Secrets are lies. Sharing is caring. Privacy is theft.
The Circle, by Dave Eggers
What is a good book? Everyone has different things they look for. Since I’ve started this blog and actually recorded my thoughts about the different books I’ve been reading, I’ve started to evaluate my own tastes a bit. My favourite books are those that challenge the way I think about my world and the things I take for granted, that connect with my own life in a startling way, with dynamic, believable characters and a solid, eloquent narration. Once in a while I will like a book that is missing one or a few of these elements.
Do I think The Circle is a good book? Now, a few days after having completed the book, I’m still not sure. The ideas in it are certainly interesting. I’ve always harboured a love for dystopian fiction, and The Circle presents a dystopia not unfamiliar to us. The most effective dystopias, I find, are the ones that are not too distant from reality.
Unlike the dystopias presented in popular young adult fiction like The Hunger Games and Divergent, the world in The Circle is one that is immediately familiar to us. The novel’s protagonist, Mae Holland, is a young woman who is given the chance of a lifetime to work at The Circle, the most prestigious tech company in the world. The Circle’s progressive work culture and vast amount of resources are obviously reminiscent of firms like Google and Facebook. As a young woman who works in tech, this novel challenged me to think about the industry, and my role in it as part of the industry and a consumer. As with many works dealing with the ramifications of technology, The Circle brings up issues regarding privacy, especially the sacrifice of privacy for the sake of convenience.
So The Circle definitely presents ideas that anyone with a smartphone or a Google account can relate to. However, I found Mae to be an uninteresting heroine. She was dull and mostly did what she was told to do. At first, this bothered me, but I couldn’t help but feel that she is representative of the generation as a whole. She is impressionable and emotionally dependent on social media (almost breaking down when other Circlers don’t “like” her). The point of Mae is not to be an interesting character, but to reflect the growing power of The Circle.
Still, though, I thought the novel was lacking in interesting characters. The dialogue was laughably contrived, the descriptions often stilted, and characters were flat. Annie, supposedly fun and lovable, came off as irritating, and Kalden was the stereotypically enigmatic love interest, although I did enjoy the twist at the end. There was little depth to the characters, and even the novel itself spelled out its messages loud and clear. Although the ideas themselves were interesting, the reader is not left to their own interpretation. I would have preferred a subtler approach.
YES OR NO?: YES. If you are interested in dystopian fiction, you will probably enjoy The Circle, which presents familiar ideas in the world of the near-future. However, the characters and style leave something to be desired. I’m personally looking forward to the movie to see how Emma Watson (!) breathes life into Mae.