14th October 2014
After working in a dead-end job in her home town, Mae Holland has just landed her dream job, working for The Circle. Having swallowed up all their competitors such as Facebook, Twitter and Google, The Circle employs the best inventors and thinkers of the day, who make use of innovative technology to influence the world around them, and beyond. Their creation TruYou is a one-stop-shop for social media, and Mae is placed in the Customer Experience section, which involves not only dealing with a deluge of online queries, but following that up with the TruYou equivalents of likes, retweets, hearts etc. to ensure that the customer is fully satisfied.
The Circle’s base of operations is a workplace utopia, where all the very best facilities are available to employees, from deluxe gyms to world-class medical care, best-selling musicians performing in the courtyard to daily visits from Nobel Prize winners; only the very best for employees of The Circle. Eat your heart out Google.
Early on, Mae initially does not fully engage with – or appreciate the importance of - all the social aspects of her role or campus life, but once she realises what is expected of her, she starts to become obsessed with improving her social rating within the company. This rating is increased upon greater social interaction with members of TruYou, however in doing so she begins to alienate her parents, her ex-boyfriend and even her friend Annie, who as a high ranking Circle employee got Mae the job in the first place.
The Circle also exerts considerable influence upon politicians, through their technologies aimed at reducing crime (tracking chips implanted in the bones), to improving transparency in politics (with cameras worn 24/7) and compulsory democracy (those with TruYou accounts being automatically registered to vote in elections). It is because of this power that there are some people, such as the mysterious Kalden, who oppose - and fear - the level of privacy which is now being made public, and object to the level of power and influence that The Circle has.
I really enjoyed the novel, and I think it makes some very salient points on the impact and influence that social media has on most people in the modern world. It also asks some questions of how much privacy we should have as individuals, and how much we should be sharing online for the entire world to see.
There is nothing totally new here in terms of ideas, though the novel is still a very entertaining read nonetheless. Dave Eggers has really set the scene brilliantly; that of Mae blindly falling into the trap of valuing her virtual presence over the flesh-and-bones version, and The Circle slowly gaining more and more influence as a result of the complicity of so many others like Mae; a lesson to us all.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Dave Eggers is the author of seven previous books, including his most recent, "The Circle", a captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism that soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world.
A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.