The Circle by Dave Eggers

In Dave Eggers’ novel, The Circle has become the world’s biggest internet company.  In six short years, it has subsumed the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft to become dominant in that market.  Through their TruYou product, everyone has a single online identity – one user name, one password, all linked to your address and online payment methods making internet usage easy and transparent.  TruYou has made the internet a troll-free zone, as everyone is now accountable for their words and actions and keyboard warriors no longer have a place to hide.  It has also made identity theft so much harder that the internet is now deemed a safe and friendly environment.

When Mae is offered a job at The Circle, it’s a dream come true.  They hire only the brightest individuals, and Mae is thrilled to be considered worthy.  She starts in the lower ranks, and quickly becomes immersed in The Circle ‘way’, slowly sacrificing more and more of her privacy to the point where everything she does is viewable by anyone who cares to watch.

This is great premise.  Like much dystopian fiction, Eggers has taken what he sees in today’s world and has extrapolated it, creating a totalitarian state.  And he probably didn’t need to extrapolate all that far in some aspects of the novel.

So, a great premise.  But the execution?  Terrible.  I struggled to finish this novel, and having read to the end, it was not deserving of the time that I dedicated to it.

Mae, our protagonist, was unrealistic and in no way likeable, and at no point does she question the demands (unsubtly couched as suggestions) placed on her, even when her new life pushes away her family and friends.  She sees nothing wrong in what she and The Circle are doing.  I’d say she was brainwashed, but you have to have some form of brain and personal opinion for brainwashing to be possible.

The writing is dreadful – repetitive and dull.  The dialogue is wooden, and the whole shark metaphor was obvious and insulting.  We got the point – don’t beat us over the head with it.

Nothing much happens in terms of a plot.  The are new product developments made at The Circle, and these are presented to the reader through a series of lectures.  That’s how a lot of the novel felt – like a series of lectures on potential technological developments that mean we’re under increased surveillance and become completely accessible online, whether we like it or not.  Even Mercer, one of the few opposed to The Circle and everything it’s trying to achieve, comes across as preachy.

This book could have been excellent, but fell a long way short of the mark.  Going into it, I felt that I was going to read a 1984 for the modern day, but now I think that I’m be doing 1984 a great disservice by even mentioning it in this review.

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