By Sibylle Sehl
Imagine a world that is completely dominated by the internet. Imagine a world in which you are fully transparent. Imagine a world that knows more about you than you do yourself. Welcome to the Circle.
I have to admit that I did not expect much of The Circle when I started reading it. The cover itself is very simplistic but upon closer inspection, I noticed the several comments by well-established newspapers and authors that I really liked and thought that I might as well give it a try.
Dave Egger’s The Circle, published in 2013, seems familiar to the reader in many ways. The multi-million dollar firm The Circle controls most aspects of people’s internet activity, social life and professional life through several services, applications and devices they offer. The reader is instantly reminded of tech-giants such as Apple, Facebook or Google that know the food we like, where we go on a daily basis and the messages we send to our friends. However, the Circle is more extreme in its approach as the reader quickly finds out.
We learn about the Circle through the eyes of Mae Holland, recruited by her good friend Annie Anderson from within the Circle. Mae has just started her job at the Circle and is adjusting to her new environment and the constant “expectations” the Circle and her fellow Circlers have of her. While Mae enjoys the job, she finds the constant social involvement requested by the Circle a bit tiring and is quickly informed that she should adjust and enjoy and celebrate her Circle social life. The longer Mae works at the Circle though, the more involved she becomes, even going “transparent” – meaning thousands of viewers can watch her every move and listen to what she is doing live. From time to time, Mae gets contacted by a mysterious person named Kalden, warning her that the Circle is close to completion. However, Mae is unable to track down and confirm Kalden’s identity and uncover the true meaning of his words.
The detail with which Eggers describes the Circle is remarkable. Every Circle feature has its own name, its functionality is carefully outlined and the feature is linked to the other devices the Circlers are using. Some do not sound too far-fetched from some technology we are using at the moment whilst others more remind us of Orwell’s 1984. The book itself is not action-packed or filled with suspense, but nevertheless the reader is drawn in by the numerous product descriptions, the mysterious occurrences of Kalden, and Mae being torn between keeping her uniqueness and embracing the Circle lifestyle. Eggers has portrayed a modern 1984 in which the circle knows and controls everything. While The Circle may scare us in its extreme approach, it remains questionable if we end up choosing privacy over convenience and take matters into our own hands before it is too late.}