My last book post of this week (which seems to have been a slightly pre-planned book week to catch up with all the reading I’ve done lately) is about the novel “The Circle” by Dave Eggers. I didn’t know a lot about this book going in, but my girlfriend H said she thought I would like it. It’s been on my to-read list forever, so when I saw that it was available, and I had a gap in my queue of books on Overdrive, I checked it out.
I think the reason why H recommended it to me was because I have a not so secret dream that Google will reach out to me and want me to work for them. I don’t know what I would do – teach people how to search Google better? – but the idea of working for such an interesting progressive company that has all kinds of perks for its employees is definitely the dream. And that’s the premise of this book. Mae Holland is a young woman in the near future (we aren’t told when, but facebook and twitter are passe and have been bought up at that point) who was working a dead end tech job at a utility company when she is plucked out of that miserable existence by her college friend who works at The Circle. I have a hard time trying to describe what The Circle is. I think initially it was a way to verify identity for use in comments (for accountability), and it eventually becomes tied into payment systems (if it’s all hooked up together, it’s easier!), and then it just spirals from there. The idea is that this is a giant tech company that is only a few years old, but which has exploded in size and scope.
And like the current social media companies that loom large on our horizon, this one is getting it’s fingers into everything, and privacy is disappearing. But that’s ok, because everyone is doing it! And everyone is ok with sharing everything, because if you’ve got something to hide, then you’re not a good person and you deserve what you get. I won’t say what happens in the book because it’s truly bizarre, but I never really thought about it being a sci-fi novel until I got to the end. It’s definitely speculative fiction, taking the current status of our world and just drawing it out to the inevitable conclusion if people start to really give up all their privacy and information in order to gain access to new stuff. I will say that the one thing that bothered me the most in this future-verse is that everyone is so uptight about getting a response immediately to any form of communication, and anything that is not an immediate enthusiastic agreement is seen as a grave insult. Is that really what our society is heading towards? I hope not.
This was a fascinating book to read in the time that I read it, which was in the early days of Pokemon Go, which had it’s own privacy concerns. I mean – who is going to willingly give a private company complete and total access to their online persona? Millions of us in that first week. Thankfully the company updated the policy and account access to only use email and password for login, but as my dad pointed out later – is that because they already got what they wanted? Who knows. It’s a thought provoking book that will have you wonder about how far things can possibly go. Highly recommended. And if you’re a movie fan, you’ll be interested to know that a screen-version starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson is slated to be released sometime this fall. I’ll be fascinated to see how this translates onscreen.
Details: The Circle by Dave Eggers. First published 2013 by Knopf.