Do you find spend too much time on Facebook? Do you feel like modern technology and the internet are becoming too ingrained into society? Maybe you should read this book…
The main character in The Circle (by Dave Eggers) is Mae Holland, a shy, yet ambitious and eager to please young woman who I found to be realistically constructed and quite sympathetic. The novel’s introduction describes a situation most of us can identify with; starting something new at a place that seems both intimidating and intriguing at the same time. During the opening pages of The Circle I was reminded of how I felt starting high school on my first day and the excitement and anxiety that coincided simultaneously.
The primary setting for the book is at The Circle campus, a technology company headquarters that is composed from a multitude of restaurants, fitness facilities, research laboratories and recreational options, as well as high-tech modern office buildings and lecture halls. However, before long Mae begins to sense sinister undertones at The Circle, a culture that doesn’t demand, yet heavily suggests involvement in the various events and parties around the facility. Mae continues remaining eager to impress her new coworkers and friends at the technology conglomerate and falls victim to an urge for acceptance, beginning to spend less of her time outside of work doing the things she enjoys, and more of her free time engaging in various “team building” activities at The Circle, and heightening her social media profile.
The setting is interesting and engaging but also is not perfectly executed. The Circle campus is intended as a super mash-up of today’s Google/Facebook/Netflix style headquarters and company culture. As an example, The Circle provides free healthcare, fitness classes and accommodation, as well state of the art technology such as the latest smartphones and tablets to all of its employees. However the reader begins to sense that these job perks are used to create a sensation of indebtedness among employees so they will go above and beyond for the company. As well as this are certain overtly Orwellian tones such as the company mantra “All this happens must be known”. The setting is interesting but lacks the nuance and complexity of some other books in this genre and is overall a simplification of what has perhaps been conveyed more effectively in other work. If you are interested in the workplace culture of companies like Google or Facebook though, you will probably find this to be a strong point of the novel.
The Circle was overall an entertaining and relatively easy to read book, which is not shy about making its message and themes loud and clear to the reader. Personally I do prefer novels which ask a little more on the reader’s behalf but I would say this is worth at least picking up if you are interested in matters such as online privacy, social media, modern communication and technology company culture.