This is an unedited book review that was originally published in August 2018. As such, it was housed on an archival page. Therefore, it is unedited, and just put here.
The starting point of “The Circle” by Dave Eggers caught me off guard. The chapter’s descriptions about tech really showcased a focus on what many of us have felt in the field. When I got a job in tech, I was shown a glorious campus, then was introduced to my cubicle. “The Circle” highlights that point where you’re crestfallen. You finally get to Google, you’ve made it, and yet your job puts you at a cubicle, with no windows, and a chair that is broken. This opening hooked me into what very well may be one of my favorite books of the modern era. There’s a lot to explore here, and if you’re curious as to whether or not Dave Eggers is at the top of his game, let me tell you, he is absolutely focused with this one.
One of the major turning points for me during “The Circle” was the constant push for interactivity and sharing. Mae, the main character, gets nearly scolded because she didn’t document everything about her weekend. “You have to participate, you have to document, don’t you realize you aren’t connecting with thousands of people around?” (paraphrased) Working at a tech giant goes from delight, to getting pressured into making sure that everything gets documented, shared, and focused on the social media engraved work force. Mae watches television with her dad, a WNBA game, and at one point a Human Resource individual is offended that she didn’t post on social media and follow the musings of a WNBA forum that is run by one of them. Then she’s told that there are thousands of coworkers that love WNBA. She’s prodded, pushed, and guilt tripped into becoming more and more social. The cult of engagement is huge, and it is mirrored in a way that real life truly is like.
There’s a certain shame that comes with not posting on social media. If you have friends that are constantly on social media, you may be the odd man out. Mae’s journey through the social media world is fascinating. Guilt tripped into engagement, that’s where we live in the world. It’s a biting satire, a slap on the wrist, and then a push over a barrel that Dave Eggers provides. It sent shockwaves into my conscious thought. That’s where I fell in love with “The Circle” by Dave Eggers.
Mae’s journey through this story is one that can hit anyone. You could find yourself working at a giant tech company, nudged to participate more and more, eventually living at the campus in their dorms. I know this because I lived it. I was recruited by Microsoft in 2009 to work for them, and everything described by Eggers in this book really hits home to my tech background. The reason why I’m a video store clerk and writer now is because of the things that were found in this book, and some of the “cultist” attitudes that some of the individuals that worked for Microsoft had. I didn’t go far there, as I’m too much of a rebel.
The story unfolds nicely, Eggers has a great way of presenting ideas, skewering popular culture, and bringing home the point that is a lot like “Brave New World”. In fact, if you were to combine “Brave New World” and “1984” you would get this book, which introduces ideas from both ends of that spectrum, blaming humanity, and blaming a government overlord all at the same time. Either way you are going to get hit hard with real emotion.
“The Circle” by Dave Eggers puts on a showcase. It’s a 500 some odd page novel that goes from innocence to death to utopia and back again. It has believable characters, outstanding storytelling, and so much to explore. I give this book a 4 out of 5. The reason why I can’t give it a 5 is because the ending. The ending falls flat with me. The whole powder keg seems ready to blow up and yet it doesn’t. But then again, I honestly think that it’s good to end with this quote by T.S. Eliot to express the ending of “The Circle”: This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but with a whimper”. Eggers ends his tenth novel with a whimper, but one that stays with you for so long after. I loved it.
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