Book Talk: The scary, transparent world of “The Circle”

17 October 2019

By Alanna Warwick-Smith

In George Orwell’s classic novel “1984,” readers are made immediately aware that something is not right with the introductory line, “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

With “The Circle,” written by American author Dave Eggers, you do not realise that you are reading a dystopian novel until you are elbows deep into what feels like an op-ed piece about living and working in Silicon Valley.

It is the stark familiarity of the 21st-century world experienced by the narrator, Mae, which makes “The Circle” an all-consuming read. Readers are positioned stage front to a transparent society where privacy is equal to theft.
Are we entitled to our private moments? Should our transformative moments and life experiences be shared with those less fortunate or differently abled? Who are you when no one is watching? Would you be the same person you are today if you knew someone was always watching? Those who control the global technology company known as The Circle demand answers to these questions, but ironically do not allow the world the opportunity to answer. They simply act when a few eventually oppose, ridiculing them into submission in front of a live audience.

Mae is the protagonist of this novel, but feels like a secondary character to the overwhelming presence of The Circle. Mae is accepting and excited to join The Circle and happy to accept even the lowest position in the organisation because she believes that, with time and immersion into the company, she will grow professionally.

It is uncomfortable following Mae’s acceptance of The Circle’s practices and lifestyle. The sheep-like mentality of the millennial staff, expressly defined as most not being older than the age of 30, demonstrates little to no voice of reason to counteract the leadership of the organisation. This brings the realisation that there is no happy ending to this story, because there is no ending.

The reader gets the feeling that only the names of the characters in “The Circle” are fictional; it reads like a “Sunday Times” article that we are all living.

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline “The Scary Transparent World of ‘The Circle’”.