The Circle is about a woman, Mae, who goes to work for a powerful tech company, The Circle. She gets the job from her blueblood, WASP friend who is already high up the ladder. The Circle campus is a dream. The company has a million activities for the employees, a gym, a pool, a theater, croquet, plays, concerts, dorms, shuttles, an aquarium, and much more. Mae starts off in customer service and then gets a quasi-promotion.
After getting caught on cameras (the ones her company installs) stealing a kayak at a rental place, she is asked to go "transparent". What does that mean? In this book, Mae as well as many others in the world are wearing cameras around their necks all day long. The only time the cameras turn off are for bathroom breaks and bed time. She is a huge success and has many followers who watch her all day long work at the Circle. As she becomes more famous and more liked by the Three Wise Men (the three men who run the company), her best friend Annie starts to see the company in a different light. Annie's program is like an Ancestry.com on steroids. She learns her Mayflower family has a very dark past.
On the otherhand, Mae loves the attention and fame. She becomes more and more indoctrinated despite being cut off from her family. Mae has two love interests in the book, one is another co-worker, Francis, who invents an tracker that is lodged into children's bones so that their parents don't have to worry about them getting kidnapped. Another love interest, Kalden, is somewhat of a rebel and doesn't quite buy into the Circle philosophy of disclosing one's every move as well as liking, rating, writing, zinging, and sharing everyone else's life through the Internet. I will not spoil the ending.
My Review: Dave Eggers beats you over the head with a lead pipe over and over again about the dangers and growing power of the Internet. I can't help but think of Google when reading this book-the elaborate work campus, Google Circles, Google sharing, Google Hangouts, Google doc and surveys, etc.
In the book, Mae is told right away that using the social media the Circle provides is expected. She is supposed to join online clubs, respond to other's postings, and use smileys or frowns for others' comments. Her job never seems to end. The company is very good to her. They put her father with MS on the company's health insurance and also pay her well. She becomes more sucked into the world of sharing everything that you do. The author mentions how the government tries to stop the company's growing power, but can't. This is the one point that I disagree with the author. Our government is not trying to stop anyone. They are all bought and sold. Our corporations do whatever they want. The Circle is spying on the world much like the NSA. They have SeeChange cameras placed in every country for everyone to view. Anyone who disagrees is immediately accused of doing something illegal and immoral because they don't want to be watched. They are accused of being selfish for not sharing their experiences. The ones who object to any of the Circle's power, is backwards in his/her thinking.
It's a very scary world in which privacy is obsolete. The company defends its philosophy of transparency by claiming that crime, violence, and abuse would end if offenders thought they were being watched. It's an interesting argument to make in the name of complete totalitarianism. Overall, I really liked this book. It was very entertaining, at times funny, and especially profound. Eggers's book reads like a modern day 1984 with Big Brother watching everything we do. Five star no-brainer. I heard the movie is not as good, but still want to see it.