The Circle is the exhilarating new audiobook from Dave Eggers, bestselling author of A Hologram for the King, a finalist for the National Book Award.
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.
©2013 Dave Eggers (P)2013 Random House Audio
“Eggers's novel begins with an almost giddy tone, re-created perfectly by narrator Dion Graham. Pulling every tool from his kit, Graham describes the inner workings of the world's largest Internet company as it develops a new identity operating system that will allow even easier access by users across different platforms…But--as the listener hears in Graham's increasingly horrified tone--this Google-like utopia quickly becomes a dystopia when Mae realizes what the Circle really has in mind. Listeners will be reminded of Orwell's 1984." (AudioFile)
“A vivid, roaring dissent to the companies that have coaxed us to disgorge every thought and action onto the Web . . . Carries the potential to change how the world views its addicted, compliant thrall to all things digital. If you work in Silicon Valley, or just care about what goes on there, you need to pay attention.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“Page-turning. . . . The social message of the novel is clear, but Eggers expertly weaves it into an elegantly told, compulsively readable parable for the 21st century. . . . What may be the most haunting discovery about The Circle, however, is readers’ recognition that they share the same technology-driven mentality that brings the novel’s characters to the brink of dysfunction. We too want to know everything by watching, monitoring, commenting, and interacting, and the force of Eggers’s richly allusive prose lies in his ability to expose the potential hazards of that impulse.” (Vanity Fair)
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
(***1/2) A solid, just not great social network dystopia. Imagine FB::Google::Amazon take over the world. There is nowhere left to hide. No secrets. No privacy. No down time. In fact, "SECRETS ARE LIES, SHARING IS CARING, PRIVACY IS THEFT." While it is interesting, and does seem to mimic some of the warnings of Brave New World, 1984, Neuromancer and even elements of Ghostwritten. In the end, it just isn't Eggers' best work. It is at once more superficial, more clean, more predictable than I would have liked.
Don't get me wrong, I think Eggers is a genius. I think he has an amazing energy and impeccable timing. He seems to deliver a novel or book at almost exactly the perfect moment for publication. He is a perfect zeitgeist surfer. He catches the waves easily and almost seems to ride every wave of the literary ocean. Impossible? I know, but his production is large, his interests varied, his fingerprints are everywhere.
I guess the problem is (for me) that Dave Eggers is almost the exact opposite of Mark Twain. Mark Twain failed twice at both printing and publishing, but wrote amazing and important works. I think Eggers (with his McSweeney's success, his amazing ability to adapt, his tendency to swim with the currents, to be infinitely relevant, completely likable) is able to do almost everything ... except make me completely love his writing or get drunk off his prose. I always finish his novels/books neither surprised, awed or completely fed. I just feel the need to go read something else, something with heft that isn't looking to the future or the past, left or right, and actually doesn't really give a flying-F if you 'LIKE' it.
Dion Graham delivers the goods with the narration. He doesn't get in front of the novel but is able to tease out the characters while not making himself the center of the action.
For me, the best fiction stories contain lots of truth, and the Circle does not disappoint. Eggers has woven a tale of what happens when our need to connect, even with the best intentions, goes horribly too far. Conversations in this book have taken place, I'm sure, at some of our top social media companies. That's the scary thing about it. Many of the scenes in this book seem entirely plausible.
Dion Graham does an amazing job bringing life to each character. This is one I would listen to repeatedly, and have recommended this book to others.
I loved this book, the story line and the characters. The whole idea of something like this happening is here. Why didn't I give it a 5 for overall? I would have loved to see what happened after? Because it just ended..It left me going, what what? Is he writing another book? It - Just - Ended! LOL!
[NOTE: Mild spoilers below.]
A terrifying look into a future where companies like Google and Facebook leverage the power of Big Data to obliterate privacy and track every minute aspect of our lives. The Circle is quite obviously a fictionalized portrayal of largely Google but with aspects of Facebook and Twitter thrown in. The ability of the company in the novel to destroy privacy and position itself to establish totalitarian control of our future is a bit of a stretch but not as much as you might think. The novel also gives a glimpse into the naivete of the millenials and other young people whose "progressive" thinking on information, collectivism and social interaction empower this risk to all of our privacy. The term used late in the book - infocommunism - perfectly summarizes the result of this dangerous lurch toward tracking, recording, monitoring, datafying and analyzing all aspects of our lives.
If you've ever taken a picture without immediately thinking about the caption you'll post it with, if you've ever taken a step back from Facebook and thought "haven't I seen this post before?", if you've ever decided not to tweet something wonderful that has happened to you - read this book. It's scary, but you'll also feel refreshingly understood and empowered.
In literary terms, this is no 1984 or Brave New World. As a story, this is passable - the protagonist a bit annoying, her choices a bit predictable.
BUT as a statement on social media, The Circle is as poignant as it is terrifying. There will be a lot of "OMG!" moments when you realize, this is not the future. This is a slightly exaggerated version of Now. At its core lies the creeping, painfully positive social pressure to give more and more of yourself to a system that, in the end, feeds on itself alone. It is obviously not quite where we are today - but it's close enough for this commentary to hit a nerve.
Plus, it's incredibly well narrated. The story is told from a female narrator's perspective, but the voice of Dion Graham delivers beautifully. He captures the perfect nuances of naive, annoying, outrageous and vulnerable in this 20-something girl - not an easy feat.
An important book to have read (and an excellent conversation starter).
This book puts a spotlight on privacy fears many of us have about "big data", and creatively shows just how out of control companies may get in the collection of personal information that makes up this statistic pool. A bit scary.
The concept is relevant and important, but I did feel that the characters and their narrative were forced. Many will compare this work to 1984, but I also compare this to an Ayn Rand manifesto. The characters each symbolize specific viewpoints on digital privacy and transparency, and their conversations drive their designated perspective ad nauseum. The character interactions sometimes come across as callow and puerile, though I am not sure if it was the way it was narrated - perhaps I may have perceived the written word differently.
Dion Graham did put his heart into this reading, though some of the character inflections were boorish (namely Francis), but his best trait was that he read quickly. Much of the prose is Mae's thought stream, which by nature happens more quickly than speaking aloud - so Mr. Graham compensates by reading it quickly and not drawing it out. Nice performance.
Overall, the moral is greater than the tale. If you are interested in the lengths some may go to publicly quantify your self, it is a good read.
The narration was really well done.
It was like driving along a nice road and then falling off a cliff.
No particular scene, just the general descriptions, etc.
This book was AMAZING, but terrifying. Dave Eggers (who I have previously not loved) presents a view of America not unlike a 1984/Brave New World; however, rather than imagining some distant future dystopia, he is referring to a world we can all realistically foresee in 2-4 years, given the proliferation of social media and the digital age. In this world, we interact via "zings" and "smiles," travel by going to a live stream of a faraway beach, and can watch our neighbors, politicians, and strangers' ever moves via cameras in the environments or on their persons. As an accidental figurehead of the "full transparency" movement is Mae, the protagonist and employee of the culprit spearheading this new world, the Facebook/Google/Twitter/YouTube empire called "The Circle."
I have completely reversed my opinion of Mr. Eggers as a novelist. The characters in this book were well thought-out, poignant, realistic, and relatable. You completely understand how his protagonist ends up in the mind-boggling situations she does. Moreover, having Mae, the narrator, be so committed to "the cause" allows Mr. Eggers to illustrate the many potential arguments FOR a society like this, while allowing his reader to draw her own conclusions regarding the many perils. In the end, it has completely revised the way I interact with the internet and questioned my own beliefs about the existence and value of my identity, privacy, and "social" interactions.
As a narrator, Mr. Graham is terrific. This was my first audiobook in which a male voice narrated a female role; however, his delivery was spot on. He gave wonderful movement to fast-talking Annie, fully captured Mae's frustration during an especially poignant concluding scene, and brought The Circle to life.
A MUST READ!
in the top 30%
I love Dave Eggers stream of consciousness writing…and Dion Graham narrates Eggers' novels so perfectly….nails it! The story makes you think about the permanent nature of the internet, the transparency of social media, and the future. What if Google swallowed up Facebook, merged with Apple and acquired Twitter? Then took over the world ;)
He also narrated Eggers' "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" and so many times I'd be listening and I'd laugh out loud..prompting my husband to look at me quizzically ;) Graham's voice so perfectly embodies Eggers writing - they seem to be one in the same inside my head!
May was memorable as the main character... in the sense that she was so incredibly spineless…sad to see a character who is so easily manipulated. I kept thinking "in this next chapter she is going to have an independent thought"….
I'm sure the purpose/intent of the novel is satirical in a way….a dark comedy where Eggers shows what could happen if we don't get a grip on this internet/information overload thing. To be honest, I just love the style of Eggers' writing…I'm a fan no matter what he writes about - and the same goes for Graham's narration. Whatever they do together - I'm in!
“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for.” -Socrates
The Circle begins with good intentions that address major social problems like crime and political corruption but eventually leads to a dark place reminiscent of George Orwell's book 1984. You are left wondering which step toward complete transparency was the one too far?
No, but it did make me think hard. Most will notice the similarities to Orwell's "1984" but this book might be more disturbing because it's easy to imagine this plot happening today in the United States. 1984 on the other hand seems foreign and easier to dismiss because it could never happen in our country... could it?
We know the path to hell is paved with good intentions, and the Circle will leave you wondering what direction we are headed.
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