By Dave Eggers
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780345807298, April 2014, 512pp.)
The Short of It:
In a world that is nearly 100% transparent, how does one survive?
The Rest of It:
The book opens with Mae Holland on her first day of work at the Circle. Think Google or Facebook but kicked up a notch. Jobs at the Circle are hard to come by, but Mae’s friend Anna, pulled some strings and got her a seat in Customer Experience. Mae’s job is to answer questions and obtain a satisfaction rating of 97% or higher. At the Circle, everything is driven by customer satisfaction and positive reinforcement from the supervisors. Every click is tracked. If your CE rating goes up, you received dozens of chat room comments congratulating you and if your CE rating falls, you get a call from the boss.
In addition to the job itself, Mae is expected to maintain transparency at all times. Every feeling and thought needs to be documented somewhere for the benefit of others and when a new project lands in Mae’s lap, her every move is documented as well. Pulse is recorded, tests are taken randomly to ensure health, regular visits to the doctor to maintain the status quo are all a part of the job. Mae’s fascination with the technology and the Circle’s promise to extend health care to her uninsured parents make her a loyal employee.
But at what cost?
I work in technology so I see the benefit of technology daily, but I also see what’s lost in the exchange. The constant need to be connected is wearing thin with me. Cell phones, data plans, Wi-Fi and the like mean that people no longer talk to one another. We spend hours on our phones and at work, how much of your day is spent answering email? Years ago, when we left the office the work was left behind. Now, the work follows us wherever we go and I hate it.
Every day companies try to out-do each other with wearable technology. If you don’t believe it, consider the recent rise in fitness trackers. More affordable than you think and fitness enthusiasts love them. Then there’s Google Glass. Not an affordable piece of technology, which will ultimately be its downfall but someone, somewhere picked-up on the idea that people want to be connected all the time. How sad is that?
The world that Egger’s creates is totally blown-up and exaggerated but not by much. We are heading down a dangerous path. One that cannot be maintained by normal human beings. I mean, how can a person be “on” 24/7 without falling apart at some point?
The Circle is a terrifying read. Everything is wonderful until it’s not, right? It really makes you think about society and where it’s headed. Will we ever be able to return to simpler times? A part of me thinks so. After upgrading my phone this past December, I now feel as if I should have just went with a regular phone and skipped the “smart” part of it. Frankly, I am tired of it. I am tired of the constant stream of information. I am not a true abuser of it either but I feel as if I am unable to turn it off sometimes. When you are watching a show and have a question, you Google it. Looking for a restaurant? You pull out your phone to see what’s close to you. Instant gratification and it’s making me sick. Literally.
Have you read The Circle? Do you plan to? It’s a frightening read in a lot of ways but an effective way to relay the fact that society is headed for the $hit*er (if it’s not there already).
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28 thoughts on “Review: The Circle”
Yes. It’s insidious, isn’t it?
I’m not sure if the current generation feels the same way. They haven’t a clue what it was like before cell phones but I hate it. I hate being on all the time.
I like all the information that’s so easily accessible around us, but the feeling of stress, overwhelming, lack of focus it creates is certainly something to worry about. It’s only going to get worse, sadly. Not many want to embrace the minimal information around us lifestyle.
I am not a huge abuser of technology but sometimes I find myself refreshing pages too often. Searching for new content. It’s as if I have to have it and that bothers me.
I thought it was a bit over the top. I think it would have been more effective had it been more realistic. But it certainly raises a lot of great issues, and I think serves as an update for 1984.
It was over the top but not by much. Wearable technology is already here. Our university’s IT vision incorporates the addition of more wearable technologies like Google Glass. People haven’t fully bought into it yet but it’s coming. I enjoy working in IT but I do not enjoy the constant change and the need to one-up your devices so often.
I noticed it says “her every movie” but i think you meant “her every move” in paragraph #2.
Cordially, Serena M. Agusto-Cox Savvy Verse & Wit War Through the Generations @SavvyVerseWit @wargenerations
Isn’t that like earlier works that talked about the downfalls of technology, etc. I think even though we are thinking about these things in literature, those in charge of these “advancements” are too focused on the next “big” thing and not on the effects they will have. I haven’t read this, but I think its interesting…much like I thought 1984 was interesting and raised a lot of issues a book club could discuss.
The whole “anywhere, anytime” thing is a real pain. I mean, it’s nice to be able to transfer money online but the anywhere/anytime thing, at least for me since I work in technology, means that I am always working. Which sucks!
Every time I go to the bookstore, I see this on the shelf. Now, with this review, I feel compelled to read it. This is totally my cup of tea. Most of the time, I hate my cell phone and leave it at home, turned off for weeks at a time. The world of technology is both beneficial, but also very invasive.
My advice, borrow it from the library. It’s not the type of book that you will want to revisit, if you know what I mean. It’s depressing as hell.
Yikes. Will do.
I certainly would’ve followed your advice, but I needed a book for a 5 hour plan ride last week and ended up buying The Circle. It was the cheapest option. Depressing as hell, for sure. I’m really not a fan of how Eggers draws women, but the plot itself was very interesting. Mae is quite awful, gullible and susceptible to suggestion. Bailey made me want to twitch, and the cultish attitude of the Circlers got on my very last nerve. The ending was really frustrating.
Vance had to read Eggers his first year in college. When he brought the book home over the summer, I read it. His work is different but very thought provoking.
I read one other book by Eggers and wasn’t all that impressed but this one spoke to me. Technology is a blessing and a curse. I also saw Eggers speak once and he was really interesting to listen to.
I try so hard to walk away from my ipad and phone…what I hate most is the time spent just deleting email!
I don’t mind purposeful emails but here at work, the conversations go back and forth so often, it’s difficult to keep track of anything and I end up spending so much time trying to.
My coworker started this was enjoying it, but then stopped reading it. I need to reconsider, it does sound rather fascinating. Great review.
(I’m hooked on my FitbitOne …LOL)
I bet I know where she stopped reading. I hit one point in the story where it all became a little too depressing. As if “I” were living the lifestyle outlined in the book. The constant refreshing. The constant posting, etc. I was like, man… this is exhausting but I stuck with it. It’s not a happy book but there is something comforting in knowing that most everyone in the book seems to enjoy it. Weird, I know.
I had not heard of this one before your review, Ti, but it sounds like something I should read.
I purposefully won’t set my account up so I can view work e-mail at home. I am lucky my current position doesn’t require I take work home with me. I would hate that. I really value my time with my family.
And yet. I do have a smart phone; have had one for years and sometimes think I’d be lost without it. The three times we’ve been to Disneyland I put my phone in airplane mode so I wouldn’t run the battery down (I wanted to be able to take pictures all day), and even that felt weird. What if my mom called? What if . . . Once that weirdness melted away, I felt liberated. It was nice not to feel the urge to check my e-mail multiple times throughout the day. It was nice not to be connected. Admittedly, I turned it on this last time while stuck in line by myself to see the Frozen princesses.
I feel like because we are connected all the time these days we don’t really take the time to just be in the moment. As a mother, I often remind myself how important that is. But that’s not just true for us mothers or our children. It’s true for everyone. It was one of the lessons I got out of Ready Player One as well.
I’ve been intrigued by this book. EW featured it, and I read the write-up and thought “hmmmm”. It’s the kind of thing that makes your brain buzz and scares you a little, and I think I’d like (?) it. The 512 pages put me off a bit.
My home internet was down once, and my boss freaked out. I realized how much tech was allowing him to encroach on my non-office/non-work life. I’ve also visited cities where the bus info is only available online, not even posted at the stops! If you can’t afford a smartphone, too bad.
I tried reading Eggers’ Heartbreaking Work…and didn’t make it through. Maybe it’s time to try him again.
The city I live in just put in those “smart” bus stops where you can scan a bar code with your phone and it will tell you via GPS where the bus is. For that kind of stuff, technology is pretty cool but man, when it doesn’t work and you’ve come to rely on it. Ugh.
Makes me think of “The Handmaid’s Tale” where the same thing happened in that people went along and every thing was fine until it wasn’t. And that it is all just a bit too close for comfort.
I haven’t read this, but given that my job is also in technology and education I am thinking this should be on my summer reading list! Thanks for the great review
Good review. I’m glad you read this one, so I could get the scoop on it. It sounds thought-provoking for sure.
The story was exaggerated but I think this is what Eggers was trying to achieve in order to make a point. I will definitely investigate his other works.
I agree. Way over the top but he makes his point.