Book Review – The Circle by Dave Eggers

The Circle isn’t my usual book choice, but a friend described it to me, and I thought I’d give it a try. Especially since they’re making a movie about it; see the trailer here!

I downloaded the audiobook right away.

WARNING: PUNY SPOILERS AHEAD

Right away I was drawn to the foul-mouthed, comedic Annie. She’s an important person working for a Google-esque tech company, where she helps her friend and the main character, Mae, to secure a job. She has a lot of personality, and it was frankly enjoyable just to see what she’d say next.

While learning the ropes at The Circle, and gaining an ever-increasing number of monitors to handle in her customer experience work, Mae meets a love interest named Francis. The fact Francis tends to say wildly inappropriate things (like how he likes a woman prone and at his command –though he is apparently harmless), is described as looking like a gigantic infant (okay, maybe not the author’s phrasing verbatim) and continually asks for his sexual performances to be given a numerical rating despite a severe premature ejaculation issue, makes him a less than favorite character. He creeps me right the fuck out.

Then we have the “calligraphic” Calden, who seems to glide between being the most charmismatic and perfect picture of masculinity to a brain damaged robot with the greatest of ease. He is another love interest to Mae. It is in a sex scene with Calden that I became very much aware that the book is written by a man. (Which I have no problem with other than that I’m not sure he fully comprehends what a typical woman finds pleasurable, but perhaps there are exceptions.)

And, last but not least among the love interests is poor Mercer, Mae’s portly small town ex. Throughout the book she has it out for him to an almost irrational degree, even if he is mildly annoying. Mercer more or less wants to be left off the Internet, which even prior to being brainwashed Mae cannot and refuses to try to understand. He makes a request for her to stop reading comments online about his work, for example, and she completely ignores these demands. So, she’s got zero respect for boundaries.

Mae’s parents are struggling with her father’s recent diagnoses with MS and with insurance issues. While she is working two hours away, Mercer is helping them with a few basic things, and even makes them a decorative chandelier. I am not sure if Mae is grateful at any point; if so, I’ve forgotten.

Fortunately, the Circle is willing to include Mae’s parents on her health plan. This solves their problems, up until the company has cameras set up in their home and on their daughter. Mercer is so freaked out by the invasion of privacy, he moves into the woods far away.

There are details I am skimming over, here, but this is a long book.

WARNING: BIG ASS SPOILERS AHEAD

Mae’s uncanny ability to be persuaded that basic privacy is something that should be illegal helps her climb the ranks and become a spokesperson of sorts for the Circle. People anywhere in the world are able to watch her via a camera around her neck, except for three minutes at a time while she is in the restroom, and when she is sleeping.

During a major presentation for a technological advancement to help any person in the world find any other person (what could go wrong?), Mae decides to use an unsuspecting person as a guinea pig. Live, in front of millions of viewers. So, obviously, she picks a person who totally didn’t literally go off the grid in order to escape shit exactly like this. She picks Mercer, thinking finding him and broadcasting him to the entire world will somehow prove that all this is a good thing, and not scary at all.

When Mercer’s wooded cabin is discovered by camera wielding yuppies he flees in his pickup truck while they pursue. In an act of complete stableness and sanity, Mae, who is doing a Ted Talks more or less, then calls upon drones to chase his truck. In a last ditch effort to be free of her batshit insanity, Mercer pulls a Thelma and Louise off a bridge and into a gorge. This is caught on camera for millions to see.

Mae is easily convinced that she was only trying to be a good friend, and that he was beyond saving. She quickly sheds any guilt or remorse and continues to be of the mind that she is not a psychotic stalker.

Calden, who actually turns out to be the company’s founder in an epic twist later in the book, is trying to stop the Circle from “completing” this entire time. And by trying to stop it, I mean he’s just trying to get Mae to tell everyone to stop.

At the climactic scene in which he reveals all, he tells her he was basically just playing around with all this genius technology to see what would happen –to see if people would actually use it. Somehow, he’s only just now realizing the company he created “for fun” is probably going to bring about some kind of Armageddon. Somehow.

So, while he goes on about how they’ll go and live on a sailboat or some shit, she decides nah. She wants to keep her necklace-camera and keep working here. So she rats him out.

Roll credits.

I enjoyed the read overall, but I do feel the whole book could have been significantly shorter. I wasn’t feeling most of the characters, and there were many times when the author went on and on and on with over-excited sentences. I don’t hate Mae, but she does plenty to make me want to smack her upside the head.

Also, if you’ve read the book, you likely know how frustrated I am with the repetition of the name: Mae. (What was with that, anyway?)

Anyway, I recommend reading it if you’re a fan of social media, Google, or up and coming tech. I recommend it if you have plenty of time to read a (kind of needlessly) long book. And, I definitely recommend it if you plan on watching the movie.

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