On the very first “What’s Rachel Reading” post a couple of weeks ago, Susan recommended reading The Circle by Dave Eggers — which will also be hitting theaters at the end of April as a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. (This, I’ll be watching, but not until it’s out on DVD.)
Someone did NOT want me to finish this book…
The Circle is best described as a modern dystopian novel, a la 1984 for the Internet age. Our protagonist, Mae, is a new early 20s hire at Schmgoogle — I mean, The Circle — a giant tech conglomerate with fingers in every part of the Internet pie. We come along for the ride as she (and by extension the rest of the world) are slowly brought further and further into giving up their rights, individuality, and privacy in exchange for safety, security, and public approbation.
At its best, The Circle spells out the logical progression toward ever-increasing corporate control in an age dominated by social media and technological advances. It might be worth a read — or at least a skim — if you’re interested in seeing the movie or in the future of individual rights & privacy in the digital age.
However, while the themes and the near-future dystopian society Eggers explores in The Circle are fascinating, he seems too caught up in his cautionary tale to put as much focus as he should have on character and plot development. The book really could have benefited from some tighter editing: The story itself is heavy handed and predictable, Mae as a character is one-dimensional and frustrating, and the semi-big reveal at the end comes as no surprise. None of the characters are particularly likable, and no one is developed well enough to empathize with.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did, because I do find the themes fascinating and think it behooves us to step back and look at where we’re headed and what we’re giving up in exchange for the advantages technological innovation brings. I suspect I would have given The Circle a better review had it been about half as long. The longer Mae’s story dragged out, the less believable she became as a character and the less patience I had with her — and the book itself.
What are you reading this week?
What have you been reading lately? Tell us about it! 🙂