I really wanted to love this book. I loved 1984 when I read it in high-school & I love everything else I’ve read by Dave Eggers. It was still a great book. I definitely think it’s worth the buy, but it didn’t inspire any revolutionary thoughts on the advancement of technology or privacy security for me. There might be some spoilers in this review because I don’t know how to talk about my problems with the book without mentioning them, but nothing too specific.
Mae Holland just landed her dream job at The Circle, a Google/Apple/Amazon hybrid, but bigger & better. The first third of the book is pretty much a lot of description on how cool it is to work there. The fun ideas about what kind of technology is possible in a place like this. Then it becomes more & more intense in Mae’s spiral into the world of oversharing in social media.
I will say that I’ve been debating on deleting some of my social media apps for a while because I feel like I’m using them too much & not actually experiencing moments for the moment itself. When I post stuff it’s like I’m already treating it like a memory instead of being present. So the book persuaded me to delete my Facebook account, still debating on Instagram, but I’ll probably just post less.
But for somebody who has a pretty positive view of technology this was a hard story to sell. I think that the digital world’s positive qualities greatly out weight the bad ones. Maybe this is because I’m from the new generation, but I really had a hard time following how ridiculous the book got toward the end.
The beginning was great. It was relevant, thought-provoking, had beautiful insights on what it’s like to keep special moments for yourself. Then as it went on, it became almost cartoonish. The technology aspect itself was incredibly realistic, I definitely believe it could happen. However, the human nature here was so outlandish. I understand some people are more likely to give up a lot of their privacy freely, but the level to which this book suggests the entire human population would want to give up their security is absurd. People would never be so gung-ho about their every action being monitored by anyone, let alone a huge corporation.
The ending felt like a cop-out. It was pessimistic & brought the novel into a full dystopian alternate reality. It’s meant to be satire, but satire is supposed to have a higher purpose. The only purpose I could extract was a lot of fear-mongering at things that most people already know or feel. I think the line of thinking was pushed to the extreme, which was interesting, but unnecessary for this topic. This all being said, I don’t think the ending should’ve been a complete 180 turnaround either. Maybe it could’ve just been left off as a cliffhanger.
Other problems I had were that it was fairly predictable. A few of the twists, weren’t that surprising. The sex scenes were downright awful. I don’t know if this was purposeful or what, but they were horrendous to read. I’m not even talking about the ones with Francis which were clearly linked to instantaneous satisfaction we crave from technology, I’m talking about the other ones with Kalden. What the hell? Is all I kept thinking while reading those. Also, all the characters are just caricatures of people, there’s no development in anyone except maybe Annie, or anti-development for Mae. Finally, the bit with the shark, the octopus, & the seahorse in the fish-tank was just plain fucking cheesy.
That all being said. The writing was excellent. It was a fun book. There were fun ideas. The more thought-provoking scenes of Mae out on the water in her kayak were wonderful. Her concerns for her parents gave the book a little bit of needed heart. It was definitely a page turner & succeeded in making me a least rethink how & when I turn to social media. So not a total success, but definitely still worth reading.
“We are not meant to know everything, Mae. Did you ever think that perhaps our minds are delicately calibrated between the known and the unknown? That our souls need the mysteries of night and the clarity of day? Young people are creating ever-present daylight, and I think it will burn us all alive. There will be no time to reflect, to sleep to cool.”
“You comment on things, and that substitutes for doing them. You look at pictures of Nepal, push a smile button, and you think that’s the same as going there. I mean, what would happen if you actually went?”
“The weird paradox is that you think you’re at the center of things, and that makes your opinions more valuable, but you yourself are becoming less vibrant.”
There’s also a great scene where Francis asks Mae to rate him after sex. It just stuck out to me as funny & one of those moments where the satire worked well.