The Circle is a dystopian novel by Dave Eggers and came out in 2013. The plot focuses on Mae Holland, a young graduate who arrives at “The Circle”, the most innovative company in the world. While Mae is excited in the beginning and very curious to explore the company, her experience turns darker. The novel raises important questions about the perils of surveillance and the role of social media in our lives. In our book review of The Circle, we will explore the themes of the novel and comment on the main ideas.
What hits at first, is that while the book is fiction, focused on a dystopian version of reality, is very similar to our world. The internet seems untouchable in the book, but isn’t this very true in reality as well, some might argue. It is products like “TruYou” that make The Circle a powerful company. “TruYou changed the internet, in toto, within a year,” the book tells us. “Though some sites were resistant at first, and free-internet advocates shouted about the right to be anonymous online, the TruYou wave was tidal and crushed all meaningful opposition. It started with the commerce sites. Why would any non-porn site want anonymous users when they could know exactly who had come through the door? 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.”
I Eggers’ world nobody has the right to remain anonymous. Even trolls and porn fans. And sure enough, no-one remains anonymous. The company goes to such extends as to check credit cards and bank accounts. The excuse is that “the era of false identities, identity theft, multiple user names, complicated passwords and payment systems was over.”
The explanations that the founders of the company give are so well built, that you find yourself agreeing at times. This is what the author wants to do. This is the situation Mae Holland finds herself in at times. Moreover, the characters of the book don’t seem to argue the idea of identity theft.
In addition to the main idea which is our dependence to internet, the book discusses another theme. This of the corporate world and the idea of living in an open society. Mae’s transparency and the Circle’s intrusiveness ruin her relationships. Her parents cut off contact with her once the camera catches an intimate moment between them. They subject Mercer to cruel public scrutiny due to his connection with Mae. Because of this, he drives his car into a fatal crash trying to escape from circling drones.
In The Circle, Eggers paints a harrowing future where privacy is a thing of the past, and transparency is the mandated norm. The question however is the intentions of the company are of a good nature and really try to deal with crime and identity theft, or something dark is hiding behind their mission? The book certainly creates an unstable future for its characters and tries to warn us for the dangers of internet and the corporate world.
Additionally, the book became such a success, that a movie adaptation came out in 2017. Tom Hanks and Emma Watson gave an amazing performance, but the idea of the book was lost. Actually, one would think that the film is a separate creation which at times has nothing to do with the novel.