This book continues my trend of giving 5 stars to books I hated. Why, you might ask, would you give 5 stars to a book you swore heavily at and threw across the room upon completion? Because I hated it for all the right reasons:
Eggers is a manipulative writer. He wants me to be uncomfortable, to think long and hard about the echoing ramifications of this plot. It made me feel things; they weren’t pleasant things, but the book went above and beyond its job description, showcasing Eggers talented craft.
So what caused my 5-star disgust?
The Circle follows Mae, who starts out in a fairly typical millennial experience: she’s got an expensive liberal arts degree from a big-name college, but she can’t find work, and she ends up back in her Podunk home-town living with her parents and working in a cinder block office at the local electric company for little pay and even smaller benefits. Life sucks the big one for Mae until her best friend helps her get a job at The Circle.
The Circle is if Google, Mac, and Microsoft merged and then decided to take over Facebook and Amazon. They’re a major conglomerate of all the greatest things about the technological age.
Mae is beyond ecstatic to be a part of this glorious, clean, shiny, and bright futuristic company. And she works hard to show her appreciation to her friend and her bosses. Really hard; like, drops the entire rest of her life and spends almost every minute somewhere on the Circle campus. But as the story moves, so does the technology and the Circle’s influence over more than just managing social media and data collection. The company is hell-bent on what they refer to as total transparency; a world in which everything is clear, and everything is known. They want a world where everyone’s opinion is valid, heard, and considered of the most paramount importance. In theory, this seems like an awesome idea, but when they actually start implementing their plans, the consequences are dire.
One of my biggest rage storms was that Mae’s bosses consistently stick their noses in her personal business and call her on the mats for deigning to go home and spend time with her family instead of participating in weekend Circle activities. They expect her to attend all social functions after hours and to worry about being as social-media active as possible at all times. And she acquiesces because she doesn’t want to get fired. Now, I get that most corporations are like that; I also get that there are humans out there who enjoy working, and like to work all the time. My hat goes off to you. But I was mortally offended by this concept (which, Eggers wants me to be; he’s completely manipulating the language and the story to make me feel this way). But I was screaming at the page about companies not being able to dictate one’s personal time off-hours. The company doesn’t own you. But, of course, the Circle owns everything.
My second rage storm was the absolute self-centered behavior covered in a cloak of good-will and idealism from just about every person we encounter at the Circle. And Eggers does an awesome job of juxtaposing their behavior against Mae’s parents and ex-boyfriend, who are what I would like to consider, ‘normal people.’ Eggers uses them to show just how cult-like life at the Circle is as Mae travels back and forth between the real world, and the all engulfing life at the Circle. At the end of the day, the Circlers, and later Mae, are simply obsessed with themselves, enamored by their own intelligence, and see only their own progress as valuable, regardless of the cost to personal space and privacy. They are the biggest group of special snowflakes I’ve ever encountered, and I wanted to smack every single one of them.
I was so disturbed by the end of this book that I literally was afraid to pick up my phone afterwards or log into any digital devices whatsoever. After throwing the book in anger, I debated selling all my digital possessions, deleting every digital footprint I’ve ever created, and finding a cabin deep in the woods somewhere where there’s no chance for a wifi signal. I mean, I got over it as soon as the fiance called from work, but I walked around my house a little terrified for a few hours after finishing this.
But as with all things that are so mildly disturbing that you have to share them, I suggest you all go read this book right now!