Book review: The Circle by Dave Eggers made me want to puke (in a good way)

Reading The Circle by Dave Eggers made me want to puke. My nausea was not induced by graphic violence or other gross descriptions. I was sickened by Eggers’ detailed descriptions of a dystopia that felt too real.

The Circle is not about your typical dystopia where water, gas, and other resources are scarce and people kill each other for food. The Circle is about a privacy dystopia, where everything is shared and broadcast. The fact that for many people that isn’t such a scary thing is what made me have such a visceral reaction in a way I haven’t felt since seeing the movie Idiocracy, a supposed comedy that terrified me with its plausibility.

The Circle by Dave EggersImagine if Google, Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of other technologies were smooshed together into one company with all your online activities unified under one account. Such a hyperinterconnected network holds powerful potential both postive and negative. So which wins out, the benefits or the threats?

The Circle is the story of Mae, a new employee at the book’s namesake technology company. When she arrives at the The Circle she is a normal employee. She works hard for eight hours, then she leaves. She spends time with her family. She pursues her hobbies.

Then her supervisor calls her parti-rank (participation rank) into question. Eager to please she embeds more and more of her life into The Circle both physically and virtually.

Physically, Mae rarely leaves The Circle campus. She works there. She socializes there. Eventually she even lives there.

Virtually, she starts sharing more and more of her life online via The Circle’s various social media channels. After all, “sharing is caring.”

As Mae’s relationship with The Circle changes so does her relationship with the people around her. People at The Circle and those who admire The Circle idolize her and encourage her with many smiles (The Circle’s version of “likes”). Meanwhile, her family and exboyfriend don’t understand her new life at The Circle. In turn, her understanding of them decreases.

And who is the mysterious Kalden (besides, apparently, an exciting lover)? Mae meets him at The Circle, but he is not like other people there. Is he a spy? A disgruntled employee? A test of Mae’s loyalty?

The Circle is a captivating novel that may make you think twice before your next tweet or status update.

Near the end Eggers gives in and allows two main characters to blatantly debate the issues that the novel previously had allowed us to debate in our own minds by showing rather than telling the pros and cons. Still, a few pages of heavy-handed exposition are quickly erased by the chilling conclusion that follows.

The Circle by Dave Eggers scared me. It made me fear for the future. At times it nearly made me want to puke but in a good way. After all, a book so well-written that it can evoke a strong emotional reaction is a rare treasure. I highly recommend you read it yourself. It’s up to you whether you give it a smile or frown.


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