Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers
2017 Book Challenge Entry: A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read
Thoughts: The truth. I hate social media. I know it’s a reality of our lives and we should all just get used to it, but I hate it. I don’t mind Instagram, mainly because I’m a bit of a shutterbug, but the rest? Not a fan. When my daughter was about 2 weeks old, I decided to deactivate my Facebook account. I still have it. Technically. I just don’t do anything with it. People apparently invite me to things and I don’t see them. They try to tag me in pictures and they can’t. I just figure if someone wants me to be somewhere, they can, you know? Text me. Or call me. The picture thing? Send me the picture of us at that thing that one time. If it’s digital, you can email it to me. I just notice that it is a very negative place. People tend to be fake on the social media, only putting out the self they want others to see, not the self that is real, and it was making me feel all icky that I was spending time on fake people and not on real people.
Plus, and not everyone will tell you this, after you have a kid, you find out who your real friends are. I just don’t have room for Facebook type things in my life.
Anyway, enter Dave Eggers The Circle. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t make me think about things a bit. I used this as my book from a genre I don’t normally read. This is why. I don’t typically read best seller, contemporary, pseudo-sci-fi. Most of the time, I find bestsellers to fall a little flat. Maybe it’s the whole, there is hype around them and then my expectations are wacky and they don’t live up to my hopes and dreams. This one was actually better than I thought it would be.
I originally picked it up because I wanted to see the movie. The movie stars Emma Watson and I just…think she’s awesome. She is not only what I consider a fantastic actress, she is also a fierce feminist and all around human rights activist. Bad. Ass. So I was like, “Well. I’ll basically see anything she is in. But. I obviously have to read the book first.” That’s the rule in my house. Read the book first. Hence, grabbing this one and immediately like, 8 months later, cracking it open.
The story centers on Mae Holland, a recent college grad who is way to smart and driven for the shit job she is working in her hometown. She ends up getting an interview at a Google like organization called The Circle due to a connection with an old college friend, Annie (played by Karen Gillen in the movie! Amy Pond! Hooray! #doctorwho #whovian).
Mae quickly rises through the ranks and proves that she is just the type of person The Circle wants. Very smart. Tech savvy, willing to work hard and make personal sacrifices all for the sake of the company. The Circle is one of those companies that seems to do everything, but initially what it seems is that they are selling themselves. Like, how the Kardashians are famous for being famous? The Circle is amazing because it’s The Circle. They have their hands in everything, so it’s like if Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon all had a weird tech orgy love child. Every interaction sells the company and therefore, customers continue to come back whether they are trying to buy online ad space or hoping to get their smoothie mix shipped faster. But really, at the end of the day, it comes down to sharing about yourself.
Mae is immediately signed up with an account that seems very Facebook like and is expected as part of her job to be active online. She is reprimanded for not attending enough of the optional work parties. She doesn’t post enough pictures. She is invited to something and says she might show up then doesn’t and suddenly, it’s a massive issue with HR because the dude who set up the event is some special snowflake and his feels got hurt. Anyway, if it were me, I’d probably just quit. I’d be like, “Obviously, this is not the kind of place that jives with my sensibilities. I’m out. Thanks for all the fish.” But not Mae. She doubles down on her online activities. Soon she is one of the hot to trot employees and is a shining example of what can happen if you just live your life according to what the man wants. Like magic, her ailing father is put on her insane-o Congress style health insurance, she is living on campus in a swank apartment, and she is maybe kind of having an affair situation with a mystery guy. And I mean mystery. He doesn’t exist on The Circle’s radar. This guy must be evil. Right?
Wrong. But other evil is abound and like we have learned from Once Upon a Time, all magic comes with a price.
The cost of this transparency that the leaders of the The Circle are so insistent on is, of course, personal privacy. This isn’t such a big deal when everything is optional. The problem comes when it stops being a choice to be involved and starts becoming dangerous when you decide you want to opt out. When the people who start speaking up against The Circle become the targets of smear campaigns and physical harm, Mae has to seriously look at the life she is leading and decide if this where she wants to be or if she wants to stand up for people’s rights and unplug for the greater good.
So in the long run, this book gets a solid B+ from me. I didn’t particularly relate to Mae as a main character. She has wildly different priorities from me. While I was intrigued by her mystery guy, she also has another relationship going that I thought lent nothing to the story. It seemed like an excuse for sex scenes that didn’t drive the character’s development.
That being said, I’m glad I read it. I got was Eggers was doing with his message about the dangers of transparency and letting social media and our online presence dictate our lives and shape our identities. I wish Mae would have been a bit more likable and accessible, but I definitely enjoyed the ride.
For a book about something I hate from a genre I usually shy away from, it was pretty fun and sometimes a fun read is what you need in life.