I picked up my next paperback on a recommendation from a friend/English teacher, so I was pretty confident in the quality.
The Circle by Dave Eggers is on the cusp of dystopian literature with a plot so good it will have its screen debut this April, including a star-studded cast including Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and Bill Paxton. (Pour one out for our man, Paxton.)
Let me start by saying if you suffer from anxiety (like I do) then it’s probably best not to read too much into this book. It has an impending disaster vibe that will do its damndest to turn you inside out. For those of you feeling recent news headlines have done a good enough job of that already, don’t worry. To make all the turns of this story work in tandem, we’re going to have to travel deep, deep down the rabbit hole.
Also for us introverted types, the community handholding of the Circle’s corporate mantra is especially unsettling. One anti-establishment character in the story called it the CircleJerk, which is exactly what it reminded me of throughout. I had a lot of issues with this book, none of which made it less enjoyable, but all of which made me see Facebook/Twitter/Instagram in a much darker, more terrifying light.
I loathed the main character, Mae. I’m going to be heartbroken to see Emma Watson play her on screen, because there’s a special place in my heart for Belle and Hermione Granger. When asked to describe the Circle, Watson said, “It’s the chaos of the web made elegant.” Emma is the epitome of elegance, but Mae is the effing worst. She’s so annoying clueless, and she just goes along with anything. ANYTHING. If the Circle says it, to her it’s gospel. She lacks any foresight of her own and it made me insane to follow the justifications in her simple mind.
Several passages in this book had me scratching my head in bewilderment thinking, where the hell is HR? The shit they do at the Circle is so unethical, and at times illegal. Then HR shows up. Not only are they so chipper they could rival your favorite Disney World cast member, they’re also readily engaging in the same unethical practice. They even go so far as to pseudo-diagnose employees with mental disorders if they don’t like their behavior or productivity. And all this shit is supposed to be happening in California, which has the strictest HR laws of any state in the nation.
Secrets are lies. Sharing is caring. Privacy is theft. These are just a few flavors of the Koolaid they’re serving up at the Circle. They propose access to every bit of your personal and financial information, planting permanent tracking chips in the bones of your children, installing cameras (or in Conway’s mind: microwaves) in every corner of the complex, the nation, the world. They seek to permeate all branches of government to become the final totalitarian filter of democracy. No one bats an eye. No one raises a pointed finger to question the insanity of such plans, not to mention the forfeit of their basic rights to privacy. The political activist in me almost couldn’t handle it. The only comfort I took away is that our current administration is far too married to voter suppression and gerrymandering to ever allow something like this to happen.
As anyone could have guessed, the Circle’s vision of ultimate surveillance in the spirit of community is counterproductive, resulting in an ever connected, yet entirely disconnected society. Humanity is far removed in favor of expediency, and the results promise an all too imminent demise. This is expertly depicted through Mae and a trio of suitors: Mercer, the ex boyfriend who wisely rejects the Circle’s constructs in favor of going off the grid; Francis, the bottom feeder with a penchant for premature ejaculation; and Kalden, the mystery caveman who possesses intricate knowledge of the Circle’s dark deeds. Mae becomes increasingly unable to recognize her own passion, or any semblance of a true-to-life relationship. She’s just so irritatingly dumb.
Watching the Circle slowly creep in on the fringes of civilization only to rise to the ultimate superpower was a terrific and terrifying journey. Recognizing our present government head and the havoc his rhetoric is wreaking on our once well-respected country made this story that much more poignant.
I have a feeling the stark warning message in these pages may get a little lost on its trip to Hollywood, and it’s really worth hearing. So before you head to the theatres this April, read the book.
Maybe have a Xanax. Grab a paper bag for breathing exercises. Then read the book.