This month a review of Dave Eggers’ novel The Circle.
It’s rare to see a work of fiction so relevant to the world we live in today. Dave Eggers’ The Circle is accessible, entertaining, and raises issues without use of a literary sledgehammer.
The plot centers around mega-corporation called The Circle (essentially a conglomeration of Google, Facebook, Apple, and Twitter; Apple is coincidentally building a circle in the Bay Area). The Circle has neutered the competition and now has a monopoly on information. As the world becomes fully transparent through enhanced technology (miniature cameras, implanted microchips, etc), the company begins dominating politics and ruining anyone who steps in its path.
Mae is recruited into The Circle by her friend Annie who works at a level below The Three Wise Men (the company’s visionaries). Mae is indoctrinated by The Circle and its philosophy of being “social”. Slowly but surely, her skepticism dissipates as she embraces The Circle’s cultist dogma and her own success within the company grows. Her own sense of discomfort with 100% surveillance is pushed to the curbside by the company’s Utopian arguments while her sense of other people’s privacy is drowned. At the apex, Mae has lost her sense of humanity over the argument for a world collective. Eggers uses a page off of Orwell’s 1984, with Circle epithets of “Sharing is Caring”, “Secrets are Lies”, and the most important, “Privacy is Theft”. While this is purposeful in intent (and a bit of an obvious comparison), it doesn’t distract from the message.
Instead of hammering away at negative consequences of such a transparent, coveillant world, Eggers poses most arguments positively in favor of the Utopian mantra, leaving the reader feeling a bit scared and sorry for the world Mae has been caught up in, consumed by its false promises while blinded by her newly found fame.
The one questionable plot point is when one of the Wise Men, Ty (aka Kalden), and founder of The Circle requires Mae to deliver a message of warning when in fact he could do so himself. Still, the novel delivers a powerful message of how moral majority and herd mentality can turn ominous in the quest for a perfect world, a clear warning on the threat of monopolistic power with regards to information and how it can be manipulated. The witch hunt against privacy starts with Completion of The Circle.