My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Even a day after finishing The Circle by Dave Eggers, I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the book. The story follows Mae, a young twenty-something year old as she gets a job at the Circle the biggest tech company around. They’ve essentially outperformed, purchased and influenced their competition like Google, Facebook and Apple – and have become dominant in the field. The plot progresses as the company invents more and more ways to progress technology and access to knowledge.
I didn’t find any of the characters in this book particularly likable. In fact, I really didn’t connect with or like the main character at all. She seemed to have no backbone, became very defensive and accusatory with no motivation, meddled in other people’s private affairs, and made some terrible decisions in her life. Her choices throughout the book were very frustrating, as she succumbed to bad decision making, alienated her family, and pushed away her true friends.
For me, this book was very stress-inducing. Just Mae’s job in customer service became overwhelming very quickly. When she was introduced to her job, her desk and her coworkers, it was explained to her that she would have multiple points of contact that she must keep her focus on. Her first screen was for her work and interaction with customers, where she would respond to their queries and assist them with problems. The second screen was for inter-office communication (which was constant) between her and her colleagues. That in and of itself was overwhelming, but she was also told that she had to pay attention to her phone on her desk and the health monitor/smart watch type device on her wrist. As if that wasn’t enough, over time the number of screens that were installed at her desk multiplied and became completely overwhelming to me as the reader. Just attempting to imagine having to deal with that was stressing me out a little.
As the book progressed, it reminded me more and more of 1984 and Big Brother. One of the first things that horrified me was the installation of cameras across the globe, although it was touted as a way to disseminate information and curb crime – I could only think of the implications. What happened to personal privacy? As an introvert, the ideas put forth in the Circle were incredibly hard to accept. Circle membership grew, voting became mandatory and privacy all but disappeared. What makes the book even more hard-hitting and thought provoking is that the ideas in the book are the way that the world is currently progressing.
The book and its ideas definitely force you to think about the state of the world today, our reliance on technology and willingness to put so much information about ourselves out there in the world. Just as a slight spoiler, in the next paragraph I will discuss my feelings about the conclusion of the book. If you don’t want to know whether they followed the path of Big Brother or rebelled, please just skip that paragraph and continue reading after that.
One of my problems with the book may just stem from the issue of converting the book into eBook form and not formatting it well. As I have never paged through a physical copy, I don’t know what the book is supposed to look like – but beyond basic paragraph formatting there was no delineation between sections in my copy. Scene changes would occur where the day, location or character being interacted with would change and it caused a split-second of confusion. There were no chapters and no page breaks. The only formatting I had in my copy where the headings for book 1, 2, and 3. Again, this may just be my copy and if so I don’t want to fault the book – but if the physical book is like that, then I take issue with the formatting. It doesn’t look professional and affects the readability of the book.
This book definitely forces you to think and may cause a few nightmares depending upon how you feel about technology, just be warned. Overall, I would recommend this book but to adult readers as it is not a young adult book.