The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle Book Cover by Dave EggersInformation

Goodreads: The Circle
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 2013

Official Summary

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world–even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public.

What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge

Star Divider

Review

I was initially intrigued by this book because it was mentioned in The Bestseller Code: The Anatomy of a Blockbuster Novel as, well, a prime example of a bestselling novel.  Apparently, it gets a lot of ingredients right to get people buying it and reading it, everything from focusing on the popular topic of “technology” to having a captivating pace.  Notably, its success  earned it a movie deal in 2017.  Thus, it was with some surprise I found that I didn’t like this novel at all.

Although the novel was published only six years ago and even though the setting seems as if it’s meant to be near-ish future from 2013, parts of the premise and execution feel dated.  Our society is still facing concerns related to the two main ones raised — invasion of privacy and the threat of a single company (Amazon?) becoming an all-powerful monopoly — yet reading a novel fear-mongering about these these seems almost cliche in 2019.  The message also seemed heavy-handed; this is a novel about an idea, a warning that Big Tech and loss of privacy are bad.  Characterization, plot, setting, etc. are all secondary to the message.  So when the message seems like old news?  The book becomes boring.

The heavy-handedness also makes many of the characters irritating (at least to me).  Sure, Eggers strives to give some of them layers, particularly protagonist Mae, but the reality is that most of them are just representing something, almost like a modern-day allegory.  Mae, although she likes kayaking and has a few other interests to make her “real,” is basically the representation of the “average” person; she likes technology but initially doesn’t start out photographing, “zinging” about, or otherwise “sharing” literally every single thing she does.  Then there are the people working at the Circle who want *everything* recorded, the character who hates technology and wants to go off-grid, etc.  And they all make speeches explaining their points of view.  Some write letters.  It’s almost like reading a George Orwell novel with all the monologues about idealogy.  Except more annoying because people keep repeating the idealogy.

Plot-wise, there may be something to the theory that the pacing keeps readers turning pages because I didn’t like the book, but I did finish it–albeit by skimming here and there.  Awkward sex scenes interrupted the pacing rather than helping it (and the asides about characters “ample chests” made me think of all those Twitter and Reddit threads about “men writing women”).  The end is also predictable because, well, the book has one point and one point only to make about the badness of technology developing in this specific way.

So, do I recommend this?  No.  It was a bestseller, but the ratings on Goodreads actually aren’t that generous, and the movie adaptation didn’t fare much better.  The public might interested in technological dystopians and the loss of privacy, and that’s enough to get people to buy the book or pick it up, but the execution just isn’t here.  This book isn’t that good.

2 star reviewBriana

 

13 thoughts on “The Circle by Dave Eggers

  1. Jules_Writes says:

    Interesting review and I understand pretty much all of what you mean, but I still rather enjoyed the book when I read it a while ago. I also liked the film, not quite as much thou. Great review!

    Like

  2. elissa says:

    I felt the same way about it. I read it in 2017, before the movie (still haven’t seen it, though it’s on Hulu or Prime now, and I do love Tom Hanks…) and the only reason why I finished it is because there were no chapter breaks so I felt like I needed to continue reading compulsively until I hit one… but never did until I was done. Weird.

    Like

  3. H.P. says:

    I saw the movie and didn’t enjoy it. Mainly because, as you say, it revolves around a central idea that already feels stale.

    I read 1984 for the first time a couple years ago. It works because (1) Orwell is a great writer and (2) the ideas remain extraordinarily relevant. But the ideas weigh down the story. The author filibuster in 1984 is almost as bad as the one in Atlas Shrugged.

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  4. Grab the Lapels says:

    Not once have I been able to get through a Dave Eggers novel, despite trying to read one I owned at least half a dozen times. The writing was vague, possibly a bit experimental, and I just couldn’t get on the ride.

    Like

  5. Margaret @ Weird Zeal says:

    Oof this sounds rough! I think my mom read this and really disliked it, so I definitely won’t be picking it up. Definitely sounds like a knockoff Orwell book that doesn’t do it nearly as well and becomes dated within a few years.

    Like

  6. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Ah yeah I’ve heard this book is not upto much. I don’t generally see any positive reviews for it- despite the fact it has a lot of hype. that part about men writing women made me laugh though! (in the it’s-so-sad-it’s-funny kind of way 😉 ) Great review!

    Like

  7. DoingDewey says:

    I felt the same way about this one! The idea didn’t feel as stale to me, but it did feel extremely heavy-handed. I hated pretty much all the characters and didn’t totally buy their motivations and I also found the sex scenes really awkward. I’m also surprised that this was ever popular. It has a good hook and a big name author, but I’d have expected word of its poor execution to spread.

    Liked by 1 person

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