Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf
Summary/Review: Dave Eggers’ book The Circle has been labeled everything from heavy handed to visionary and stunning. Even though I did want to withdraw into a world of luddites for a short time after I finished the book, I prefer to think there are enough people in the world not quite as naïve and lacking in self-confidence as Mae, the protagonist, to prevent this kind of dystopian hell from evolving.
Mae Holland is thrilled to be working for The Circle, the world’s most powerful and all-encompassing Internet company. She thrives in a corporate culture where your worth is measured by your number of posts and zings and responses to the post and zings of others. And she begins to rise steadily through the ranks.
The Circle is all about transparency. The products they develop, from small cameras which can be placed anywhere to chips to install in the bones of your children to make them easy to track in case of abduction are all about helping you to find peace of mind through transparency. After all, who doesn’t want to keep their children safe? Who doesn’t want to plant small cameras around the home of their elderly parents to check in and make sure they haven’t fallen and hurt themselves? To not share, to keep anything secret, is considered part of an aberrant behavior system. Everyone has an obligation to share what they see and know, and everyone has a right to know everything they can. To this end Mae, now the public face of The Circle, becomes transparent. She’s equipped with a camera the size of a locket to hang around her neck and a wrist bracelet with a screen where she could see exactly what her watchers were seeing and also keep track of her number of watchers. Her job is to provide an open window into the daily life of The Circle.
It’s heartening to see that not everyone in Mae’s life buys into The Circle’s philosophy where the concept of transparency seems to spill over into gross violation of privacy and your life is given validation by the number of smiley faces or thumbs up you receive from virtual strangers. Her former boyfriend Mercer bluntly sums up her new life: ” You sit at a desk twelve hours a day and have nothing to show for it except some numbers that won’t exist or be remembered in a week…you think that sitting at your desk, frowning and smiling somehow makes you think you’re actually living some fascinating life…Do you realize how incredibly boring you’ve become?” But of course she doesn’t realize and things in the world of The Circle go from bad to worse.
One of the true horrors to contemplate in Eggers’ book is a world full of people whose lives are so without purpose that they would invest any amount of time in following someone with a camera slung around their neck as they go about their daily life. How much of a pathetic loser do you have to be to stop investing in your own daily life in favor of vicariously living through someone else?
Who Will Like This Book: Anyone who enjoys visiting a dystopian world but then closing the book and not actually having to live in it!
If you like this, try this: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart ; Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Or, check out the Library’s database “NoveList” for even more Read-alikes!
Recommended by: Sue D’Numb, Librarian
If this looks like one you’d like to try, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold!