Saturday, August 12, 2017

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Book Review: The Circle

“You sit at a desk twelve hours a day and you have nothing to show for it except some numbers that won't exist or be remembered in a week. You're leaving no evidence you lived. There's no proof.”  
― Dave Eggers, The Circle

Book Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers
Publication Date: 2013
Genres: Adult Fiction, Sci-Fi
Goodreads Rating: 3.46 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

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.

1. I'm shook. This story has me shook. It feels strange and wrong to even be typing this right now, to be sharing this with the world, to be garnering likes and comments from this post. The world that Eggers created in this book is so close to home -- too close to home.

2. This main character. I have a loyalty to the main characters of books, especially if it's not omniscient writing. We, as readers, have a tendency to trust the main characters of books and rely on them to tell us the truth of the story. So when Mae starts her descent into the world of The Circle and, realistically, falls into this cult of a company, I looked for her redemption. When will she see the light? When will she wake up from this craziness? When will she see what Mercer and her parents and, later in the book, Annie and Kalden are all telling her? When will she save the day?

3. Mae, as a character. Honestly, Mae is a bit of a fluff character. She stands as a vessel for others to fill, without any real original thought or motive. The moment she starts experiencing real feelings, she runs back to her desk and immerses herself in the virtual world that is social media.

4. Which is why this hits hard. I see this in myself and the people around me. Feelings get too real? Run to Facebook for a bit. Life is hard? Scroll through Instagram and watch cat videos. And that is why this book shook me. The writing was good, but not great. The character development was meh. But the world, and the commentary that Eggers makes about our reliance on technology... that's what shook me. (And made me give this book 4 stars.)

This book serves as a cautionary tale for when it becomes to easy to associate likes with real life.

“You know how you finish a bag of chips and you hate yourself? You know you’ve done nothing good for yourself. That’s the same feeling, and you know it is, after some digital binge. You feel wasted and hollow and diminished.” 

“Most people would trade everything they know, everyone they know- they'd trade it all to know they've been seen, and acknowledged, that they might even be remembered. We all know the world is too big for us to be significant. So all we have is the hope of being seen, or heard, even for a moment.” 

“I mean, all this stuff you're involved in, it's all gossip. It's people talking about each other behind their backs. That's the vast majority of this social media, all these reviews, all these comments. Your tools have elevated gossip, hearsay and conjecture to the level of valid, mainstream communication. And besides that, it's fucking dorky.”

“This was a new skill she'd acquired, the ability to look, to the outside world, utterly serene and even cheerful, while, in her skull, all was chaos.” 

“It occurred to her, in a moment of sudden clarity, that what had always caused her anxiety, or stress, or worry, was not any one force, nothing independent and external- it wasn't danger to herself or the constant calamity of other people and their problems. It was internal: it was subjective: it was not knowing.”