Dave Eggers presents a powerful and thought-provoking notion in his 2013 dystopian novel, The Circle. Exploring the ever growing world of social media and the power of technology, this novel speculates what the future could possibly behold for a world that is becoming increasingly transparent.
We follow the story of Mae Holland, a twenty something graduate who lands a job at The Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company. Based in California with a massive campus that you never have to leave as it has everything you need, The Circle links users’ personal emails and social media with their universal operating system creating TruYou – one online identity. Mae starts at a customer service level but quickly makes her way up through the ranks, eventually becoming a poster girl for The Circle.
The book explores a variety of possibilities with one of the main ideas being to create a world that is completely transparent. By setting up minute cameras in every corner of the world, with everyone constantly being watched, the possibilities could be endless. No more missing people, no more crime, no more dodgy dealings in government. However, Eggers also explores the repercussions of this. An ex boyfriend of Mae’s represents the sceptical people who don’t want change, who can see that this could potentially be an extremely dangerous experiment. By channelling everything through The Circle, through one organisation, doesn’t that create a dictatorship?
I found the ideas presented in this novel very thought provoking and at times, pretty scary! I know that this is currently completely fictional but just take a minute and look at where we are now. I practically live my life through social media. If I’ve made an amazing breakfast, it’s going on Instagram. If I’m going out to the cinema or for a few drinks in town, I’m checking in on Facebook. Have seen something amazing and want to capture it before it’s gone? Not a problem, I’ve got Snapchat. I even write about my life on this blog. If someone really wanted to find out information about me, it wouldn’t be too hard. What protects us at the moment is that our social media platforms have privacy settings so we still have a certain amount of control. The Circle argues against this and aims to knock down those barriers claiming that privacy is theft. If you’re not sharing your amazing experiences with others, you are robbing others the chance of experiencing the same things you do.
Eggers writes in an easy to read tone and I liked how the book wasn’t split into chapters. There was no natural stopping point so I found myself wanting to read on and on. I’ve read a few reviews that have slated the characters but I actually thought that the mix of characters was perfect. Admittedly, Mae isn’t loveable but I don’t think she is meant to be. You are meant to feel frustrated with her for how she so willingly surrenders her whole self to The Circle. It gets us thinking, is The Circle a good or bad organisation? Mae’s ex boyfriend Mercer represents the sceptical individuals, her parents represent the vulnerable and the founders represent the powerful.
The only criticism I have is of Mae’s random love affairs. It seemed like she kept being interested in a different man every five minutes, sleeping with them and then moving on to the next. I failed to see how this added anything to the wider story and found myself getting frustrated with being side tracked from The Circle.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Circle and would recommend to anyone who has an interest in finding out just how powerful social media and technology can be. Good news for those of you who have already read it and loved it – The Circle has been made into a movie starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson! It’s coming out next month in America and I hope they release it in the UK soon after. Have a watch of the trailer below…