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.
The Circle was both gripping and eerie. When I first started reading this novel, I felt a similar sinking feeling in my stomach as I did when I started B.A. Paris’ Behind Closed Doors. I knew something was off, but I could’t figure out what was exactly making me feel so uneasy. The descriptive language that Egger uses is unique and crucial to creating this world within The Circle that the reader quickly recognizes as too good to be true but somehow seems unstoppable.
Through this ultra-connected dystopia, Eggers makes some very important social commentary, by showing just how damaging this can be. He clearly demonstrates how easily we can get caught up in our online presence that we lose touch with our ability to converse in real life with out the added “watchers” of people in our social networks. Furthermore, we have gotten to the point where we are more willing to spend hours stalking someone on social media to find out more about a person instead of simply communicating with them directly, just as Mae felt the need to do as the novel progressed. Mercer’s character also demonstrates just how resistant some people can be to technological advances. Although in this particular case Mercer rightfully recognized the ramifications of The Circle, his actions speak volumes about individuals in today’s society who resist both social change and technological advances on principle.
As for the main character, Mae Holland, I was quite disappointed with her. She seemed so strong-willed and capable of beating to her own drum even within the confines of The Circle that I firmly believes that she would be this story’s heroine. However, the way in which she was so easily absorbed into the faux-community culture and inner workings of The Circle despite seeing all that it was capable of was extremely frustrating to me. The Circle cost her so much, including her parents, that it was just hard for me to respect her as the novel went on.
Overall, I was absolutely fascinated with this book. Although it was published a few years ago, I feel as though the social commentary that this novel makes is even more relevant now as we continue to become increasingly connected in today’s world. If you’re looking for a book that is somewhere between George Orwell’s 1984 and Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies, Pretties, and Specials trilogy, I would highly recommend The Circle by Dave Eggers.
4 out of 5 stars