Navidad Thélamour's Reviews > The Circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers
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“We all know we die. We all know the world is too big for us to be significant. So all we have is the hope of being seen, or heard, even for a moment.”

Wow, what a read! It’s been a little while since I’ve given a read 5 stars, so I’m feeling a bit giddy!

I went into this one a little tired from the mild let-downs that some of my more recent reads have been and wanting to take a quick breather from my list of upcoming pre-release 2016 reviews. (This one was released in 2013.) I am delighted to say that this novel, The Circle by Dave Eggers, really blew me away! I felt like it’d been a while since I read a novel that actually lived up to its blurb (and more), so I was thrilled about that, not to mention wholly enamored with this world that Eggers constructed. The Circle is the new-age Animal Farm meets “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a read reminiscent of 1984 where Eggers provides a fresh mirror in which to see ourselves and our culture in a startlingly accurate light, in a kaleidoscope of scenarios that straddle the line between personal rights and rights of commerce, the greed of cultural extravagance and the effect of e-media inundation on our lives. While, at the same time, we watch Mae’s slow and complete decent into some millennial version of madness. I loved it!

First off, let me say that the lack of chapter markers was a smart play. The format threw me off balance, which kept me on my toes, a useful trick in a read like this. Or as one character put it: “I want you on your toes, off-balance, intimidated, handcuffed and willing to prostrate yourself at my command.” It also did an exhilarating job of reeling me in as a reader, making it hard for me to pull back, fully immersing me in the on-campus world through Mae’s eyes. It was like I could feel my own slow inundation with The Circle, which, of course, made the implications as they unfolded a little horrifying, the thought of this utterly realistic and culturally possible phenomenon actually happening. The completely bizarre started to become normal, sounded like it really made sense. Of course everyone should know everything! Of course we should do everything we can to keep children safe (including planting tracker chips in their arms at birth that they can't even remove in adulthood)! Hmph, must be how cults are formed.

Here, Eggers offered a view of our world like Big Brother on steroids. Embedded in the fact that the Google-like company mostly employed millennials—and that we millennials are known for our social media voraciousness and oversharing—it comes off as a totally plausible alter-universe that Mae has stumbled upon when she arrives, both to herself and to the reader. If you’re a typical millennial, read it and take pause. If you’re not—especially if you’d classify yourself a Luddite—read it and weep at this completely conceivable, totally creepy, new-age possibility.

The Circle was comical in its realistic nature, life-like in the way that the interactions between characters were played out. Here you’ll find competition in a survival-of-the-fittest sort of way reflected in passages that unnerve while being so relatable that they’re undeniable. Here Eggers brushes up against classism, caste, struggling to belong and competition, whether healthy or not:

“Annie still held some particular status. Again Annie’s lineage, her head start, the varied and ancient advantages she enjoyed, were keeping Mae second. Always second, like she was some kind of little sister who never had a chance of succeeding an older, always older sibling.”

Eggers pushed situations to a brink that you might be tempted to label over-the-top, but he did so in a way that was contemporary social commentary at its finest. Even Mae’s interactions with the people around her—all strange in their own way—ring hilariously true, from frustrating reprimands from the boss who’s drank too much of the company Kool-Aid to clumsy sex in a dorm (and even a cave, who hasn’t done that, right)? Mae was a realistic 24-year-old character—still bright-eyed and bushy tailed, initially worried about her student loans and her parents’ health and well-being, feeling weighed down by her responsibility as an only child, and that contributed immensely to the direction that the plot took, as we see her being stripped down to conform to a new mold. I loved watching her and being a part of her world. In fact, Eggers wrote a world that I wished I was a part of, one of the reasons that we read in the first place. He constructed a world where social media reigns supreme, where privacy is the enemy, an awesome looking glass of us all being reduced to screen-scrolling sheep.

“Here…there are no oppressors. No one’s forcing you to do this. You willingly tie yourself to these leashes. And willingly become utterly socially autistic. You no longer pick up on basic human communication clues. You’re at a table with three humans, all of whom are looking at you and trying to talk to you, and you’re staring at a screen, searching for strangers in Dubai.”

Imagine a world where e-media and all-encompassing surveillance are the prime forms of communication and interaction across the globe. It’s also how you vote, how you pay your taxes, how you shop online. Your social media profile is how the world—the government, even—sees you. You’re now living in “…the world’s first tyrannical monopoly.” That’s a scary, chilling thought that Eggers executed fluidly, with clarity and intrigue. With mounting anxiety, both on the part of the reader and the main protagonist, Mae, until…until it all seems perfectly normal. And that’s the scary part.

I knew that this one was getting 5 stars from about the mid-way point, and hoped that it wouldn’t disappoint with some hastily done bow-tie ending or weak sort of sputtering out like it was tripping over the marathon finish line. But, it did not. It held up its end of the bargain, so I’ll hold up mine: a well-deserved 5 stars. *****

**By the way, the movie version of this DID NOT do this book justice! Don't judge this book from the movie!**


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Reading Progress

May 20, 2016 – Shelved
May 20, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
June 18, 2016 – Started Reading
June 26, 2016 – Shelved as: contemporary-fiction
June 26, 2016 – Shelved as: cultural-surveys
June 26, 2016 – Shelved as: full-review
June 26, 2016 – Shelved as: oh-where-have-you-been-all-my-life
June 26, 2016 – Shelved as: read-2016
June 26, 2016 – Shelved as: reviewed-on-amazon
June 26, 2016 – Shelved as: reviewed-on-barnesandnoble
June 26, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Masterson Wow! Wonderful review, Navidad! :)


Navidad Thélamour Thanks, Jennifer!


message 3: by Katie (new)

Katie Loving your enthusiasm for this, Navidad. Made me want to read it. Thanks.


Navidad Thélamour Awesome! Can't wait to learn what you think about it, Katie! :)


Laurie Reilly Great review. I feel the same way. I was constantly reading this book and when I stepped away from it, it just kept calling to me. I too was worried about Eggers "sticking the landing." It was a great ending. He didn't let us down!


Navidad Thélamour Oh my goodness, GR friends! This is going to be released as a movie on April 28th! So excited!


Woman_gotta_have_it I love the book as well I had so many thoughts it was so surreal and could happen which was creepy in a sense!!!


message 8: by Navidad (last edited Apr 16, 2017 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Navidad Thélamour Oh, it could totally happen! We're probably already in the beginning stages, which is what made this one so clever, snarky and off-putting! Talk about tracking: my phone just told me yesterday where I was AND how long I'd been there (in a new city), then asked me if I wanted to share it on my social media since it knew it was my birthday! Creepy lol


Carlene Inspired Oh, I am excited by your review for this! I actually enjoyed the movie, but have been meaning to read the book as well. The book is ALWAYS better.


Navidad Thélamour Yes, this one is SO much better than the movie! There were so many phenomenal scenes left out and others under done, not to mention details that really made this book so special were excluded from the film.


message 11: by Lara (new) - added it

Lara Lillibridge You review is going to make me break my "no new books until my TBR pile is significantly lower" rule!


Navidad Thélamour Lara wrote: "You review is going to make me break my "no new books until my TBR pile is significantly lower" rule!"

You should totally do it, Lara! I rarely "gush" about a book on GR, but this one will be one of my favorites forever. I feel about it the way the previous generation must have felt about 1984. :)


message 13: by Lara (new) - added it

Lara Lillibridge This is why I love Goodreads, and why I have so many books. :)


message 14: by Elsa (new)

Elsa I watched the movie and wouldn’t read the book ... but now, I am thinking of giving it a chance 😉


Navidad Thélamour Elsa wrote: "I watched the movie and wouldn’t read the book ... but now, I am thinking of giving it a chance 😉"

Hope you love it if you do! Yeah, that movie was trash compared to the book. I was highly disappointed by it.


message 16: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Michael great write up. considering adding this to my list.


Tiffani I loved this book too!


message 18: by Luka (new) - rated it 4 stars

Luka Amazing review! I just finished reading "The circle" and I absolutely loved it. I will watch the movie in a few weeks and hope that it won't destroy the good impression of the book...


Navidad Thélamour Luka wrote: "Amazing review! I just finished reading "The circle" and I absolutely loved it. I will watch the movie in a few weeks and hope that it won't destroy the good impression of the book..."

lol thanks, Luka! Even if you don't like the movie, we'll still BOTH know how awesome the book is! :)


message 20: by Lucy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lucy Such a fantastic view! I've just got my hands on this book so I am excited to read it
:D


Navidad Thélamour Lucy wrote: "Such a fantastic view! I've just got my hands on this book so I am excited to read it
:D"


Thanks, Lucy! Eeeeek, can't WAIT to see what you think of it. I've even added it to my all-time favs on my profile. There was just so much great social commentary in that book - wrapped up in humor that was very well done!


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