Privacy Is a Thing of the Past in Dave Eggers’ ‘The Circle’ [REVIEW]

Can an internet company be too powerful? (Photo courtesy Canva)

When a young woman lands her dream job at the biggest Internet company on the planet, she is amazed at what a great package deal it is. Phenomenal pay. Awesome benefits. Unbeatable perks. But what’s the catch? Find out in Dave Eggers enthralling sci-fi thriller, The Circle.

Dave Eggers' THE CIRCLE
Vintage

Mae Holland has just been hired by tech giant, The Circle, a company which offers its consumers one online identity that combines email, social media, banking, and purchasing, all wrapped up in their universal operating system. The goal is a new age of civility and transparency.

And like so many other internet firms, its sprawling California campus offers its employees everything they could possibly want, including open-plan offices, gorgeous dining facilities, cozy dorms, late night parties, concerts on the green, and even an aquarium of fish from the Marianas Trench.

Working for The Circle is a dream come true for Mae. But the longer she works for the company, the more it costs her personally. Life off campus seems distant, her role at the firm becomes increasingly public, and an encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken.

Is this job worth her soul? As her dreamy-eyed optimism begins to flag, she finds herself facing questions about memory, privacy, and the depths of human knowledge.

My mind is a jumble after reading Dave Eggers’ final words in The Circle. As I sift through my thoughts, I’m primarily struck with a sense of disbelief! The book makes me wonder: how can someone allow blind ambition to cut themselves off from those they are closest to?

And is transparency at every level in society really necessary for the survival of the human race? As presented here, only a select few should be tasked with monitoring the human race so “we will become all-seeing, all-knowing.” Is that what the world is really coming to?

Enter Mae Holland, fresh out of college and excited to land her first real job at The Circle. However, not all is as it seems at the tech giant. Mae has to learn her job and her colleagues, people who appear more comfortable with a mouse in their hand than having a lively conversation with another human being.

I must admit, Mae’s choices don’t sit right with me. So much of what she does seems unconscionable. But the more I ponder the storyline, the more I realize Eggers is satirizing both Generation X, their role in society, and who really owns our privacy today.

Equally thought provoking, terrifying, and fascinating, The Circle is ultimately a novel you won’t want to put down because it plays upon some of our deepest fears today.

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Dave Eggers is the author of The Circle, The Monk of Mokha, A Hologram for the King, What Is the What, and The Museum of Rain.

He is founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books, a humor website, and a journal of new writing, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. McSweeney’s also publishes Voice of Witness, a nonprofit book series that uses oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. 

Eggers’s books for young readers include What Can a Citizen Do?Her Right FootThis Bridge Will Not Be Gray, The Lifters, and The Wild Thingsamong others.

Born in Boston and raised in Illinois, he has now lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for three decades.

For more information, visit DaveEggers.net.

Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers

THE CIRCLE
By Dave Eggers
497 pp. Vintage. $17.

Purchase The Circle direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, Target, or Walmart.

About Heather Fink
Heather Fink is a writer, bibliophile and award-winning librarian who loves to introduce the next generation of readers to the wonderful world of books. She currently resides in Texas.

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