Monday, November 13, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Circle by Dave Eggers

Publisher: Random House Audio
Release Date: October 8th, 2013
Length: 13 hours, 42 minutes
Narrator: Dion Graham


Synopsis



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. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO.

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America - even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. 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.


What Did I Think About the Story?



I absolutely love the concept of this book! I, like a lot of people, have lots of social media accounts and really enjoy interacting with people online as well as having nearly endless purchasing power right at the ends of my fingertips, no matter where I am. The thought of having all of these various accounts connected in one place, with one log in, sounds amazing!! So does the idea that having more transparency online might bring an end to internet trolling. What could go wrong with this idea? Oh, so many things!

I will fully admit that, if I was a young, single twenty-something person growing up in today's expanded world of technology, I would probably itch, at least at first, to work at a company like the Circle, if for no other reason than being at the forefront of technological advances (which I very much enjoyed learning about within this story) and having so much excitement and innovation - endless parties, endless products to try, the best of everything - always available right there at the company. This, on the surface, seems almost perfect doesn't it? I mean sure, you're expected to put in a lot of extra hours at work and don't get to see your family and friends as much as you used to. But look at all the benefits the job brings! This surface excitement slowly seeps away, however, when you discover just how invasive and stressful this sort of world could actually be.

Through Mae the reader gets to see this invasiveness, where people can see and hear what you are doing literally at every second of the day and at least some of the night, where every messy situation that any normal human experiences with their family and friends is laid bare for anyone to analyze and comment on. You also get to see how stressful it could become when people have constant expectations that you will answer their texts, like their products or services instantly, share their information online, not only join their groups and organizations but also attend them, rate every single place you visit, food you consume, product you use...it's endless madness! There is no way that any human can do all of the things having such an online presence would demand and still be present in the physical life they should actually be living. And there lies the rub.

I will admit that I wasn't a huge fan of any of the characters. They all, probably predictably, are quite self-centered and selfish by nature, and I've never been a big fan of people like this in reality. The narrator also made many of their voices almost comical in nature (I'm not sure if this was intentionally done or not) so they became almost caricatures, or ironic representations, of real people instead of actually feeling real. Some of this feeling might be due to the fact that I don't live in a fast-paced, hipster sort of world, so I don't come across people like this very often, but that was the impression I got from these characters regardless. I will say that the  narrator did an excellent job of giving voice to the frenetic nature of the Circle as well as the build up of stress and anxiety that would become inherent in people working there. I won't say too much regarding the lengths Mae will go to in order to become an integral part of the Circle, but the farther and farther she went down that rabbit hole the less and less sympathetic a character she became. Her total immersion did make the ending wonderfully unnerving in a subtle sort of way, so maybe my aggravation in her character, and most of the others, needed to happen in order to get to that seemingly inevitable ending. Whatever the reason I'm just glad I don't have to deal with frenetic, selfish people like they employ at the Circle in my life!

The Circle was definitely entertaining as well as being a social commentary on the ever-increasing reliability on online presences and social media and a warning of what can happen if that reliability goes too far. I read somewhere that the book is like the offspring of 1984 and Black Mirror and I think that is the perfect way to describe it. Definitely worth a read or listen-to if you're looking for something to keep you interested until the end. I'm now excited to watch the movie and see how it compares!  


What Did I Think About the Cover?



This cover doesn't do anything for me. I can see where the many interconnected and overlapping rings might represent the hive-like structure of the Circle and how they all sort of form a barrier around the central, almost closed circle, however I typically prefer a little more....something, anything...in a cover. With all that is going on within the story it seems like a better cover could have been created.


My Rating: 4.0/5.0



I borrowed a copy of The Circle from my library's Overdrive account. All opinions are mine alone. You can find more information about the book, including other reviews and links to where you can purchase a copy, on Goodreads HERE.




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