Book review – The Circle

Imagine a world where all your online activity is in a single, safe and entirely transparent place.

Imagine a world where tiny cameras – some known, some unseen – are everywhere, potentially eliminating most crime and allowing a disabled person to share the experience of climbing a mountain, as if they were there.

Imagine a world where you can’t be offline and anonymous.

Welcome to The Circle, Dave Eggers’ utopian world where a single all-powerful tech company – think Facebook, Google and Twitter all rolled into one – becomes so integral that governments use its systems to implement democracy. Well, why wouldn’t you when the results of a vote can be known within minutes rather than days, and at zero public cost?

But is this really utopia…..or the end of the free world?

Mae Holland, a young arrival on the Circle’s campus, quickly rises up the ranks. Her own minor offence allows her to see the error of her independent ways, and she succumbs to going fully transparent, sharing her Circle evangelism with millions of followers. A voluntary Truman Show!

Will Mae realise the dangers of the Circle becoming completely closed, or is she really a complete convert?

Dave Eggers raises some challenging questions for our increasingly tech-dependent times. And having worked for a US technology business myself, some of the work practices and ethos certainly resonated.

But somehow, as a story it felt a little contrived and some of the characters feel as though they’ve been parachuted in to the narrative, in order to expound some of the author’s contrary views.

Nevertheless, it made me think…and what more could you want from a book than that?

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