by Dave Eggers

Reviewer Rating:


This is one of the scariest visions of a near-future world I've read in a while. Mae Holland has just landed a coveted job at The Circle (think a global-reaching combination of Facebook, Twitter, Google, and all e-Commerce and you're partway there). She starts out in "customer experience" answering queries from clients, but soon she learns that working for The Circle is something you don't turn off--ever. There are the parties, lectures, and interest group meetings on their sprawling campus. Social media participation is mandatory, and she is rated based on followers, smiles, re-Zings, and how many people buy products based on her recommendations. The Circle's doctor sees her every other week, and she wears a monitor that records her vitals at all times--and she's called in immediately if anything seems wrong. As Mae buys in more and more to The Circle's ideas that SECRETS ARE LIES and PRIVACY IS THEFT (gee, 1984, anyone?), she rises higher in the ranks and her need for more and more affirmation becomes ravenous. Even the loss of friendships and her parents means little to her. Yes, Mae becomes more unlikeable throughout the book, but you can't help but keep reading and see where this world will go next (Totally transparent politicians? Check. Children chipped at birth to prevent abductions and general parental worry? Check. And more). This book might make you hesitate the next time you're faced with a choice between social media time and activity in the real world.

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Everything Eggers describes is here, now: drones, surveillance cloaked as transparency and protection, mega-companies controlling the flow of information, information tailored to the user and packaged, intoxicating convenience of some technologies, etc. And also here now--not in some crazy future--are the many ethical dilemmas in The Circle. When I first started reading, the book seemed simplistic and a bit too transparent as a cautionary tale, but then I realized that's the essence of it's scariness: it's not some extreme scenario that could take place, but rather it's reality that's slightly dialed up. But, the book is also funny. My favorite funny scene has to do with the "Portugal brunch." Also funny are some of the "product" names. My favorite? Demoxie (Democracy + your voice + your moxie).

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