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The Circle by Dave Eggers
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The Circle (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Dave Eggers

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,7442542,138 (3.44)10 / 170
Member:YolaNL
Title:The Circle
Authors:Dave Eggers
Info:Vintage Open Market (2014), Hardcover, 479 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:None

Work details

The Circle by Dave Eggers (2013)

  1. 40
    1984 by George Orwell (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: The Circle could easily have ended with the line, "Mae loved Big Brother."
  2. 41
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Die totale Überwachung: einmal unfreiwillig, das andere Mal völlig freiwillig
  3. 20
    The Dinner by Herman Koch (akblanchard)
    akblanchard: Both of these are novels of ideas.
  4. 21
    Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (conceptDawg)
    conceptDawg: Similar content and themes
  5. 10
    The Language of the Third Reich: LTI -- Lingua Tertii Imperii: A Philologist's Notebook by Victor Klemperer (Jozefus)
    Jozefus: Voor de opmerkelijke overeenkomst tussen de kretologie van de IT-wereld en de retoriek van het Derde Rijk
  6. 10
    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer (BeckyJG)
  7. 00
    Blind Faith by Ben Elton (isabelx)
    isabelx: both are set in societies where privacy is becoming a thing of the past
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English (241)  Dutch (10)  German (4)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  Croatian (1)  All (260)
Showing 1-5 of 241 (next | show all)
OK, that's it. The next time someone I trust tells me they didn't like a book I'm going to listen to them and just skip it. I spent probably the last 200 pages of this one hate reading and I have no one to blame but myself because I was warned.

The premise is relatively simple: Mae goes to work for a large technology company, everything seems utopian initially, and then slowly the reader realizes that things are actually really terrible. My reading experience was pretty much the same: everything started off well and compelling and then it went downhill. The reading constantly feels breakneck and exhausting as there are no chapters just occasional hard enters between sections. The novel is an exploration of what happens when we willingly give up our privacy for the easier life provided by technology that collects more information than it needs. Which is fine. Working in the field I do, I'm a huge privacy advocate. But 200ish pages in the point has been made and there's no end in sight. Our central character Mae never really comes across as a person and is just a stick figure to hang millennial stereotypes on. Also, if you like having a metaphor built up and then being beaten over the head with it for 40 pages this is the book for you *glares loathingly at the stupid shark metaphor*. Not recommended. ( )
  MickyFine | May 24, 2017 |
Good story and does foreshadow some of the dangers of an every more connected society. One problem I had with the story, though, is it seems to miss the problem that the mob mentality has on the shaming of individuals on-line. Of course, the story is narrated by Mae, one of the key employees of The Circle, and she is sold on the idea of a totally transparent, open and interconnected world where everyone is under constant surveillance. She is a pretty convincing narrator, and left me almost agreeing with her. This book does make a good case for the dangers we face as the future unfolds. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
"A circle is the strongest shape in the universe. Nothing can beat it, nothing can improve upon it, nothing can be more perfect. And that's what we want to be: perfect. So any information that eludes us, anything that's not accessible, prevents us from being perfect." (P. 287, Eamon Bailey)

Mae just started working at the Circle, an internet company specializing in information sharing. Their ultimate goal is to “complete the circle”, making everything and everyone transparent. Mae’s best friend, Annie, helped Mae get the job at the Circle. Annie, after working at the Circle for a short time, has become one of the Circle’s most important employees and many seem to worship her at the Circle and seem envious of Mae's close relationship with Annie. Mae is working in Customer Experience (CE), answering client questions and concerns and resolving any issues there may be. Every inquiry she completes, she gets rated by the client and her CE score will tell here if she's doing a good job or not. So her job performance is instantly available to help her improve her work performance (and so her boss can "ream" in a very "nice" way to let her know anything below 100 is truly unacceptable). However, that's only one aspect of her job. The bigger and more important part of her job is socializing with the people at the Circle ("Circler") and the people outside of the Circle. The Circle strongly advocates “community” and feel the best way to be involved is to participate in social gatherings at the Circle and documenting everything on Zing.

"All that happens must be known."
"We will become all-seeing, all-knowing."


She gets reprimanded a few times by a few different superiors about her lack of socialization during her first few weeks on the job. Fearing for her job and that it may reflect poorly on Annie, since she vouched for Mae, Mae starts to actively participate on Zing. Zing is a social network that people at the Circle and outside of the Circle post and rate things other Zingers posts (Think Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram). The Circle tracks each employee’s “community” participation and the participants are ranked based on their level of participation. The top 2k ranked Circlers very rarely change and eventually Mae starts to seek a spot on the 2k, so she invests every waking moment and even sleep in hopes of cracking the 2k. Mae becomes an even more devoted Circler, when she discovers that the Circle is willing to put her parents on her health insurance at the Circle. Her father has MS and his disease has put an incredible strain, financially and emotionally, on the family, so she is overwhelmed with gratitude when the Circle is willing to provide health insurance for her parents at no additional cost.

The Three Wise Men who started the Circle
Ty – Elusive, the boy brainchild of the Circle.
Bailey – The fun “uncle” who is optimistic and strong advocate for transparency.
Stenton – The guy who handles the political side of the business (i.e. any politician who threatens the Circle); hungry for world domination.

The Circle is developing new technologies in hopes of making the world, society more transparent. They’re goal is to make the government, all places, and all people transparent and for this transparency to be easily accessible and available to everyone and anyone. They start by urging those in Congress to wear a camera at all times to ensure they aren’t doing anything nefarious and so the public know what goes on behind closed doors at congressional meetings and during back room dealings. Initially one congresswoman argues the Circle is a monopoly and evil and needs to be stopped, but miraculously evidence turns up sending the congresswomen to prison. Soon, for transparency purposes, people in congress agree to wear a camera at all times so the public can hear and see what’s happening; ensuring there’s no corruption. There’s only one person, who is not a public figure, who is transparent. He wears a camera around his neck and his everyday life is documented for all to see. Most people think this is just wonderful; so evolutionary.

However, not everyone feels what the Circle does is necessary or wanted. Mae’s ex-boyfriend, Mercer, thinks oversharing is unnecessary and even dangerous. "...like everything else you guys are pushing, it sounds perfect, sound progressive, but it carries with it more control, more central tracking of everything we do." p. 259 Mae strongly disagrees with him and thinks he is just paranoid and isn't progressive enough. Mae then meets a mysterious guy, calling himself Kalden, who comes and goes as he pleases at the Circle but she is so drawn to him that she tries to keep him a secret. They have random rendezvous in the bathroom, but she knows nothing about this guy. (Yet she is willing to have sex with him. Creepy!) She eventually tells Annie about the guy and Annie fearing he may be a spy asks that she finds out everything she can, especially his full name so they can see if he’s a spy. Mae never finds out his full name and when an argument she has with Mercer causes her to have a lapse of judgment; end up breaking a law, but was not arrested because the owner knew and vouched for her. However, the Circle having placed cameras around the area where she committed the crime knows exactly what had transpired and Mae is put in a precarious position when Eamon Bailey confronts her about it. She fears she may lose her job, but after a long discussion about transparency and how it would have prevented Mae from committing the crime if she knew that she was being watched, Mae has been bamboozled into going transparent. However, she doesn’t see it that way. Once Mae becomes transparent her status rises at the Circle and Bailey and Stenton start to include Mae in presentations and events at the Circle in an attempt to persuade the public that transparency is necessary and wonderful. Mae enjoys the attention and seems to wholeheartedly believe that what she's doing is important. Despite some niggling feelings about the rightness of transparency, Mae is always assured and comforted by Bailey's arguments whenever she expresses her thoughts to him. Mae is a sheep!

Mae, easily influenced and so grateful she has such an amazing job, is willing to do anything to please her superiors at her workplace. Including, allowing the Circle to put cameras around her parents’ home since the Circle is providing their health care. However, her parents are not thrilled and neither is Mercer. This leads to a series of events that is catastrophic and prompts the return of Kalden as he tries to warn Mae that what the Circle is doing is wrong and completing the circle would be very bad for everyone. He urges Mae to help him stop the Circle, but she disagrees and once she finds out who is really is, she ceases contact with him. Mae is a true Circler and believes as Bailey does in the task of completing the circle.

--------------

Oh, how the sheep willingly heads for the slaughtered!

It's such an interesting book, evoking so many of the same themes from Anthem by Ayn Rand, 1984 by George Orwell and many other dystopian novels. I didn't even realized that this book was related to the movie that just came out starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks until after I finished it. I look forward to watching it. It's hard to imagine that we could ever get to that point but the scary thing is that we have taken steps towards a words as such. Are we not constantly harping about government transparency (obviously everyone disagrees on the level of transparency), but we do feel a sense of entitlement to that transparency. We, as a society, think very little of the privacy of public figures and celebrities. How often do we hear celebrities complain about the invasion of their privacy by the paparazzi and how the public perpetuates it when they purchase the magazines or go to the websites to look at the photos and how often do we (non-celebrities) scoff at it thinking, "if you want privacy then you shouldn't have chosen the line of work that you do"? This books brings up so very important discussions about transparency. I've never been black and white on this subject and I've always felt that the lack of privacy comes with the territory when you put yourself out there publicly, but I have felt that families of these public figures shouldn't have to sacrifice their privacy just because one or more of the family member decided to become a public figure. But that's a discussion for another day. I think ultimately this book is pointing out how we have unknowingly and willingly sacrificed our privacy by participating in social media or with the popularity of reality TV shows numbing us to the dangers of "transparency"/oversharing/the unreality of reality TV shows/etc. When we post things and pictures on social media, we are essentially chipping away at our privacy, leaving a trail of our internet carbon footprint and before long we may not mind living our lives on camera. Let's hope that never happens! ( )
  jthao_02 | May 18, 2017 |
This science fiction story packs a punch—Eggers keeps you guessing until the very last page about the consequences of technology gone too far. The movie adaptation is now in theaters.

The most chilling thing about this science fiction novel, set in the not-too-distant future, is how true it may actually be. The tech advancements are astounding, but the author’s description of the consequences make you think twice. A thought-provoking read!
  mcmlsbookbutler | May 4, 2017 |
I have very mixed emotions about this book. 70 pages in, I find out a character has MS...I wanted to stop reading then and there, but here was a sort of pull in the writing for me to keep reading. Now that I've finished it, I'm just angry. ( )
  redsnapdragons | May 1, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 241 (next | show all)
Van alle romans die ik dit jaar las, is De Cirkel van Dave Eggers het meest blijven na-ijlen. Niet omdat het literair het beste boek is, maar vanwege de verontrustende beelden die het oproept, beelden die na de laatste bladzijde niet langzaam wegebben, maar hinderlijk blijven doorspoken. De Cirkel is het 1984 van het internettijdperk genoemd, maar beschrijft een werkelijkheid die veel nabijer lijkt en daardoor dreigender voelt dan Orwells tijdloze boek.
added by sneuper | editde Volkskrant, Hans Bouman (Dec 18, 2013)
 
Even as satire, The Circle is disappointing as a novel: the plot is too easy, the prose simple, the characters flat and undistinguishable. Due to these same qualities, however, The Circle succeeds as commentary on the era of big data and transparency. The scary part is that the Silicon Valley of The Circle barely seems like a caricature. The easiest comparison of the Circle is to Google — whose Mountain View campus keeps its employees fed, fit, massaged, and, well, kept. The Circle’s mottos and mantras are the same buzzwords already posted on billboards and batted around in cafes and bars.
 
Some will call The Circle a “dystopia,” but there’s no sadistic slave-whipping tyranny on view in this imaginary America: indeed, much energy is expended on world betterment by its earnest denizens. Plagues are not raging, nor is the planet blowing up or even warming noticeably. Instead we are in the green and pleasant land of a satirical utopia for our times, where recycling and organics abound, people keep saying how much they like each another, and the brave new world of virtual sharing and caring breeds monsters.
 
Het onrecht dat in The Circle bestreden wordt, is de expansiedrift van Silicon Valley, zoveel is vanaf de eerste pagina duidelijk. En Eggers gebruikt daarvoor de meest absurde metaforen: drones uitgerust met camera’s die mensen zonder Circle-account achtervolgen en ‘ik wil gewoon vrienden worden’ scanderen, of een transparante haai die een heel aquarium leegeet. Het punt is gemaakt, Dave Eggers.
Toch verdient Eggers een like. Zijn versie van de wereld is bewust extreem: hoe het wordt als we allemaal zulke schapen worden als Mae Holland, die kritiekloos Silicon Valley achternalopen. Hij verzint een wereld die – veel maar net niet helemaal – op de onze lijkt, waarin mensen hun vrijheid inleveren, betoverd door quasifilosofische toespraken, moderne bedrijfsvoering en onbeperkt aandacht van een miljoenenpubliek. Eggers vraagt zich niet af welke wereld er is, maar welke kan komen. En zoals in The Circle heeft hij het duidelijk liever niet.
added by sneuper | editVN, Tim de Gier (Nov 5, 2013)
 
This potential dystopia should sound familiar. Books and tweets and blogs are already debating the issues Eggers raises: the tyranny of transparency, personhood defined as perpetual presence in social networks, our strange drive to display ourselves, the voracious information appetites of Google and Facebook, our lives under the constant surveillance of our own government.

“The Circle” adds little of substance to the debate. Eggers reframes the discussion as a fable, a tale meant to be instructive. His instructors include a Gang of 40, a Transparent Man, a shadowy figure who may be a hero or a villain, a Wise Man with a secret chamber and a smiling legion of true-believing company employees. The novel has the flavor of a comic book: light, entertaining, undemanding.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dave Eggersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Biekmann, LidwienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graham, DionNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hische, JessicaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mudde, BrendaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tukker, EllesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There wasn't any limit, no boundary at all, to the future. And it would be so a man wouldn't have room to store his happiness.
John Steinbeck
East of Eden
Dedication
First words
My God, Mae thought. It's heaven.
Quotations
Overnight, all comment boards became civil, all posters held accountable. The trolls, who had more or less overtaken the internet, were driven back into the darkness.
Outside the walls of the Circle, all was noise and struggle, failure and filth. But here, all had been perfected. The best people had made the best systems and the best systems had reaped funds, unlimited funds, that made possible this, the best place to work. And it was natural that it was so, Mae thought. Who else but utopians could make utopia?
"We will become all-seeing, all-knowing." The audience was standing now. The applause thundered through the room. Mae rested her head on Annie's shoulder. "All that happens will be known," Annie whispered.
Having a matrix of preferences presented as your essence, the whole you? Maybe that was it. It was some kind of mirror, but it was incomplete, distorted.
"You're always looking at me through a hundred other people's eyes."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385351399, Hardcover)

The Circle is the exhilarating new novel from Dave Eggers, best-selling author of A Hologram for the King, a finalist for the National Book Award.
 
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 the world—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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"The Circle is the exhilarating new novel from Dave Eggers, best-selling author of A Hologram for the King, a finalist for the National Book Award. 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 the world--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"--… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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