1) A delightful, glamorous, interesting setting.
Think of an amazingly awesome, high-tech work “campus.” Like Zappos. Or Google, as portrayed in The Internship (I watched it on a plane, OK? Don’t judge me.):
. . . but way, WAY (like a billion times) better. It’s a campus with:
- an aquarium,
- an organic garden (with in-house farmers),
- a “Borrow Room,” where everything from hang gliders to telescopes is loaned for free,
- a nightclub,
- a state-of-the-art athletic center,
- a mini-golf course,
- in-house health services (free, of course!),
- an arcade,
- culinary classes (taught by famous chefs, obviously),
- movie theaters, and
- free “dorms” with fully-stocked kitchens and bars, in case you don’t feel like driving home after one of the daily on-campus parties.
That’s the Circle’s campus. It is utopia. And the employees don’t want to be, or work, anywhere else.
Eggers combined that delightful, utopian setting with:
2) A classic dystopian tale.
Think Orwell’s 1984.
There’s a creepy “Big Brother is watching you” vibe. Knowledge is power; secrets are criminal (“ALL THAT HAPPENS MUST BE KNOWN”). The Circle’s technology (cameras and streaming and live feeds and the like) allow near perfect “transparency.” It’s Facebook and Twitter and Instagram all rolled into one and kicked up a hundred notches.
When Eggers combined that setting with the dystopian tale, out popped: The Circle.
The Circle is an Internet company whose young founder, the mysterious, reclusive college-dropout Ty, created TruYou, a unified operating system that combined the functions of Google, Facebook, Twitter, online banking, and PayPal, thus rendering the individual systems obsolete.
The Circle is run by the Three Wise Men: Ty, Eamon Bailey (the happy, hippie, funny, modest family man and face of the company), and Tom Stenton (“Capitalist Prime,” the CEO, who is not afraid to throw his money and power around). The Circle is cult-like, and the Three Wise Men are worshipped.
The Circle is the place to work. It is teeming with young, attractive, brilliant people with grand ideas and just enough nerdiness and ambition to pull them off. The Circle is developing new programs quickly (like SeeChange, which allows people to install cameras the size of thumbs anywhere, thus enabling all Circle users to see what is going on virtually anywhere, any time).
The book follows Mae Holland, a young twenty-something, who, thanks to the help of her college buddy and Circle up-and-comer, Annie, has just landed a coveted job at the Circle. Mae is a member of CE (Customer Experience), responsible for answering Circle users’ service questions. Her goal is to keep her feedback scores as close to 100 as possible, and Mae takes this very seriously.
Despite having some of the best scores of any “newbie” in CE, Mae’s superiors are not pleased. She is criticized for failing to become involved with and part of the Circle team. Mae thus decides to do everything she can to be successful at the Circle. She dives head-first into the Circle.
Rating: 3/5 💻
The first half of this book is delightful. When I began reading it, I thought it would easily be the best new book I had read this year. As it turns out, it was good . . . but it wasn’t that good. The second half of the book is creepy and dark and foreboding. But it could have been (and I wanted it to be) creepier and darker and more foreboding.
The setting (as I have now mentioned several times) is delightful. The characters are fun. But the relationships between Mae and others (like her two romantic suitors, the extremely transparent Francis and the utterly mysterious Kalden) were not well developed. Deeper relationships could have added to the creep-factor and intensity.
The plot is not incredibly creative. And it is certainly predictable. But, overall, the book is fun reading.
Who should read it: Cleo (i.e., people who enjoy dystopian tales); Sweater (i.e., people who prefer books with the bare minimum of character development).