This is a masterful sendup of our current social-media driven world and the company or companies that seek to dominate in that arena.
Which is precisely what’s happened in Dave Eggers’ new novel, which imagines a future where the Circle, an all-powerful internet behemoth, has absorbed Google, Twitter, Facebook et al into its Unified Operating System, stripping users of the possibility of anonymity and creating a world of total transparency.
The narrative follows the ascent of idealistic young Mae Holland, newly employed in the Circle’s Customer Experience department, a plum job secured for her by college friend Annie, a member of the Circle’s top-tier “Gang of 40”.
When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity.
What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
Of course, The Circle is a dystopian novel. Like all such novels it does its best to hold a dark mirror up to present circumstances and encourage the reader to think about what they see.