The Circle by Dave Eggers

The CircleAfter battling my way through ‘The Luminaries‘ by Eleanor Catton recently, I wanted to read something which was the absolute polar opposite of historical fiction and settled on ‘The Circle’ by Dave Eggers. It tells the story of Mae Holland, a twenty-something graduate who starts a new job at The Circle – a social media conglomerate the size and power of Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and every other major tech company combined. Although Mae is impressed by what she finds there, the wider implications of how the company is developing soon become apparent.

The Internet is probably the most significant invention of recent decades and is developing faster than we know how to deal with the far-reaching consequences. As a dystopian novel set in a non-specified period of time in the future, much of Mae’s behaviour in ‘The Circle’ is already highly recognisable. She becomes obsessed with the number of followers she has, her ranking among The Circle’s ten thousand employees and is unable to understand why some people do not want to share everything online. As a result, her character doesn’t really develop at all, which for me is one of the most chilling aspects of the story.

What begins as a fairly light satire on Silicon Valley companies and the corporate workplace quickly becomes much more sinister. As well as advocating chilling slogans such as Sharing is Caring, Privacy is Theft and Secrets are Lies, The Circle’s employees unquestionably support SeeChange – a project whereby small, inexpensive, high definition cameras can be set up anywhere for the whole world to see – without contemplating the aspects of security and privacy which usually dominates discussions about the impact of new technology. ‘The Circle’ is dystopian and is also very satirical. Consequently, the focus is often less about realism and more about exaggerating something to make a point and Eggers mostly does this very well. However, there are some scenes which are about as subtle as a brick, most notably when Mae argues with her parents and her ex-boyfriend about the merits of sharing online as well as the ending where Kalden’s identity is finally revealed.

Despite being completely unambiguous in its message, ‘The Circle’ is a thought-provoking and enjoyable read. However, a fair number of reviews suggest that ‘The Circle’ is far from Eggers’ best work so I will be interested to see how his other books compare.


Filed under Books

14 responses to “The Circle by Dave Eggers

  1. I’ve really loved all Dave Eggers’s other books and I think this one is his weakest by far. (I still enjoyed it — it was just a little too didactic for my taste.) My favorite is What is the What — amazing!


  2. I like Dave Eggers both as a writer and a person so I will probably read this. However, from your excellent review The Circle sounds suspiciously like A Hologram For The King in that he takes an interesting idea and milks it for all it’s worth. What starts out as interesting soon becomes tiresome and clichéd. I hope I’m wrong but somehow I doubt it.


  3. This book sounds positively chilling… “What is the What” is still on my to read list, but I’m going to add “The Circle” to it as well, since this sounds really fascinating.


  4. This has been on my TBH for a long, long time. I haven’t cared enough to actually pick it up. Nice review, I’ll think about grabbing this one next time I’m not sure what to read.


  5. I’ve always been on the fence about David Eggers, but this sounds kind of amazing. I might have to give him a try. Thanks for posting!


  6. LR

    I work in social media so the whole time I read this book, I was absolutely terrified. It wasn’t his best, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. GREAT review.


  7. kirbyp

    Nice review. I still can’t figure out if I liked The Circle or not. It made me think, but not as much as I would have liked.


  8. I have only read What is the What so far and was knocked out by it. It sounds as though his social conscience has taken him to far with The Circle, but thank goodness someone of his talent is writing about such subject matter. I must read him more.


  9. Thank you for this! It’s on my to buy list and I’ve been humming and harring over whether to get it or just to leave it, but I think I’ve finally made up my mind!


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  11. I was really disappointed with this book – the ideas and concepts are interesting, but I thought Eggers made a real mess of it. Way too heavy-handed, and I found Mae to be completely unbelievable as a character (not to mention supremely annoying). Enjoyable and thought-provoking in parts; clunky and frustrating in others. His other books are so much better than this – What is the What and Zeitoun are really great.


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