“Secrets are lies”
Holy mother of Jesus. I can’t even with this book. I’d been hearing about this book for ages, mostly praise, but I was unsure that I could handle ANOTHER book about “social media = bad” and technology is super duper dangerous.
To be fair, the book did not immediately quell my fears. The first part was slow going and had me rolling my eyes slightly at the obvious parody of facegooglespacehoo. Then I burnt my bread. That’s not a euphemism. I’d put a couple of buns in the oven for breakfast and figured I’d just read a page or two more and then take them out. Well Eggers got me. I burnt my buns and then I was hooked.
So, if you’re one of the two people left on the planet who didn’t read this book right when it was all the hype, here’s what’s going down. Mae has just been hired to join the circle. The hippest new technology company that kind of does everything and vaguely nothing. Everything at the circle is perfection and we follow her on the first day there as she gets the grand tour of the place. Every corner is designed in its own unique way and the description brought me back to the time I spent at the Google headquarters in Zurich. Everything is so beautiful and dripping with cool that it’s easy to forget that actual work takes place there.
Anyways, Mae starts working in Customer Experience, and ever so gradually it gets slightly more bonkers. Mae excels at her job, but is then admonished by her superiors for not participating enough socially. Everything is measured in numbers that parallel the numbers we have today; likes, comments, pingbacks, klout-score-like-numbers. Mae gets caught up in it. So caught up in fact that when they introduce full transparency, which is exactly what it sounds like, she is all aboard.
And this is where the real theme comes in. Most people would read this and say it’s a book about the dangers of tweeting; of being constantly plugged into social media and technology.
But this is not a book about technology. It’s not even a book about the dangers of oversharing. It is a book about the power of language. Everything horrible, dystopian, privacy-obliterating terrible thing in this book comes about through the power of words. All of it is presented, smoothly on a stage with relaxed smiles and spiffy words, like a Steve Jobs reveal or a TED talk. It’s remarkable how everything that is said makes sense, sounds good and builds up to create strong phrases that you find yourself nodding along to, till suddenly when you’re doing the review and picking out quotes you are forced to read them out of context.
“ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN.”
Yeah, that is slightly less tranquil and utopian than it’s portrayed in the book.
The logical build-up to an epic, catchy conclusion is amazing to witness and it leaves you with so many more question. Like why does privacy matter? What does it mean for information to be free? After reading this book, I have more questions about life than when I started. It gives you room to wonder and come up with your own answers.
“Now, you and I both know that if you can control the flow of information, you can control everything.”
But. The book is not perfect. It is definitely too long. Many of the same points are made over and over again in an effort to show information spiraling and reinforcing itself, but it does become slightly overdone. Similarly many of the descriptions run slightly too long. It increases the tension of the book that we are always kept guessing whether or not something matters, but I kept feeling like some of it could have been shortened. Then there’s the twist, that I’d sort of seen coming, but then disregarded because <spoiler>she’d seen both pictures and video of him and he had access to everything. Even with a very unremarkable face and a different hair color I was still like guuuurl, you had sex with him! People are not that hard to recognize!</spoiler>
In the end 4/5 stars for the entertainment value and the questions it provokes. Also the ending could not have been anything else.