’t heard of, ­grey-­haired but young, was holding a town hall at six thirty. On the elevator door, he was talking at a podium, somewhere else, flags rippling behind him, his shirtsleeves rolled up and his hands shaped into earnest fists.

The doors opened, splitting the congressman in two.

“Here we are,” Renata said, stepping out to a narrow catwalk of steel grating. Mae looked down and felt her stomach cinch. She could see all the way to the ground floor, four stories below.

Mae attempted levity: “I guess you don’t put anyone with vertigo up here.”

Renata stopped and turned to Mae, looking gravely concerned. “Of course not. But your profile ­said—­”

“No, no,” Mae said. “I’m fine.”

“Seriously. We can put you lower ­if—­”

“No, no. ­Really. It’s perfect. Sorry. I was making a joke.”

Renata was visibly shaken. “Okay. Just let me know if anything’s not right.”

“I will.”

“You will? Because Annie would want me to make sure.”

“I will. I promise,” Mae said, and smiled at Renata, who recovered and moved on.

Reading Group Guide

The questions, topics, and other material that follow are intended to enhance your group’s conversation about The Circle, Dave Eggers's hauntingly prescient, page-turning novel about an all-powerful internet company—and what happens when the benefits of technology exact a dangerous price on humanity.

1. How does Mae’s behavior during her first days at work foreshadow what happens to her over the course of the novel? In what ways is she an “ideal” employee of the Circle and its aims?

2. The wings of the Circle are named after different regions of the world and time periods, such as Old West, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, Machine Age, the Industrial Revolution. What do these names say about the company’s vision of historical innovation versus its future-looking work? Is there an inherent hierarchy in these names, despite their apparent equality?

3. In what ways does Annie inspire and motivate Mae in terms of the level of success that can be achieved at the Circle? Does Mae consider Annie’s position the product of Annie’s own ambition, or something she imbibed from the company’s ethos? How does knowing first about their professional relationship shape your understanding of their shared past?

4. For a company that thrives on order and efficiency, the Circle also seems to endorse—require, even—loose and extravagant socializing. What do these two seemingly opposite values say about what working for them entails? How does Mae’s value set evolve to accommodate these expectations? 

5. Mae’s first serious blunder on the job is failing to respond to and attend a social event, Alistair’s Portugal brunch. How does the meeting in Dan’s office set the tone for Mae’s pushing the Circle’s networks on others?

6. Among the Three Wise Men­­­­­––Ty, Bailey, and Stenton––who has a vision of what the Circle can—and should—do that seems most viable? In the end, is this trifecta of power able to prevent tyranny? What might the novel’s conclusion say about man’s reaction to power—even when humanity is apparently subsumed under technology?

7. Our first encounter with a shark in the novel is when Mae sees one from a kayak, and she complacently observes, “They were hidden in the dark water, in their black parallel world, and knowing they were there, but not knowing where or really anything else, felt, at that moment, strangely right” (p.83). Later, we see another shark that Stenton brings back from the Marianas Trench, in a cage with other sea life being viewed by Mae’s watchers: “Then, like a machine going about its work, the shark circled and stabbed until he had devoured . . . everything, and deposited the remains quickly, carpeting the empty aquarium in a low film of white ash” (pp. 476–77). What is essentially different about these two scenarios that garners such different behavior from these wild creatures? Do the humans that watch the shark in the aquarium—“terrified . . . in awe and wanting more of the same”—seem to learn anything (p.477)?

8. During one of her visits home, Mae tells Mercer, “I guess I’m just so easily bored” by what he considers a normal tempo of speech, but what Mae considers “slow motion” compared with the Circlers’ communication in person and online (p.130); and later that night, going through her Circle account to answer queries and social requests, she feels “reborn” (p.135). How much of this shortened attention span is evident in our society today? In the end, are Mae’s instantaneous relationships more or less gratifying than she expects?

9. The bracelet provided by the health clinic is a remarkable technological feat and would revolutionize health care if it existed. Mae even finds it “beautiful, a pulsing marquee of lights and charts and numbers . . .  [her] pulse represented by a delicately rendered rose, opening and closing” (p.156). But what does this additional form of self-monitoring, along with her three work screens, contribute to Mae’s true knowledge of herself? For example, does watching their pulses rise in anticipation of sex bring Mae and Francis closer together emotionally, or push them further apart?

10. It is both a curse and a blessing that Mae is able to provide her parents with health care: while her father is able to receive the MS treatment he desperately needs, Mae seems to benefit even more from her ability to share his story online through support groups and ultimately drives those groups away. Did you ever feel that her actions became more selfish than selfless, and if so, when?

11. Even though Mae meets Kalden when she is relatively enmeshed in the constant connectivity of the Circle, she is still taken in by his holographic mystery: “his retreating form . . . [that] she couldn’t get a hold of . . . His face had an openness, an unmistakable lack of guile . . . [H]aving him out there, at least for a few days, unreachable but presumably somewhere on campus, provided a jolt of welcome frission to her hours” (pp.170–71). Why does she not feel the need to pursue him more aggressively through the knowledge databases she has available? How does this compare with the way she treats Mercer online––Mercer, about whom she presumably knows much more, given their past?

12. We see Mae involved with three very different men throughout the novel: Mercer, Francis, and Kalden. While they are on the surface wildly different, what might you say are traits they share that reveal what Mae is looking for in a relationship—and how do they satisfy these needs in their own ways? Does Mae ever seem truly happy?

13. After her conversation with Dan about skirting her social responsibilities, Mae stays up all night to boost her PartiRank and “felt a profound sense of accomplishment and possibility” (p.191). She is equally ambitious with her CE satisfaction scores, getting the highest average of any employee on the first day. Why, then, is she so offended when Francis asks for a score on his sexual performance? Where is the line between public and private, analog and digital, drawn for Circlers, and what does it mean that Mae eventually gives in to his request?

14. Does the Circle seem concerned with promoting and preserving traditional family life? In what ways does it threaten to replace biological families with a wider human family, including via transparency?

15. Kayaking is for Mae a twofold form of release: not only is it a way to expend physical energy and clear her mind, but when she steals the kayak and is caught on SeeChange cameras, it also leads to a liberation of sorts within the Circle. Does this connection, and Mae’s reaction to being caught, suggest that the Circle’s intentions are well meaning after all, or do they illustrate a more sinister shift in attitude enabled by the Circle?

16. Why do you think Ty felt the need to disguise himself in order to reach out to Mae as he did? How necessary was it for him to preserve his role as one of the Three Wise Men, even as he sought to dismantle the institution he helped create?

17. Is Annie in any sense a martyr of the Circle’s mission? Did you ever feel as if you understood the motives behind her intense devotion to her job?

18. What is the impact of having Mercer’s suicide seen by Mae through cameras—that is, indirectly? Do you think she genuinely believed she was trying to be his friend by launching the drones after him? 

19. Many of the technologies the author invents in The Circle seem futuristic, but they are not so far from realities that exist now in 2013: myriad social media sites are obviously omnipresent, but the government is also developing facial recognition to screen for terrorists (The New York Times, August 20, 2013) and Google Glass seems not so unlike the camera necklace that allows for Mae’s transparency. After finishing the novel, did you find this overlap between fact and fiction unsettling? Did it affect how you personally engage with technology?

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The Circle 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 132 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
With all the discussions on privacy today, this book makes you squirm. It would be easy to dismiss the complications presented in the disguise of the story line but you would be doing a disservice to the intent of the novel. Every self rightous person thinks they understand privacy but it is too easy to ignore the complications. Mr.Eggers does not let you glibbly profess to be serious about the meaning of privacy. He keeps throwing fast balls directly at your biases, hitting you often as you scream foul. In fact, one should probably review Kant's discussions and definations of privacy pertaining to people and things. So if you read a review of this book which harps on shallowness of characters, remember the author knows what he is doing, it is a sophticated writing device. I give this book 5 stars because it makes you think , rethink, reposition, and review your view of privacy. A must read, but it is not a book you will walk away from saying you love it. rather you will admit we need it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Think George Orwell too frumpy or old? Then read this current and hip look at one possible reality. Excellent read that will challange you to carefully think about technology, the ethics around technology, and why- when we have so much evidence to the contrary - humans believe they can be God. Excellent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the concept of this book: technology is wonderful... up to a point. But the execution is ham-fisted at best. Everything is on the nose and predictable while at the same time, nothing is truly fleshed out enough to feel like a good story. We don't really get to know most of the characters and in many instances pivotal moments are skipped over only to be recounted in the past tense. Show don't tell, Mr. Eggers. I really expected more from this book. Again, very interesting concept, definitely thought-provoking. But ultimately disappointing as a novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book made me shiver in my skin. I fear this is where we are headed in our society and unfortunately I think many would like this life. A bit overdetailed in writing style, but overall painted a terrifying and accurate picture of a possible life 10-20 years down the road.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book tedious but I was still impressed with the technological concepts. All I can say is God help us if any part of this comes to fruition. The characters for the most part were poorly developed depriving you of really getting into the feel of the book.. Even the main character, Mae, was poorly developed preventing you from having any feelings or care about the character. The character of Annie, was just totally null and void, one dimensional.. The book rambled on page after page until you got to the point that if they added one more screen to Mae's desk you wanted to throw the book against the wall. For me its was a complete waste of my time. And yours too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very engaging with realistic characters. It reminded me of Ayn Rand and Aldous Huxley in its story . Eggers was able to apply the concept of Atlas Shrugged and Brave New world to the modern social media age and explore what it might evolve into were it to happen today with the technology available.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eggers take on both tech as a whole and social media specifically is brilliant in this novel. While some of it becomes far fetched it is never so much so that you can't see a least a percentage chance of this future becoming a reality. There are a few plot holes (alright, one gaping one) but they pale in comparison to the brilliant social commentary that shines through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you want to get an idea of what sites like Google and Facebook could _really_ do if they tried, this is the book to read. Eggers does a good job pointing out the dangers in carrying too far the Google philosophy of transparency (e.g. the "must use real name" aspect of Google+).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book makes you think about just where all the social media stuff today will eventually lead us. Kind of scary! Enjoyed reading it though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A rare gem. Dave Eggers manages to spin a cautionary tale of technological dystopia and yet make it engagingly charming and even funny. And like all great parables set in the future, he is really commenting on the word today. And it will make you think twice about that next social media post you make.
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Denisse Franco More than 1 year ago
This book should be a warning for those that think technology isn't taking over our lives. I also haven't hated a character so much (Mae) since Bellatrix Lestrange.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little slow I the beginning. It's a good read highlighting our interaction in the digital age. And where it could go I the future
WorldReader1111 More than 1 year ago
I liked some things about this book, while others didn't jibe with me. The writing is solid, as is the dialogue, characterization, and narrative; the text was, for me, generally easy to read. The story, likewise, is functional enough, and though it didn't wow me by any means, it does, I think, possess some admirable imagination and analyses (plus some moments of good, above-average penmanship, and a few laughs here and there). What really hurts 'Circle,' however, is the liberal amount of philosophy and commentary inhabiting the book, which not only inflates the page count to a point that is, in my opinion, bloated and uncomfortable, but that also works to sabotage the fictional elements. Personally, I felt to be reading a collection of essays rather than a novel (and, even when I found the subject matter interesting and meaningful, I couldn't really get into it -- on the odd occasion I read a piece of fiction, I want it to read like fiction). Thus, as far as I'm concerned, 'Circle' is, from a literary standpoint, flawed and awkward. Though, I did find some redeeming value in the book's secondary content: namely, in the sociological study it presents. Though somewhat inappropriate in its placement, the book's observations regarding the social-media epidemic and its consequences are, I think, not invalid, as to be relevant and accurate, more or less. However, beneath this lay a deeper, more profound study, of the very foundations of the social institutions in much of today's world, and the dark underbelly of assumptions and psychological distortions which often govern them. Here, we are shown the complex, sometimes unsavory mechanics of our daily social transactions, and the potentially toxic psychological effects they can have when stripped of respect and consideration for another's basic rights. Also, the book explores such corollaries as social pretense and deceptive appearances, and yields some good insights in this vein, too. As a result, 'Circle' presents something of an object lesson in these big, important issues; and though this might not have been the author's intention, there it is, all the same. Ultimately, there are things to be learned from the book, even if you're like me and it didn't suite your taste in fiction. My sincere thanks goes out to this book's author and publisher. I am grateful for, and have benefited from, your work. * * * Some notable quotes from 'The Circle': "Mercer, the Circle is a group of people like me. Are you saying that somehow we're all in a room somewhere, watching you, planning world domination?" "No. First of all, I _know_ it's all people like you. And that's what's so scary. _Individually_ you don't know what you're doing _collectively_." -- p.261 "Suffering is only suffering if it's done in silence, in solitude. Pain experienced in public, in view of loving millions, was no longer pain. It was communion." -- p.445 "Now, you and I both know that if you can control the flow of information, you can control everything. You can control most of what anyone sees and knows. If you want to bury some piece of information, permanently, that's two seconds' work. If you want to ruin anyone, that's five minutes' work." -- p.487
pooled_ink More than 1 year ago
pooled ink Reviews: 4.5 Stars This is the crazy ethically debatable thrilling sci-fi type of book that I love to read. It was slow at first and I was worried I'd end up putting this in the DNF pile, but then things really escalated and...yikes Chilling, repulsive, heart-pounding, and within the realm of reality, THE CIRCLE presents an inevitable future where humans dance in digital chains, clamoring for their masters to bind their limbs tighter, and all for the illusion of an impossible dream. **Read my FULL review on my Wordpress site: Pooled Ink
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Makes me glad I left Facebook a few years ago. Wish Mae had been less stupid, but it is probably more accurate than her having a sudden epiphany. Good book. Timely. Scary stuff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although The Circle by Dave Eggers initially appears utopian, readers will notice a strong dystopian aftertaste once they complete the novel. The anti-utopian novel begins by introducing the protagonist, Mae Holland, who feels unfulfilled in her current occupation. This feeling of untapped potential spurs her to obtain a job at an Apple-esque company known as the Circle. The Circle has four mottos “ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN,” “SHARING IS CARING,” “PRIVACY IS THEFT,” and “SECRETS ARE LIES.” These slogans reflect the Circle’s invasive beliefs when it comes to ideas such as privacy and secrecy. Later on and throughout the novel a mysterious figure, known as Kalden, begins to lurk around Mae. He voices his concerns regarding the Circle’s boundaries, or lack thereof, to which Mae ignores. One significant theme throughout The Circle is transparency. Transparency is seen both physically and metaphorically. Many of the offices and buildings on campus are completely made of glass. There’s also a concept the Circle adopts with its employees called “going transparent.” When Mae’s natural impulses clash with the Circle’s expectations of her, the Circle sends fellow Circlers for a social media intervention in which they encourage her to engage the Circle community through social media. Eggers critiques how society has centralized social media to the point of obsession. Alistair Knight exemplifies this obsession when he gets completely offended when Mae doesn’t reply to his Portugal brunch. Another example of this obsession is when Annie messages Mae and completely freaks out when she doesn’t immediately respond to her messages. Although transparency is central to the Circle, Mae takes pleasure in separating herself from the Circle's buzz by kayaking and appreciating the surrounding nature. In addition to transparency and social media, Eggers critiques the notion of perfectibility. The Circle strives for perfection and the perfectibility of everything. Humans, technology, government, etc. are all perfectible in the Circle's mind, but in gaining perfection the society forfeits its freedom and privacy. Eggers asks the question: How much are people willing to give up in exchange for security? In many of the technological aspects of the novel a moral/ethical dilemma is broken or overlooked. SeeYou was proposed to the Circle as a technology that would immediately spot out any and all convicted criminals. Although this technology seems beneficial, the pitch takes a darker turn when someone suggests chipping the criminals. I can see how this technology can be helpful, but I can also see how quickly it could be weaponized. Also the act of chipping humans feels a bit dehumanizing to me. Lastly, I think it is important to mention that, similar to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, those in power at the Circle do not have malicious intentions behind their decisions. Despite the occasional slow pacing plot, I truly enjoyed this novel. It made me reflect on how I use and think about my own social media. Sometimes I have even caught myself falling into unhealthy miniature psychotic mental rampages regarding comments and likes on my Instagram and Facebook. Overall, I believe Eggers tells his readers to beware “perfection,” form meaningful relationships over superficial ones, engage directly through human to human interactions, and live a cognizant life to avoid mob mentality.
juicedbooks More than 1 year ago
Maybe I've been watching too much Black Mirror lately, or maybe I'm just embarrassed by the fact that I sometimes use Facebook as my only news source, but The Circle really spoke to me. You may have heard about this book because Emma Watson stars in the movie adaptation that hit theaters in late April. The trailer makes it look like just another dystopian book to be lumped in with series like Divergent, but I assure that it's much more. Mae Holland, the protagonist, is a young college grad who begins working at The Circle, a powerful tech company that is eerily similar to Google and Facebook with a rolling campus, young people, and innovation at every turn. As Mae moves up the company ladder, she is asked to work on a project that will challenge her very values. Mae must decide if she is loyal to herself or to society, if privacy supersedes public knowledge, and if our humanity is threatened when we outsource our lives to the cloud. As Mae grapples with these choices, you'll notice subtle parallels to your own life. For a moment after finishing a chapter, I looked at my phone in shock, noting with horror that like Mae, I was obsessively checking the the likes that I had gotten on a photo. Mae's story grew much more outlandish, but sadly, it didn't seem all too far-fetched. This book is a must-read for any millennial who can't help but panic when they don't feel their phone in their pocket. It's been a week since I finished it, and I'm still a bit nervous when I think about how much I share online.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thought-provoking. Scary. Definitely a read for the watchers...and those who feel they are being watched.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic polemic between pro and con of connected society and a potential future of it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly scary,very thought provoking, could it really Happen? Scary!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A gripping, frightening read, made all the more frightening because the reader knows that it really could happen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty good book, but I didn't like the ending.