I definitely picked up The Circle by David Eggers because I found out that Emma Watson was going to be starring in the movie, and I wanted to read it beforehand. This book was…wow. Very good, and super creepy.
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 America–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.
The only real negative things that I can say about it, is that it’s too long – by about 100 pages. I started getting a bit bored part way through because the pace seemed really slow, and things started to get repetitive. However, the story as a whole was engrossing.
The Circle is essentially Google on steroids. It’s a tech company with a monopoly, the stereotypical campus that no one wants to leave, great pay and benefits – it’s a dream job, at a dream company that is making the world better for people. And as Mae starts to work there, you, the reader, also think that she’s hit the jackpot of a career.
Things start to get slightly creepy. Not overly at first, I mean you, the reader, have also drunk the Kool-Aid they’re providing, but as the book progresses you realize that what seemed like a great technological innovation 100 pages ago, is now becoming much more “Big Brother-y”, until well…you’ll have to read to find out.
I did find though that after putting down the book each time (it was a lunch time reading book) I didn’t want to be on my phone. I didn’t want to post my photos, comments etc. to the world at large. I wanted to remain silent, anonymous.
Has this book made me rethink my privacy and what I’m allowing companies to learn about me when I log into their apps? Definitely. And I also realized how little we (the consumer) know about what we’re agreeing to when we sign the “Terms & Conditions”. We don’t know what privacy we’re giving away and we certainly don’t know how to get it back.
I think this book (and the movie that is coming) will definitely start a conversation about privacy especially, but also about how we interact as humans, and what a healthy relationship and self-image should be.
This was definitely a must-read. It’s a very good book, and will certainly get you thinking about the consequences of giving up your privacy so freely. (And if you say that you’re not, please remember that you have zero idea what you’ve given up because there’s no way you’ve read the Terms & Conditions of anything app related).