The Circle By Dave Eggers is a Futuristic Science Fiction tale of the disintegration of human freedom in the face of overwhelming technology that is at once relevant and incredibly annoying. If you have a healthy dislike for tech-addicted, idealistic, don’t have a freaking clue how the real world works and unable to take responsibilities for their own actions; Millennials. The Circle will make you want to step out into the street and just start bitch slapping the crap out of them at random. Or perhaps a better reaction to this novel is just to say; this is Orwell’s 1984, brought to you by Apple products.
Stuck at a dead end job in her small home town, Mae Holland reaches out to her old college roommate Annie and is offered the opportunity of her life. A chance to work at the Circle. The most powerful internet company in the world. At the Circle, user’s are able to link emails, social media, banking and purchasing with a universal operating system. This results in a single online identity, removing the anonymity that has filled the internet with fake news and bullying. With the use of the Circle, a new era of civility and transparency has evolved on the internet. Mae tours the vast California campus, which seems to be a world encapsulated. There are late night parties and famous artists and musicians who come to the Circle to perform. There are dorms and free gifts given to the employees who refer to themselves as Circlers. Food and clothes. What Mae comes to realize is that the Circle is much more than a place to work, it is a place to live and belong. Where her opinion matters and her thoughts are respected. Using the power of the Circle, she can give and receive instant approval and gratification. A zing and smile sent for things she likes and a frown sent to show her dislike. No more internet trolls who hide behind fake names and identities on the Circle. Everything is out in the open. With the Circle, Mae begins to feel as if she can change the world. Soon the world outside the Circle, her friends and family seem to matter less. Mae comes to believe that with the power of the Circle, they can make a better world. A world where there are no more lies, no more secrets. A world where with the power of the Circle, nothing is hidden. A new era of humanity, an era of transparency. It isn’t long before the Circle begins to reach out and with its ideals and beliefs in complete sharing of all knowledge, it exerts its influence on the world. If you want to use the Circle, you must give all of yourself to it. You must be transparent, for all the world to see and know. Nothing belongs to the individual, it all belongs to the Circle and the Circle is closing.
Mae Holland may be one of the most annoying characters I have run into in a very long time. Her self righteousness, her insecurities, her belief that anyone who doesn’t agree with her and the Circle must be evil and hateful. Even after she sees the damage done to her friends and family, she still believes in the Circle. You cannot just disagree with her. To do that is to threaten her…to invade her safe place with your opinions and hate. Sound familiar?
The Circle is about a future where technology strips away individual freedom. Its already happening. Look at the current political landscape and the immoral actions of the mainstream media. Talk news shows where people are presumed guilty before they are ever tried. Opinions that are shoved out to a populace as fact and only retracted later when the truth is too apparent to continue the lie. And sadly there are many who never believe the truth because the lie is just too juicy.
The Circle is about the cult of belonging and mob mentality. The short sighted indulgence of self righteousness and the unwillingness or ignorance of the young. Utopia does not exist and it never will. All your smiles and frowns and hashtags and fake sense of being offended at how someone else thinks or feels will never change that.
The Circle is about the individual and the loss of that. It could have been written decades ago by the likes of Harrison, Orwell or Bradbury and the theme would be no different. Because we haven’t learned.
The Circle is relevant, you will recognize yourself in it, in every Facebook post you tag or like, and then look away. Because you want to believe it really is just a book. It is smart and it is threatening in the way all good books are. Because it is a mirror to the society we now live in.
It is that damn good and that damn important.
I just wish Mae wasn’t so damn annoying.