Eggers’ The Circle was published in 2013 and there was a lot of talk about the book that year. This story about a young woman who goes to work at a powerful tech company is still pertinent this year, if not more so, given the evolution we’ve seen recently of major tech companies.
“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 America–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.“ (GoodReads)
Eggers gives us a look at the extremes of living in the digital age. It asks us to think about how our behaviour and relationships change as we increasingly intertwine our lives with digital tech.
Right now we all know people who are avid users of Facebook, for example, who share most of their lives on their timeline as well as people who either choose not to use Facebook as often or at all. It’s a personal preference and we respect that. But what if it was mandatory to share your life on the internet for all to see? What if your right to digital privacy and anonymity was no longer seen as a right and you could no longer opt out of the online sharing frenzy?
This may or may not terrify you depending on your personal preferences. As The Circle unfolded and I followed Mae’s journey within the company and their requirements, values, and ideas were slowly revealed I felt a strong sense of foreboding. I felt an overwhelming sense of how it could all go horribly wrong. I had a feeling, too, that if the circle were to be completed in the real world, as they seek to do in the book, then a great deal of us would feel very violated.
That was just my response though. From the way the story is written Eggers passes no judgement one way or the other. I think when you read this book how you feel as it develops will show if, at the end, you are a Mae or a Kalden. You are either comfortable with The Circle world or not.
I enjoyed reading The Circle and recommend it. It doesn’t have the ending that you might be expecting as you read it but I thought the actual ending was pretty terrifying, honestly. A major film adaptation of this book is set to be released in 2017 starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks.