Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers
Page Count: 497
Publisher: Vintage Books
Original Publication Date: 2013
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Dystopian, New Adult
Mae Holland, recently graduated from college and working a crappy dead-end job, gets the opportunity of a lifetime: she is hired by The Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company. Through The Circle, anonymity is eliminated — everyone’s accounts (social media, bank, email, etc.) are lumped together into one universal account. But they don’t stop there — The Circle wants to make everyone and everything known, or transparent as they like to say. As Mae moves up the company ladder, The Circle slowly takes over every aspect of human’s lives. After all, privacy is theft, right? According to Mae, and The Circle, it is. Are we meant to know everything?
So I was going to skip the novel and go straight to the film, which was released about two weeks ago, but then I thought, What the hell? May as well. You all know how I am. I even had a coupon for a bookstore and happened to find it there, so it was like fate. Goodreads promises “a heart-racing novel of suspense,” labeled as a sci-fi/dystopian novel. That’s absolutely right up my alley. Though it is science fiction and, I suppose, a dystopia, it is not “a heart-racing novel of suspense.” And I think that’s what disappointed me the most.
The Circle is comprised of 3 Books — there are no chapters. It’s told in third-person POV and follows Mae as she starts out in CE (Customer Experience — AKA customer service, just with a fancier name) and quickly makes her way to Circle stardom. So here I am, expecting this totally bizarre, suspenseful novel to keep me on the edge of my seat and surprise me with twists and turns and …….. I got none of that. That’s the most disappointing part of this novel — not the writing, not the characters, not the storyline at all; it’s simply the letdown of high expectations.
The trailer for the film looked thrilling. I’ve had people tell me personally that it was scary and suspenseful. Hell, the cover of the book even has reviews bragging about how “chilling” and “prophetic” it is. This novel is not suspenseful. There’s maybe one or two twists throughout the whole thing, and I pretty much saw them coming from miles away. Did this detract from the story? Kind of. And what the heck was up with that climax? I had pretty much already predicted it, and there was no lead-up to it at all. It was just kind of like “hello, okay, goodbye.” I should have looked at it’s Goodread’s meager rating of 3.47…
Other than a lack of suspense, the story was interesting. Was it overwhelmingly compelling? Not really. As far as sci-fi dystopias go, this one wasn’t that crazy. It made for an interesting read, but it was a bit too long, and Eggers definitely needs a lesson on how to write suspenseful moments.
I liked Mae at first, I really did. I, a recent college graduate who will probably end up working a dead-end job, really related to her and felt her disappointments and successes on a deep level. But then I realize how absolutely naive she is. I mean, she literally does anything asked of her, no questions asked. One of the most important lessons my mom taught me (before she kicked me out and disowned me — thanks mom) was to never sign anything without first reading it. I guess Mae’s mom didn’t teach her that lesson:
“Hi Mae, I’m Tasha, the notary.” … “I need three signatures from you. Don’t ask me why.”
And Mae gladly signs. And she does not ask her why. This is only one of a thousand examples of Mae’s trustworthiness.
So as the novel progressed, I liked Mae less and less. Yet, even as she slowly dismantles human’s basic freedoms and rights, I can’t help but feel sympathetic towards her. It’s frustrating, honestly. I know she represents us millennials, though, and our willingness to give out as much information as possible. Social media consumes the life of many, and it can be dangerous, and that’s the whole point of the novel. Sharing, liking, smiling and frowning… it’s all some people care to do. At one point, a guy even wants Mae to rate his sex. With a number. Can you imagine?
Speaking of… this guy, well, he’s pretty gross. And pathetic. And annoying. And yet Mae just keeps going back to him. Why????? Why is she like this????? She is frustrating.
I was a little iffy on the writing for a while. This is my first time reading Eggers and I wasn’t a big fan of his dialogue. It kinda grew on me, I guess, but not significantly. I didn’t find anything particularly spectacular about his writing. Like I said, I think he needs a lesson in suspense, but other than that, it’s fine I suppose.
So even though the novel isn’t what I expected, it wasn’t necessarily bad. I mainly trudged through so that I can now go see the film, which hopefully is a bit more enjoyable than the book.
“She would remember these words, and hate herself for them, for decades to come.”
“That was, she thought drunkenly, evidence of God, was it not? That she could encounter thousands of people in her life thus far, so many of them similar, so many of them forgettable, but then there is this person, new and bizarre and speaking bizarrely.”