Book Review: The Circle

I read a book! 
*raises hands in the air and jumps around in celebration.

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 the world—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.

Now here's the part that sucks. I finally read a book but I didn't love it. I hate when I don't love books. 

I think the premise of the book and the message it was sending was essential and meaningful. But the actual story line reminded me of that one over zealous nerdy kid who was always trying way too hard to impress people in high school. If he would just chill, he'd be cool but he was always trying to shove his intellect down your throat.

I really liked the main character Mae. She's shy at first, unsure of this brilliant world of "The Circle" that she has suddenly become a part of when she gets a job in costumer service. I thought of the Circle as a glorified Google. If Google and Facebook had a baby and that baby took steroids and was the smartest, richest person in the world, it would be "The Circle." That's how I saw it in my head anyway. 

And then as Mae's job and responsibilities at The Circle grow, she turns into a completely different person, which I usually like in books but this was just too much. 

I felt like the author was just using the characters as glorified or exaggerated examples of a far larger point.  

The book was a huge metaphor for the extremes social media has gone to make the world a less personal and private place. 

You can totally tell this book is written by a man. I am always reminded why I don't like reading about a female protagonist written by a male author. The differences are just so incredibly noticeable! I didn't know Mae's hair color, her style, anything. There were hardly any observations of the other characters either. At least there weren't enough to feed my mental pictures, anyway. (Another obvious male author M.O.? The only sex scene that got any detail happened in a bathroom stall where to two people couldn't see each other's faces or talk out loud. That has male fantasy written all over it, if you ask me). Plus there was a weird sexual tension between Mae and her best friend Annie that went unexplained. Males are so predictable. 

Here's a great excerpt that drives home the point of the book, which was basically to remind the world that social media is overbearing and that a company in charge of it could ultimately drive people to whatever they wanted, based on their growing need to always feel connected and in-the-know.

But the book does pose an interesting question. Would we be able to handle knowing EVERYTHING? Sure, you follow your grandmother and old high school teachers on Facebook. But what would happen if there was a live feed of their living room on your home page? 

The premise of "The Circle" is that the company believes that if everyone is transparent, then there are no secrets. If you are always seen, you are always being held accountable. They think politicians will be more honest, that crime will plummet and bad deeds essentially go away. But what about common privacy? What about the man struggling with a disease who doesn't want his weaknesses to be seen? What about the woman with sad family secrets that are better left buried? 

Mae gets washed up in the glory of The Circle and begins to see things the way the head honchos want her to. Her transition from an outsider to a person who literally becomes surrounded by everything social, technical and digital is a great contrast. Ultimately, I think Mae become a machine and it ruins her relationships. 

I am normally a novel reader. I wouldn't call this a novel by any means. Think Animal Farm and 1984. It's a satire. It's an opinion of someone who thinks that Facebook is a bit ridiculous and wants to show what would happen if we keep being "over sharers." I just felt like it was a bit over done. 


I am moving on to a new book! 
I am a huge Wally Lamb fan (She's Come Undown is a huge favorite) and his new book, We Are Water has me hooked!

And after that: 

It's also an upcoming movie starring Kate Winslet! 

What are you reading? 

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