a stephanie's Reviews > The Circle

The Circle by Dave Eggers
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
118030
's review

liked it
bookshelves: ebook, real-goodies, obama

A Review of Dave Eggers' The Circle by Google

Transparency is...


Surveillance is...


Society is...


Kayaking is...


Cults are...


Everything in moderation, including...


Cynicism is...


Can I...


On a more serious note, yes, this is The Fountainhead for Big Data. If Sonny Mehta had called up Dave Eggers and offered him 100,000 shares of Facebook to write a The Fountainhead for Big Data it couldn't have turned out much differently from this book. The Circle is as manipulative, intellectually bankrupt, and cardboard character-filled as Ayn Rand's book, which means it has none of the things that I look for in a novel.

However, in keeping with one of the themes hammered home again and again and again in this book, I don't necessarily want all novels that I read to feel as if they were written for me and my tastes. Eggers' and Rand's novels are striking and extreme, and we need striking and extreme novels along with all the rest.

Any engineer who leaves this book shaking his/her head at another high-profile Luddite who JUST DOESN'T UNDERSTAND THE COMPLEXITIES AND DAY TO DAY OF REAL LIFE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT should think of a novel like this as rapid prototyping for reality. Eggers is hacking together something purposefully bad hoping to get as many people as he can to stop, read, and admit that we really don't want this to be our future, right, right, RIGHT?

I think most of the people leaving one-star ratings and all of those leaving five-star ratings of this book would nod, Mae-like, yes.

And creating that kind of consensus, in an age and about mechanisms that Google can't even decide whether to deem GOOD, BAD, or NECESSARY, is so valuable.

This book is not very good, but you should read it.
656 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Circle.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 21, 2013 – Shelved
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: ebook
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: real-goodies
November 21, 2013 – Shelved as: obama
November 21, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 54 (54 new)


Nancy So funny! In my first view of your comments, these Google search images were missing.


message 2: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice Hi, Stephanie. I hadn't caught wind of this book before your review; thanks. Trying to understand your criticism. Is it just too simplistic?


message 3: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Nancy wrote: "So funny! In my first view of your comments, these Google search images were missing."

Thanks Nancy! Yes, images only show up on the main feed in certain instances, one of the many quirks of Goodreads. (Perhaps it is to keep our use of images disciplined?)


message 4: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Jan wrote: "Hi, Stephanie. I hadn't caught wind of this book before your review; thanks. Trying to understand your criticism. Is it just too simplistic?"

No it's not very simplistic. It's not very subtle, which doesn't make for an entertaining reading experience, but I think its lack of subtlety is a positive thing as long as it gets you thinking more critically about the internet, instead of less.


message 5: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Ah Stephanie. I shouldn't have doubted you, but I did google "kayaking is" to see if people really were that dumb. Also great review, although after A Gut-turning Work of Self-Glorification, I will read the Twilight saga before I read another work by Eggers.


Josh Stephanie - nice work with the images! I agree with your summation: "This book is not very good, but you should read it."


message 7: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Thanks Josh.

Elaine - You know when you open an old book to find something specific from it and end up getting sucked in and just reading? (I do this with The Corrections all the time.) I had the opposite experience when out of idle curiosity I pulled Eggers's memoir off my shelf a few days ago...

This book is not quite as bad, but it is something of a hate read (so after Twilight saga seems right). Eggers sort of created the neighborhood that I live in, so I felt like I owed him one here.


Manny Baez Best and most accurate review on this book haha


message 9: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Manny wrote: "Best and most accurate review on this book haha"

Thanks Manny. I think Google and Dave Eggers are SO MEANT TO BE. They are just like Liz Bennett and Mr. Darcy - so full of repressed longing for one another and misunderstanding!!!

(I might be drunk right now.)


Bobby Well written and funny review. +1


message 11: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Cheers Bobby!


Steven Gutierrez This is brilliant :)


message 13: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Thanks so much Steven.


Henry Love your review, disagree with rand comparison


message 15: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie O'Hara wrote: "Love your review, disagree with rand comparison"

I'll admit it's been a loooong time since I've read The Fountainhead. Could you be more specific though? Do you think his prose is better or that it is less manipulative, or that the ideas are presented more honestly? Or some other way the books diverged?


Henry Okay, also a looooong time since I read Rand. Agree with comparison in that for Rand plot (and politics) are more important that character development. But, Rand has definite goodies (capitalists) and baddies (socialists). And her book is framed that way. Eggers is less clear, he introduces each new “innovation”; Bailey or Mae make a really good case for the extension of surveillance culture – we are left to wonder. Mercer could have been presented as a Goodie but he is not, he doesn’t come off well – just as flawed as other characters – he is portrayed as overweight, out of shape. Eggers writes in clear unfussy (nonpoetic) way (like Rand) but his message is more subtle than Rand.


message 17: by a (last edited Jan 23, 2014 08:10PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie I think I agree with you that Eggers does muddy the waters more than Rand, but... some counter-arguments:

As far as Mercer, Eggers went with the decent everyman instead of the oh yes please rape me sex gods Rand uses, but seeing as how Mae disses his appearance and schlubbiness in shallow and unattractive rants to herself, Eggers gets mileage out of Mercer's appearance in a very similar way. Looks matter too much to us internet fiends, isn't what's on the inside more important? Manipulative.

The sex scenes. I see you mentioned them also. Classic Rand.

Finally, this is what makes me feel confident about my three star rating, (view spoiler) manipulative.


Henry Okay I'll give you that; I hadn't thought of Kalden's lack of foreplay as similar to Roark's rapiness...I always worry about the author during horrid sex scenes (she felt his crown...what???)
And you are right looks matter too much to internet fiends.
I just thought that the book raised some interesting points about our culture - maybe cos I'm middle aged so social media is an anathema to me...what am I even doing here?


Chuck O'Connor It doesn't surprise me that someone who designs web-sites for a living misses the point of this novel. Eggers is simply arguing that authenticity is not something one can publicly curate. Tech culture is simply the means by which he makes this argument. Group think has taken on different forms throughout history. Our current moment is driven by the narcissistic charm offensive rooted in social-media-fueled personal branding. I love how he exposes the stunted intellectual and emotional development of the tech world. I have viewed the age of user-generate curated content as similar to that of the insecure world of grade grubbers and the University Greek System. Eggers articulates this beautifully.


message 20: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Hi Chuck,

My main gripes with the novel were its lack of complexity which, for me, led to a frustrating reading experience.

I have come to appreciate some aspects of the critique itself as I have come more and more out from the memory of those frustrations.

Please don't make snap judgments about my critical thinking abilities from a single line in my social media bio. If you'd taken more than two seconds to assess the source of my criticism, or even actually read my review, you'd realize that I couldn't possibly disagree with Eggers. I simply disagreed with his execution.

Steph


Chuck O'Connor The essence of dystopia is to operate as a morality tale, where simple ethics define the context, to lend illustration of current concerns. The lack of complexity is the hammer blow to rattle the cage of those comfortable in their cultural state. Orwell did it with O'Brien in 1984, Atwood did it with the Calvinist State in A Handmaid's Tale and Huxley did it with the Pharmaceutical Hedonism in A Brave New World. Eggers fits well within that tradition. Your inability to understand the genre and compare it to the failed philosophy (and terrible literary command) of Ayn Rand drove my assessment of your critical thinking. I don't think you understand the form or the author's point. Is it a great novel? Not sure but it seems an insightful one and serves the literary form it attempts.


message 22: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Well, I say above that "I think its lack of subtlety is a positive thing as long as it gets you thinking more critically about the internet, instead of less."

So I agree with you - if it works. The problem is that the tradition is a manipulative one. I don't agree with Rand and I agree with Eggers - but they both make use of literary technique in ways that I personally don't find conscionable.

I am not a heavy reader of science fiction, although I have read all three writers you reference, but the most critical readers of this book have been heavy readers of the dystopian genre so I'm not sure my failures in that respect are the cause of the offensive aspects of my response.

Chuck, we agree, I think, more than we disagree. Which is what I believe this book is about, so please don't make more of this than it is!


Alyse Liebovich This is such a perfect review of this book (although I've never read Rand and not sure I ever will). Thank you for putting into words--and Google search graphics (perfect!)--what I couldn't manage to after finally finishing this novel.


message 24: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Thanks Alyse! It was highly cathartic for me to write as well.


message 25: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Heh, thanks. I suppose it was worth the slightly guilty feeling I get whenever I walk past McSweeney's.


message 26: by Jeff (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jeff Suwak Describing it as The Fountainhead for big data is PERFECT. Beautiful comparison!


message 27: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Thanks Jeff! Now we just need a really bad-good b-movie version, right?


Julia This is such an excellent review, thank you.


message 29: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Thanks Julia, glad you found it useful.


message 30: by C. (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. Too clever by half.


message 31: by Urvi (new) - rated it 1 star

Urvi "Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre."


message 32: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Urvi, 'tis a quote from Joe Klein, Time journalist and author of Primary Colors.


message 33: by BadruBorg (new)

BadruBorg Your images really drew me. But seriously like with Ayn Rand, a comparison? Rand got so many things wrong and was so biased. I don't think someone afraid of technological oversaturation is a luddite but I can understand the grievances of anyone who do see in it something so didactic that it doesn't allow an open discourse but rather like a penalizing way of saying "you like tech, you suck." but I do wanna read this book. I think these sorts of things can happen but maybe in a way that isn't so extreme as Eggers put it? You know in some fiction that aggrandizing quality of what the author wants. Like in Mai Jia's "Decoded" I liked the book a lot but the best cryptographer there being like so covetable and stuff made me sometimes question you know if brilliance is always appreciated like Good Will Hunting and all that. Because even in this book I get the "Big Brother" theme but more like tragedy it's like no the character Mae is pretty much nonchalant I guess or something? Well, your review is really entertaining. The google pics just was too ingenious ;)


message 34: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Thanks BadruBorg. It's a mediocre work of entertainment, but Eggers' fictional Circle company does provide a not-uninteresting foil for rapid technological progress, the inanity of social media, and the cultures of some powerful companies in Silicon Valley, among other things.


Kelsey SMILE


Joanne Baines I absolutely agree with the Rand comparison. It's in the "I have to tell you something important" voice. The shallow depths of the characters, the unnatural solioquies, it smacked of Rand.


message 37: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Thanks Joanne. Eggers concern trolled all of us!


Caitlin Cohn "This book is not very good, but you should read it" is exactly how I felt.


message 39: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie It's certainly thought-provoking, despite its flaws.


Monda Hilarious. And totally agree.


message 41: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Thanks Monda!


Tara Just completed this book and reading the most highly rated reviews, I thought you almost seem like Mae who is responding to all the zings, frowns, and smiles from the commenters. Interesting review, and too bad I didn't see the images on the goodreads app.


Brett Ramseyer Interesting review - the book drags through acts IV and V, but from a storytelling sense I was rapt in the first three. It does bring up many inherent dangers of big data and a constantly plugged in populace. Through the lens of this election cycle we can see some truth in Eggers caricature and how digital information can and will be bent for nefarious purposes. I did like the book and I read it on a tablet. I felt sucked into the digital rabbit hole because of it and part of me wished I was reading it in the woods on a scroll with no camera quad-copter in sight.


message 44: by a (last edited Oct 19, 2016 01:47PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Brett wrote: "Interesting review - the book drags through acts IV and V, but from a storytelling sense I was rapt in the first three. It does bring up many inherent dangers of big data and a constantly plugged i..."

It's very true Eggers seems to presage a lot of the darkness of this election - I don't remember any focus on misinformation, which is a big part of tech's role in manipulating the quality of the dialogue. He focuses solely on shallowness and gamification.

I think about how cynical Eggers was about the virtues of "sunlight" and "transparency" a lot these days.

But couldn't a Trumpist read this book and just see the global conspiracy, anti-illuminati message?


message 45: by Warwick (new)

Warwick Stubbs "The Circle is manipulative, intellectually bankrupt, and cardboard character-filled..."

So it's perfect movie material then? ;-)


message 46: by Eva (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eva 😀 ... just kidding. Your review is the one I wish I had written. Spot on.


message 47: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Warwick wrote: ""The Circle is manipulative, intellectually bankrupt, and cardboard character-filled..."

So it's perfect movie material then? ;-)"


Hahahahahaha


message 48: by a (new) - rated it 3 stars

a stephanie Eva wrote: "😀 ... just kidding. Your review is the one I wish I had written. Spot on."

thanks Eva. We need an emoji for "I just finished a book that had smart parts and really poorly executed parts and now I am stimulated but crabby."


Brittany Ayn Rand novel lol!


Maria I agree. Mae’s character was flat and the delivery of the warning embedded in the plot was a caricature—designed to reach even the densest audience—but I give it credit for having to dial it down for mass penetration of this information.


« previous 1
back to top